A Sickening Praise of “Artistic” Child and Animal Abuse
Author: Rachel Yoder
An avant-garde artist becomes a mother, then she becomes a wild dog. It’s the fault of her husband, of society, of the unfair expectations on a woman to do everything and be everything that ultimately takes “The Mother” and makes her into “Nightbitch” – something dangerous, domestic (but barely), untamed, violent, and yet still “loving” of this cub that cost her everything.
I came to Nightbitch through one of my endless bookclubs. It wasn’t the selection that I voted for, but it nevertheless had promise, from it’s weird cover to its modern werewolf themes. I had just finished The Nuremburg Trials and was desperate for something less serious, something B-movieish and entertaining. Instead, I found a bizzarro story that takes itself deathly serious while spouting the most utter garbage I’ve ever read (ok, listened to, I did the Audible version). Did I mention that Nightbitch also promotes child and animal abuse?
The Mother wanted to do so much more than be a mother. This child wasn’t planned. The Mother knows that to honor her art, her potential, she cannot give up her dream job. But that’s exactly what happens. There is the weight of expectation, yes, but also the love of her child, who cries all day among incompetent daycare workers. The Mother caves. She stays home, and she slowly grows to hate her days, the baby that is no longer a baby, but a willful, needy, boring toddler. She even hates the household cat for stupidly needing her. She gets mad. She becomes a bitch. She becomes Nightbitch, more specifically.
A group of perfect mommies at Book Babies just makes Nightbitch feel even worse. After all, she is unlike them. She is imperfect, unkempt, falling apart, unmotivated, stuck in a loop. They make her feel even worse. But she wants women in her life. And then she finds a book, a real science book about women throughout history and across different cultures who eventually turn into animals. That does explain her craving for meat, her new feral nature, that odd desire to bark, the weird hair that is growing, that pesky tail that wags under her clothes. And so Nightbitch becomes real, becomes a carrion eating, rabbit murdering, kenneling-her-child masterpiece that eventually even her clueless husband has to love for her feral nature. I mean, who doesn’t find a woman eating a week’s old desiccated rabbit in their suburban backyard hot?
It’s hard to write a serious review of Nightbitch because it’s just so stupid, so overwrought, so proud of its own trite and obvious metaphors. Women are powerful, even when forced to be maternal. We get it. Is it necessary for the lead character, unlikable and weak willed as she is, to grow a tail and feed her child raw meat and have him drink from a doggie bowl and sleep in a kennel? Isn’t this . . . you know . . . just out-right child abuse?
While Nightbitch is abusing her helpless toddler in the name of art and feminism, she also manages to wreak pages of gore induced animal abuse. Remember that sweet house cat? Well, after talking to her equally sociopathic husband (who introduces her to titillating videos of people peeing on stuffed animals and real octopi) about all the ways she would like to kill, kick, and hurt the household cat, she finally does it with a knife and her teeth. It’s gratuitous and so sad. The cat just wanted her, just wanted to be loved. What kind of psychotic trash is this? This is not art; this is a mental disturbance that needs heavy medication. This kind of human trash should never be allowed to adopt and care for an innocent animal, much less have children. How did this make it into print, much less get four stars of praise? Since when is violence art? Are we all that inculcated, that desensitized and selfish? And I’m not even talking about all the other animals Nightbitch slaughters for fun – from birds and rats to rabbits and other household pets. And this is enlightenment? The emperor has no clothes dear. Book yourself a psychiatric appointment ASAP if you enjoyed this.
Now, back to the child abuse. The Boy (we’re too cool in Nightbitch for those pesky character names) is not responsible for his birth or his basic needs, yet the mother sees him as the dissolution of everything she ever wanted to be. I mean . . . let’s not mention that the mother is a crap artist anyway, if onstage rabbit butchery is all she can manage in the denouement . . . .but the entire MO is one of sadness. The husband is predictably absent and absentee and apparently unconcerned that his child literarily is kenneled by his obviously unstable wife. This is supposed to be about women reclaiming their collective power, moving beyond the old school strictures of a society that sees them as breeders and little else. This is about women reclaiming themselves and forging a new identity . . . . as domesticated dogs who perform onstage and kill rabbits for overpaying audiences. What the literal fuck? Have I tripped and fallen down a rabbit hole somewhere? This is animal and child abuse, and no amount of disappointment at lost time or faded dreams can possibly ever vindicate this treatment of living, breathing beings. This is not art. This is brutality in the name of power and an insult to women everywhere. I am not a mother. I am not especially maternal, yet even I feel repulsed by the proposition of Nightbitch. This is not a story about women seeking their full identities, but a story about a psychopathic family and one poor, trapped child who becomes the unknowing sacrifice in the name of “art” and fake empowerment. Do not recommend.
– Frances Carden
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