Prime anxieties of the female experience are succinctly summarized in the two minutes and 45 seconds of HUSH, a short film by artists Avery Wheless and Brandon Tyson. Focusing specifically on the contradictory expectations women are expected to uphold while simply existing in public, the video is powerful in its somewhat direct nature, weaving together common scenarios and phrases directed at women that become much more potent when all its parts come together.
HUSH consists of a single continuous shot of a domestic interior wherein two figures, a preteen girl and a wizened young woman, interact with one another and their surrounding scene, characterized by mystically melancholy blue and purple lights in every corner. Both characters wear the same blue nightgown, a facet that, combined with their difference in age, suggests this to be a past and future encounter of the same woman. As they pirouette through the space, the voice of a young girl calmly narrates.
"What you wear reflects who you are, so don't cry when you become a target. You wore that out," the narrator aggressively states. Immediately after she continues: "Never let them take advantage of you. Stay in control. If things get out of control its likely your fault. Just tell them if you want them to stop. But don't expect them to listen."
The sea of contradictory expectations is neverending: "Don't scream, just stay calm and wait. It'll all be over before you know it. Did you lead him on? Did you say no? How many times did you say no? You are no victim, so hush. This too shall pass, but for the future, what would you have done differently?"
The girl and women, now sitting at a long dining room table, immediately look up to the camera in unison with looks of fearful uneasiness spread across their faces. "Now that's a real smile, see?" spews the narrating voice, as the film cuts to black.
One of the more interesting facts about HUSH is that that impetus for the project came from Tyson, who identifies as male: "The inspiration for this project really happened all within a single moment," Tyson explains to Creators. "Late one Friday night, I was walking a friend of mine to her car for the usual reasons: It's night, it's downtown, and I'm a man she trusts. She leaves. I walk alone to my car."
"It's not safe for girls to walk alone at night. I've heard this, it's not new, but it wasn't until I rephrased the expression that it turned into a much broader instruction: to fear being in all public space for half of one's time," Tyson adds. "It seems hyperbolic and unreal to phrase such a common understanding this way, but it's not. This is a reality she lives in. I realized then that I had such a narrow window of awareness to the more subtle, quiet, and ubiquitous losses of liberty that American women endure, and though I could never actually understand, I wanted to at least try to be informed."
Although eyebrows may be raised at a man venturing to create a film on the female experience, Wheless, the other creator behind the film added a crucial female outlook to HUSH: "Empathy and compassion has its limits for creating—I can't fake deeply personal anecdotes that I've heard. Avery was able to give the piece words that can only come from someone who has heard them, and emotions from only someone that has felt them," Tyson reveals.
You can watch HUSH in full, below: