She-Devil

Taking place in a bizarro world where Roseanne Barr is as big of a marquee draw as Meryl Streep, the 1989 movie She-Devil turns a hapless, downtrodden housewife into a conniving, manipulative, and vicious anti-hero seeking revenge on her philandering husband. It’s like Othello, in reverse, without an interracial relationship, with an actual affair, without an Iago, and minus any deaths. Yep, it’s just like Othello.

Roseanne doesn’t start off as the She-Devil mind you. There’s a bit of origin story before the big transformation. She’s a put-upon mother of two with an accountant husband who “works late.” She also sports a massive mole on her upper lip and devours romance novels and donuts in equally obscene quantities. Through very subtle dialogue we learn that her husband only married her because she was pregnant (gasp!) – based on his parent’s advice (double gasp!)- and that mushroom soup is apparently an aphrodisiac solely designed to save crumbling marriages. So, she’s a relative normal and sympathetic individual with regular problems – but then her husband drops the bombshell: he’s been having an affair with her favourite romance novelist (a double betrayal there) and he calls Roseanne a “She-Devil.” Afterwards, like most reasonable and sane individuals who have just emotionally devastated their partners do, he lists everything that is important to him and then packs up and leaves for his mistress’. And She-Devil is born.

Setting out to destroy the four pillars of her husband’s life (1. Home, 2. Family, 3. Career, 4. Freedom..all written down on a slip of paper like a grocery list), the new-and-improved Roseanne commits arson, uses her children as pawns, gives caffeine pills to the residents of a retirement home, pours urine over a bedspread, starts an all-female work placement agency, and manipulates another woman into committing fraud. The film follows a Breaking Bad-esque arc, albeit saran-wrapped as a cartoony and cutesy act of vengeance. Which would look something like this on Breaking Bad.

Everything else aside, this is a horrible, horrible film. Roseanne’s mole disappears midway through the movie, never to be spoken or seen of again. Rather than the well-trodden theme of revenge making a person into a monster, She-Devil argues (perhaps dangerously) that it actually makes one a better person.

Go watch it. It’s on Netflix.

Grade: F

Sidenote: From browsing Wikipedia, this is apparently the second time this story has been told…the first was as a six (!) part miniseries on BBC. Legend has it that anyone who watched the full thing immediately died afterwards.

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