Does ‘The Conjuring’ Hate Women?

Driving back from seeing The Conjuring, my daughter and I tried to guess why Andrew O’Hehir thought it was “woman hating.”

We had watched the horror movie about Catholic ghost hunters because I wanted to know if it qualifies as a “proudly Catholic movie” for our July movie poll (which isn’t the reason for this post, but you can vote here).

We had read the headline of O’Hehir’s Salon magazine piece, “The Conjuring: Right-wing, woman-hating and really scary.” We had read the subtitle: “From its historical lies to its family-values messaging, the sneakiest Christian movie of the year is a real horror.”

But we hadn’t read the article, and having watched the movie had no idea what was “woman-hating” about it.

Does he think the female characters are weak? we asked. No, that wasn’t it ….

[Warning: Spoilers ahead!]


Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Catholic “demonologists” Ed and Lorraine Warren.

The “based on a true story” plot involves two families.

First there is the victim family that buys  a farmhouse in New Hampshire that turns out to be haunted by a demon who (we eventually learn) possesses women and makes them kill their children.

Second is the ghost hunter couple who were involved in The Amityville Horror case that frightened me beyond all reason when I read my big brother’s copy of the book when I was 10. In the movie (I haven’t met and haven’t researched the real people) the couple is made up of the intense oddball Catholic Ed Warren and his sweet but strong clairvoyant wife, Lorraine.

Women in the movie are victims, yes — but they are also aggressors and rescuers.

So what was O’Hehir’s objection? We looked it up when we got home. Here is where he best sums up his point:

“The relentless focus of The Conjuring on married life, Christian baptism and the old-school Latinate mumbo-jumbo of the Catholic Church as essential elements in resisting evil – and on womanhood and especially motherhood as the fount or locus of evil – is just too much to overlook.”

So … he didn’t like the movie because he rejects married life, baptism and Catholic sacramentals. Thanks, O’Hehir, for rejecting my lifestyle. If I lived near you I would picket your office with a “No More Hate!” sign. We can both be thankful I don’t.

But O’Hehir’s indictment of the movie as seeing motherhood as a “fount or locus of evil” is not just wrong, it’s wrong in a way that creeps me out.

In the movie, motherhood is not the “fount” of evil in the movie in any sense. A malevolent spirit takes special pleasure in making mothers kill their children precisely because motherhood is a good thing. And O’Hehir knows it. For him to use the weasel words “fount or locus” is intellectual dishonesty. It’s like calling grandmother’s house a “fount or locus of evil” in Little Red Riding Hood. Or like calling Christmas a “fount or locus of evil” in A Christmas Carol.

I think what really irked O’Hehir was the Ed Warren quote that appeared at the end of the movie:

“The devil exists. God exists. And for us as people, our very destiny hinges upon which one we elect to follow.”

Never mind that the quote is a less pithy version of the chorus of Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody.” It set O’Hehir off. Wrote O’Hehir:

Here’s the real ‘true story’ behind The Conjuring: Any time people get worked up about a menace they believe in but can’t actually see – demons, Commies, jihadis, hordes of hoodie-wearing thugs — they’re likely to take it out on the weakest and most vulnerable people in society.

I am sympathetic with the personal history he later reveals, of being descended from a woman who was accused and almost executed in the Salem witch trials, but I flat out don’t understand his point here. Are communists, terrorists, and thugs invisible? In The Conjuring, demons aren’t invisible either. And what is “taken out” on whom in The Conjuring?

But when I read “the weakest and most vulnerable people in society” I naturally think of the unborn – the most defenseless and dependent human beings among us.

That may after all be the reason why The Conjuring is so unsettling to him — and me.

It is horrifying to imagine a world where the devil convinces mothers to kill their children. And for people who have found it necessary to defend abortion, and double-down on their defense, a film that points out just how evil that is must be especially haunting.


Categories:Abortion Culture Marriage

  • Matteo

    “Catholic and proud” “funny when all those poor people get all riled up”…

    just one thing: lol

  • JPlay

    I stumbled upon your post here while searching for the Ed Warren quote at then end of The Conjuring. I had to read it to see just how somebody might reach far enough to get that distorted “women-hating” message from the movie. O’Hehir obviously has a very skewed perspective on the world that puts a negative and anti-liberal spin on everything he sees. My brother has the same issue only he projects a negative pro-liberal message into everything. He sees everything coming from Hollywood as Liberal propaganda. O’Hehir seems to struggle with a bad habit of seeing anything that mentions Christianity as having an anti-liberal message. I call this a bad habit because it’s truly a tool that’s used to keep people from just enjoying life. They’re so weak in their personal convictions that they spend every waking hour looking for ways to prove any opposing beliefs as wrong to try and make up for the insecurity they feel towards their own beliefs – this goes for both the religious and the athiest. Just enjoy the movie and focus on the positive. I think some people forget or have no idea in the first place how difficult it is to make a good movie…it’s virtually impossible to make a good movie AND have a hidden message that audiences will actually adopt. (i.e. Tim Burton films have a hard enough time conveying a constructive plot because they’re so focused on set design and cinematograpghy instead).

    It’s saddens me when people can’t enjoy living their beliefs because they’re so afraid of the beliefs of others.

  • Rachel

    Thank you so much for this post. All week a friend and I have been planning to see the film tomorow night and after reading this post I especially cannot wait. Im Catholic and proud and I love horror films so any horror film which favours the teachings of Catholicism is fine by moi, especially if the film irritates the sensibilities of the left wing. I dont mean to be uncharitable but it is so funny when those poor people get all riled up.



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