by Tanya Wexler, director of Hysteria
I think I was buying a birthday gift for my child's friend's fourth birthday party when I first heard about it. Friend and producer Tracey Becker said, "I know what your next movie is."
"Really?" I was pleasantly surprised, I didn't know if I was getting Legos or Playmobile at that moment.
"It's called Hysteria. It's a romantic comedy about the invention of the vibrator in Victorian England."
"HAH! Hahahaha... YES!" That was it! I ran back home and googled "vibrator" right away. Then, after an alarming eyeful, I re-googled "hysteria treatment" and "vibrator." The rest, as they say, is history, and lots of it... lots of undiscovered history. The more I read and learned, the more there was to learn. So, along with talented screenwriters Jonah Lisa Dyer and Stephen Dyer, and our other amazing producers Sarah Curtis and Judy Cairo, we unearthed so many google-worthy questions: Were Victorian doctors really "massaging" women to cure their maladies? Were fully one half of London's women completely out of their minds with "hysteria," then defined by doctors as "a medical disorder marked by excitability, irritability, misbehavior and emotional extremes, occurring mainly in women"? Was the most effective treatment "manual massage" to "paroxysm"? One thing became clear: I was going to run out of quotation marks.
And therein, lay the rub (yes... I said it). The joke of the whole movie is, from my POV, the denial... the massive cultural denial of basic human nature, displayed right in front of our faces. As long as the medical establishment didn't understand the female orgasm as a woman's sexual (and it turns out procreative) experience, then women simply didn't have them. So, it was possible for both doctor and patient to participate in what has to be one of the better psychologically oriented physical therapy treatments on earth. I have to say, there is some small part of me that thinks that, if medical insurance weren't so expensive, it wouldn't be such a bad deal. Except for two pesky things... power and authority. If you have the right to pronounce a patient cured of a disease, you also have the right to pronounce them as suffering from it. And, if that diagnosis is based in a cultural fiction that jeopardizes both your liberty and pursuit of happiness... then... even with the best health plan in the world... I'm going to politely pass on that deal.
It may be a bit silly and sexy and make you blush, but let's all just enjoy the fact that the vibrator-as-liberator (as I have learned) has taken one more thing off your "list of things to worry about" and simply added batteries to your "list of things that make me happy"… (along with chocolate)!