The Final Girl: Feminism in Horror Films

If you’re anything like me, at one point or another you end up watching some movie shaking your head (and in my case, screaming at the television screen) at some of whiny female characters(victims) in horror films.  Me, I watch a movie, I see the clichéd chick with really large cleavage in a shirt two sizes too small, and I pretty much assume(know), that she’s probably the first to die.  Is there feminism in horror films?  Well, there are many horror films were the protagonist is a female.

For those of you that may not know, the girl left standing is the Final Girl. Called such, because she is the last one standing, or rather, living.  You might not recognize in the beginning that she is a strong character, but while everyone else goes about their business(usually it’s partying, drinking, drugs, sex or a combination), Final Girl is living a clean life, studies hard, and is the moral ruler by which we judge her slutty, beer-chugging friends.  Final girl gets to watch all her friends die horrible, bloody deaths.  Yet, she remains intelligent and resourceful.  Final Girl always barely gets away.  The movie’s climax is the stand-off between Final Girl and murderer (Freddy Kruger, Jason Voorhees, Pam Voorhees, Ghost Face, etc.)

Thanks to the movie Scream (one of my personal faves), we all know the:

Rules of Surviving a Horror Movie

Randy: “There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to successfully survive a horror movie! For instance, Number One: You can never have sex.  Sex equals death, OK? Number Two: You can never drink or do drugs.  No, it’s the sin factor, it’s a sin, it’s an extension of Number One! And Number Three: Never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, say ‘I’ll be right back’, ’cause you won’t be back.”

Stu: “I’m gettin’ another beer, you want one?”

Randy: “Yeah, sure. ”

Stu: “I’ll be right back!!!!”

In case the youtube video above doesn’t work click on this link to take you right to it…  Rules for Horror Movies

Now the rules for horror movies apply to the female protagonist, our Final Girl.

First of all, lets remember what feminism is all about: it’s all about advocating the rights of women on the grounds that women are equal in EVERYTHING to men (Damn right).  So, that being said, a True feminist horror film would be one in that the protagonist does NOT use her sexuality to win or kill.

So, movies like Jennifer’s Body or I Spit On Your Grave aren’t feminist. Making men the victim does not a feminist horror movie make.   REAL feminists protagonists are the ones with more than sex on her mind.

Ripley from Alien, Bridget from Ginger Snaps (not Ginger), and of course Laurie Strode, the Halloween franchise Scream Queen, Scream’s Sydney, Julie James from I Know What You Did Last Summer, Rachel from The Ring,  and TNOES’ Nancy Thompson.

These ladies kicked ass intelligently and did not fall back on her feminine wiles to get out her trouble; she uses her brains, not her breasts.  Does this mean that Final Girl must remain virginal forever.  Hells no, it means that Final Girl is more than the gratuitous horror movie boob shot.  She doesn’t have to abuse her sexual power.  Final Girl sees the people around her die off and she pulls herself together, gets mad, then gets even.

9 thoughts on “The Final Girl: Feminism in Horror Films

  1. those are all great movies. my fave one is Alien and yea i think you are right they would not have been as good if all the final girl did was use her “sexual power” as you put it to win

    • Yeah, Katniss Everdeen is a last girl standing….and yes she got even….and horrible things happen all around her. Are The Hunger Games series technically horror? Hmmmm……

  2. What about female villians? There’s obviously Freddy, Voorhees etc. but I can’t really think of an equavalent female version, there’s obviously the Medusa-types.. perhaps Jennifer’s body and watsit from the Last Seduction… wouldn’t a true female monster character be awesome? Or would that be anti-feminist?

    • Oh no, I don’t think that a true female monster character would be anti-feminist. I think it would just put women on equal ground. Not to go all psych 101, but, isn’t some deep down caveman fear that women are just using sex to get what they want, for good or evil? I think Freud just rolled over in his grave. I think that since horror films cater to the their usual demographic (men), then the over sexed villain is just as gratuitous as the boob shots. That’s not to say that I don’t love all those movies, but wasn’t Kathy Bate’s character in Misery just as freaking disturbing without being all sexed up? Actually that’s another good blog post in the making. Thanks for the comments. I really appreciate it.—uncoolghoul

      • Yeah, wasn’t the thing with Kathy Bates that it was emotional rather than sexual terrorism. She had a certain idea of him that she would see though to the end at all costs. I don’t think the idea of a female villain using sexuality is out of play, though it does lose its edge if it’s played for overt titilliation over and above the journey of the characters.

  3. Pingback: Sharpening the Blade: A Return to Horror in Scream 4 « BookRain

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