My Feminist Idol: Sadako Yamamura

Written by Rios de la Luz

ringu sadako

Sadako in Ringu (1998)

I watched Ringu for the first time and I enjoyed the shit out of it. It is gorgeous and frightening. It gave me overwhelming feelings of meeting a legend for the first time.
Sadako Yamamura is a malevolent being. She has the ability of nensha, which means she can project images onto film via thought alone. In the film, she created a videotape which curses anyone who watches it. She warns them with a phone call; they have seven days to live.

Sadako’s life was a tragic one. Her mother (Shizuko), who has psychic abilities, takes her own life by jumping into a volcano after a press conference which was supposed to show her ESP abilities goes wrong and she is accused of being a fraud. At the press conference, Sadako understands her mother’s embarrassment and ends up killing a reporter with her mind. You never see her face, only long black hair and one eye which makes it apparent that Sadako killed the reporter on purpose. Sadako is later killed by her father. He shoves her into a well where she tries to climb out, only to tear out all of her fingernails and is left to die.

Sadako is young when she is killed. She has powers that make other humans afraid of her. She is seen as an Other. She is being raised in an environment where her mother is a study subject. Her mother is an object for profit. Even with her mother’s amazing abilities, her reputation is smeared by the media and this led to Shizuko ending her life. There were even rumors of Sadako being a child of something otherworldly. Rumors followed Sadako to her death and they also brought her back to life within the videotape.

Why is Sadako my feminist idol? Sadako is powerful. She is representative of being terrifying in a society that expects humanity to stick to a cycle of predictability, whether it be behaviorally or mentally. I think Sadako was attempting to protect her mother by killing the reporter. I think when she was thrown into the well, she was confused at first, but then she became aware of how humanity saw her. They wanted her gone, but she continued to exist on the planet as a form of revenge and rebellion. She existed even if she was unwanted.

Hokusai_Sarayashiki

The Ghost Story of Okiku by Katsushika Hokusai (1830)

Once Sadako is found in the bottom of the well, the main character (Reiko Asakawa) of the film isn’t afraid, she holds onto Sadako as though she were alive. Reiko shares this moment of tenderness with Sadako and believes the curse has been lifted. The film focuses on Reiko and her Ex-husband’s (Ryuji) attempt to lift this curse because their son (Yoichi) has watched the videotape. Sadako’s life is shown via oral storytelling and a flashback scene to the press conference. She was not treated with tenderness, she was treated as a problem. Her story is only ever told by other people’s accounts of her. The videotape is something she has created herself, it is her version of a story, her version of remaining turbulent on earth. She gets the last word after being treated with contempt and horror while she was alive.

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My Feminist Idol is a series that deals with powerful women, legends, fictional beings, anyone who I connect with in pop culture in whatever form I am consuming it. For Sadako’s piece, I have only seen Ringu, okay! I haven’t watched part two yet, but I thought writing about her after watching part one would be fun so, here it is. 

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