-Reviewed by Andie Berryman–
Gun-toting and out for revenge, the main characters in Cars and Girls are fully fleshed out through the course of their quests for revenge, put in impossible situations caused by patriarchal constructs and shooting their way out.
At first glance it seems genders are flipped i.e Arnie becomes Amanda, Stallone becomes Suzy. It becomes clear that the narrative throughout is that of ‘don’t be a victim, do something about it!’. But how to achieve that in a so-called post-modern world still ruled by patriarchal institutions?
In ‘500’ by Zoe Spencer, we find ourselves riding shotgun in a sleek sports car driven by the aristocratic Emily. Emily has social capital, money and happens to be a handy shot (shooting on different country estates whilst growing up). Her father is killed by a man who wants to make her his possession and will go to extreme lengths, so Emily must first escape her gilded cage of security detail in order to get to him first. Spencer cleverly sets the main part of her story in Oxfordshire and takes us to locations that Emily wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb, such as Oxford. Emily is smart and knows that her status will allow her story to be heard by the media and police, if she gets caught it’s likely she’ll get away with it.
Holly Hellbound (‘Roadrunner’ Tee Tyson) knows her status will only bring her certain death when she wreaks her revenge, so she takes it anyway. As a white trash version of Tarantino’s The Bride from the Kill Bill series, Holly exacts her vengeance and finds redemption along the way, knowing full well it doesn’t matter to the authorities what horrific abuse triggered the bloodshed, the fact that she kills people who ‘matter’ is enough to send her to the chair. Out of the collection, Tee Tyson’s writing excited me the most, Tyson perfectly (ahem) executes the fast, furious pace of her story and had me shaking with adrenalin, as if I were riding along with Holly, putting the pedal to the metal in her Daddy’s lime green road-runner.
Daddy’s pride and joy also plays a part in a night of perfect revenge exacted in Madeline Harvey’s ‘Barracuda’, an unadulterated tale of a woman (Etta) teaching her younger sister about the art of revenge in small town America. This tale seemed simplistic at first until I realised this story was the spine that held the pages of the collection together. The main narrative running through the collection is not that of pure revenge, it is about a key feminist action: I’m standing up to this so you don’t have to. The secondary narrative is that of the love interests (or as the writings go, fuck interests), the male love interests are considered briefly, used and then cast aside as women portrayed as love interests in action films generally are. The women lead characters are leads in every sense, they know what they want and get what they want.
The final story in the collection, ‘Crown Victoria’ by Evangeline Jennings, delivers a wonderful twist surpassing anything the film The Sixth Sense and its ilk could deliver. Once again we are out for revenge, this time in a decommissioned American police car circumnavigating the Southern states in America. This story completely emphasises the tedium of the double-checking women face in real life, the removal of possibilities of violence, the back-up plans and the constant communication check-ins. This story is cleverly placed as it teaches the reader (by the end) never to settle in a familiar fictional routine.
Writing portrayed as post-modernist is supposed be be knowing, you’re supposed to know what happens at the end as soon as you read the first chapter. What this collection does is spell out what the oxymoron of Post-feminism is, and indeed the button badge ‘I’ll be a Post Feminist in a post patriarchal society’ seems apt. I’m going to dispense with any more academic phrasing and simply say, I thoroughly enjoyed this collection, I loved that the characters got their revenge, I love how the lead characters (less one) got a happy ending. I heard there’s a new Cars & Girls Vol 2 out soon; my first thought was ‘Shut up and take my money!’.