Women in Horror and the Final Girl
Written By: Victoria Cirello (IG: @nightmaremaven)
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
What about women in horror?
Sugar, spice, and everything nice…Today, we discuss women in Horror and the idea of the “Final Girl.”
…Also some virginity, a little abstinence from alcohol and drugs, stir it up with phallic weapons and you have the perfect recipe to create a character, which is known as the “Final Girl.” The premise of the “Final Girl” presents the idea that the alleged victim (the protagonist) becomes the suspect (antagonist). The idea has been made into movies including the most literal movie entitled “Final Girl,” released in 2015. The story is about two senior students who lure a fellow new classmate into the woods with the intent to kill her. However, the woman knows how to defend herself, leaving the men to become the victims. Prior to this portrayal, women were portrayed in a less independent way.
In my view, the Final Girl is the embodiment of the conservative values of the Regan-era; an era during which the Final Girl was at the height of her popularity. Horror films in the past have started moving away from the traditional, virginal Final Girl. This isn’t surprising as we have seen every variation of the Final Girl possible. She has been spoofed and parodied to death and recent horror films have shown we are ready for a different kind of heroine.
What are some trends we have seen?
In the early 2010s when the fourth wave of the feminist movement began, the Final Girls have evolved and been portrayed in a more independent and free manner. In my opinion, the fourth-wave feminism movement is about body positivity, fighting rape, culture, sexual harassment, and, misogyny. They’re no longer required to be portrayed as virgins, or women who do not drink or smoke. They are viewed as equals who can choose their own path and defend themselves against any obstacle. Subversions of the Final Girl have been sporadically present in the horror genre before the 2010s such as Sidney Prescott from Wes Craven’s Scream (1996) and these icons have become increasingly popular in recent years.
With the popularity of portraying strong and independent women, we should pay tribute to those films that have led us to where we are today. One early example is Adam Wingard’s You’re Next (2011). Sharni Vinson who plays the character, Erin, must fend off multiple mercenaries during a dinner party. What makes Erin different from the Final Girls that came before her, is the fact that Erin grew up in a survivalist community. Growing up in a survivalist community taught her how to take care of herself and then some. A typical Final Girl would spend most of the movie running away and hiding before finally finding the strength to fight back, but Erin skips the first two steps and goes right for the jugular.
And it continues…
Another great example is Robert Eggers’ The Witch (2015). Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays the female character, Thomasin, must stave off Satan as he infiltrates her family. As characters are murdered, Thomasin is the last character in the film alive. A typical film may portray a character fighting the temptation of evil. But shockingly, Thomasin fully embraces her new freedom from her strict, Puritanical family and signs the Satan’s book. Thomasin is an exceptional example of the most recent feminist movement. She chooses the “dark side” over the strict, patriarchal confines of her community and family. The film sends a strong feminist message about forming one’s own life and escaping what is considered normal or the status quo of society.
Can we expect more of this?
The movement of Anti-Final Girl films is a significant time in society as audiences see a variation of how women have been portrayed over time. If horror films are reflective of what is happening in the world, then the popularity of the Anti-Final Girl certainly is indicative of society’s desire for more relatable female characters. It is an exciting time as women are becoming more active in their role as leaders and influencers.
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