Credibility and What One Believes in Carmen Maria Machado and Dani’s “The Low, Low Woods”
When Jaydn DeWald introduced me to Carmen Maria Machado and Dani’s The Low, Low Woods, I knew that I wanted to include it in my “Monsters, Race, and Comics” class. Jaydn also introduced me to Machado’s “The Husband Stitch,” and before starting The Low, Low Woods we read and discussed Machado’s story in class. One of the overarching themes in both texts deals with the discrediting of sexual assault victims and their experiences. This comes up in “The Husband Stitch,” at multiple points, as I wrote about in the previous post. Specifically, it arises at the end of the story when the narrator says that her husband was not a bad man “[a]nd yet — .” Here, the narrator points out the mental and physical abuse she experiences from her husband through the absence following her thought.
The other moment occurs when the narrator relates the time that she told her parent that she saw the grocer selling toes in the store. The narrator’s father quells the narrator’s fears by telling her it was potatoes, not toes. The narrator acquiesces to this “logic,” but she conclude by telling the reader, “As a grown woman, I would have said to my father that these are true things in this world observed only by a single set of eyes.” Her parents, particularly her father, deemed her observation and experiences as absurd, illogical, and false. However, they were the narrator’s experiences. This connects later with the narrator’s comments about her husband.
The believability and credibility of survivors runs throughout The Low, Low Woods, a graphic novel that explores various themes and issues of sexual assault. The text centers on two friends, El and Vee, as they work to discover what happened to them in a movie theater one night. At the start of the film, they became unconscious and woke up at the end, delirious and unsure what happened. Over the course of the story, they discover that they were drugged, essentially, and sexually assaulted. They also uncover that all of the women in Shudder to Think, PA, a coal mining town, have experienced the same thing, yet no one talks about it.
Over the first few issues of The Low, Low Woods, El tries to convince Vee that something happened to them in the theater, yet Vee refuses to even think about it, let alone…