I’ll Watch Anything Where Survivors Get Revenge, Make Their Own Justice

I’ll Watch Anything is an Autostraddle TV Team series in which we tell you what type of movies and TV shows we’ll watch, no matter what. This week, A.Tony’s here to tell you why they will watch anything where someone (who by A.Tony’s standards) deserves to get revenge and makes sure they get it.

When I was some younger than middle school age, I was sitting in my grandma’s office in a big red plush recliner watching TV. A commercial for a new movie starring Kimberly Elise and Loretta Devine and Clifton Powell came on. I cannot remember anything else from the commercial except: a young black girl singing a nursery rhyme, Kimberly Elise angry and crying as Clifton Powell apologized for some thing in the past, and best of all, Kimberly in a pink church dress standing in a megachurch all anger and uncontained grief, pointing a small silver gun at Clifton with his hands up in remorse, and then a loud shot, gasps and screams within the megachurch, as the screen goes black.

As we know, cops aren’t going to save anybody and in the case of my communities, they are more likely to kill us than to avenge us. (Though I recognize it as propaganda now, that’s why Law and Order: Special Victims Unit was my SHOW for years: because it functioned in a completely unrealistic world where cops would actually fight to get justice for people like me, for the sexually abused.) People like me are not allowed to have revenge. And media that portrays someone who looks like me, loves like me, presents and moves through life like me, is extremely rare and if I’m reflected it’s more likely in a story about death (not just the final one, but the ones leading up to the grand finale as well) than any kind of life).

Movies that fall under this category for me (off the top of my head) include:
Candyman (I’m a fan of both)
Carrie (OG)
Eve’s Bayou
Fear Street Trilogy
Halloween Ends
It: Part One
Jennifer’s Body
John Wick
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Perfect Stranger (Halle Berry’s)
Orphan Black
The Purge (OG)
Scream movie series
sweet/vicious (please return to me)
The Strays
The aforementioned Woman Thou Art Loosed

“I don’t plan on being a better person. I’m becoming worse everyday.” – Moon Dong Eun

The thing about being a survivor is healing is just really fucking ugly. Every story that tells you different, it’s not that they’re lying, it’s that they are showing you one snippet of not everyone’s journey. True, not every survivor dreams revenge. But it’s also true that some survivors do not have more joy than not, especially since access to resources for proper healing are not equal for everyone. Some people have therapy to ground them, I have Helena’s wings.

“Some hatred resembles longing. It’s impossible to get rid of.” – Moon Dong Eun

One of the only ways I survived a long period of abuse was by imagining a metal baseball bat, all the people who never helped me and God watching, and the inability for cops to get there in time.

“Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, fracture for fracture. The one who inflicted the injury must suffer the same. I don’t know. That sounds too fair to ne.” – Moon Dong Eun

It did not stop the hands. Or the teeth. Or the other teeth. Or the tongue. Or what was scooped out of me. But it got me from one moment to the next.

“The pain, I assure you, will be exquisite.” ~The Man Who Has The Sweets (no I will not write that movie’s name here, thanks).

As of late, The Glory is my strongest obsession and also led me to watching Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (which I’ve only seen titled as Lady Vengeance, a small fact that I can’t help but obsess over) for the first time. One thing I love about The Glory, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, and The Handmaiden are that revenge isn’t just a group project, its often seen as a right.

Four stills from films mentioned in this post: Us, Orphan Black, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Scream

So often, revenge stories are seen as John Wick doing all the work himself. And, to be fair, he is taking motherfuckers out left, right, sideways, backwards, and in other dimensions — I will not take that fact away from him. But, so much of what he’s able to do after a certain point, is dependent on others helping him. And that’s something I need as a survivor. The knowledge, the understanding, the belief that I’m not in this alone. I was alone in the abuse. I do not want to be alone in the recovery.

There’s that whole American “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” ideology even in revenge stories, when really, they’re just highlighting one person in order to blur our vision of everyone who gets them there (art imitates life, I guess).

“You think you’re tricking me? You’re the one being tricked.” ~Lady Hideko

I’m also about, the not super haunting type of revenge too. Like, Mean Girls and Do Revenge, where, let’s be honest the person doing the revenge got outed by a popular girl and I wholly support whatever they decide to do to get back at them. Even John Tucker Must Die (which is an incredibly misleading title) was on repeat for at least three years (back when we had cable) because I loved seeing John’s face when he figured everything out. To be honest, that revenge felt like lopsided even to me, but I’m not against lopsided revenge all the time. Gone Girl? Amazing Amy was amazingly wrong BUT I love the ride she takes me on so I’ll allow it.

“There will be no forgiveness and so there will be no glory either.” – Moon Dong Eun

Growing up in both a religious school and a religious family, we’re always told, “Turn the other cheek”. And for the longest time, we weren’t even really allowed to talk about anger. To an extent, we still aren’t. Keeping anger inside you with nowhere to go makes you…dangerous. But in the wrong ways. That danger rarely goes out to the people who deserve it, but can manifest in your closest relationships, how you hold and hurt your body, and even just your ability to make i from one day to the next. Revenge movies gave me a place to be angry and to live and hope in that anger for two hours at a time. I look at how, quite frankly fucked up, I am now. I’m a little terrified of what I may have become if I hadn’t had even that.

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A. Tony Jerome

A.Tony is a black nonbinary artist out here to do good and to do gay. They are a 2015 Pink Door Fellow, 2016 Lambda Literary Emerging Writer Fellow, 2020-21 Afro Urban Arts Lit From the Black! Fellow, and have worked with Roots.Wounds.Words., Words Beats & Life, and Winter Tangerine among other places. You can find more of their work on their website and listen to them scream about poetry & other interests on Twitter.

A. has written 47 articles for us.


  1. This is really lovely and something I relate to hard, as a fellow survivor of abuse. Being a survivor is messy and hard.

    My taste is very different – I’m not able to watch any of the movies you listed. But I’ll watch or read almost any fantasy where the protagonist discovers a secret world or a secret about the world and then they and their group of rag-tag friends save whatever needs to be saved.

    I grew up in an extended family that was very polite on the surface, with some really dark things hidden below. It took me long time to realize that my taste in fantasy and urban fantasy was a coping / healing mechanism.

    This includes The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula LeGuin. Harry Potter. Almost every urban fantasy written by Charles De Lint. The movie Lost Boys. The first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Narnia. Etc. There’s something about those “oh shit, THIS is REAL, everything I was told before was a lie” moments that feels emotionally true to me. I couldn’t put a stake through the heart of my abuser, but it feels pretty great when Buffy triumphs.

    • “There’s something about those “oh shit, THIS is REAL, everything I was told before was a lie” moments that feels emotionally true to me. I couldn’t put a stake through the heart of my abuser, but it feels pretty great when Buffy triumphs.” I love love love that and I’m so glad you had those stories, that you still have them.

      Thank you for reading <3

      • <3 <3

        I'm glad we both found the stories that we needed, when we needed them.

        I don't want to start a "thank you, no thank you" endless loop, but really, thank you for writing this. <3 <3

  2. Thanks for this piece. I’m a survivor and my watching tastes have changed over the decades of my adulthood. I used to hate all violence but now I enjoy revenge violence and I really love movies where survivors do pretty much anything.
    There are millions of us and I hope we can continue to build our strength, our voices and our healing.

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