Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Artemic Bomb

In Women's Studies, the character of Diane spends much of the film silent. However, there's a scene where she's about to do something rather nasty to another character. This individual asks Diane about her lack of verbosity, to which she responds with the following line of telling dialogue:

"I just choose not to most of the time. There's an awful lot of talking that goes on. Most of it isn't worth a damn. Besides, I like action more than words."

Diane is perhaps the scariest character in Women's Studies. First off, she's physically imposing. (Kelley Slagle, the actor playing Diane, clocks in at around six feet.) In many scenes, her main purpose is to use her size to intimidate others. In earlier drafts, that's all she did. Well, that and kill people. However creepy, it makes for a pretty one-dimensional character.

Contemplating Diane eventually helped me organize how the leadership hierarchy of the Ross-Prentiss cult is structured. While Judith is nominally regarded as the "ringleader" of the academy girls, it's Diane who actually holds the real power within the political and spiritual structure of the cult. Though the religion the women practice is a paganism of my own invention, it's structured not too differently from Catholicism. (And it really has more in common with the more war obsessed patriarchal religions than any religions which worship the feminine divine.) Diane is like a low-level priestess, and about to cross over to a life and "mission" outside the school. At one point, some of this was articulated in the script, but it convoluted things, so I jettisoned it.

To me, Diane is just as scary for what she represents as she is her physical presence, perhaps even more so. She is zealotry personified, a living embodiment of the cause she believes in, and code she lives by. To her, the goal of a total fascist matriarchy isn't just a mad vision. It's destiny, the only future possibility that exists. And if murder on a massive level is the only way to make that future, so be it. There is no debating with her. There is no reasoning with her. She is unswayable and merciless. Like the suicide bombers boldly running into nightclubs and blowing themselves up for some cause or another, her allegiance to her dogma is total.

The character was named Diane after Wonder Woman's alter ego. However, "Diane" is also the Roman name for the Greek Goddess Artemis, who is often regarded as the protector of those more vulnerable than she. (Also, Artemis is known as the "feminist" goddess.) The Diane of Women's Studies fulfils that role, keeping a close eye on Zack, the male interloper who finds himself at Ross-Prentiss. Funny enough, Artemis is also goddess of the hunt.

Kelley SlagleI've had the chance recently to spend some time with actor Kelley Slagle while in a stage production of Night of the Living Dead. In many ways she's nothing like Diane, but I've seen Diane's most frightening trait, the pleasure she takes in freaking you out, show it's face. Backstage, we're supposed to constantly make "zombie" noises in order to keep up the illusion that the stage is surrounded by zombies. During the show, Kelley stands beside me, hooks her hand into a claw, and scrapes her fingernails across a wall, creating a high pitched, "nails on a chalkboard" sound. I put my hands to my ears when she does this, to which Kelley always smiles manically and proceeds to pull her nails across the wood again.

Kind of scary, eh?

More on Kelley at www.cavegirl.com.

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