Representation of women in horror films ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Final_girl ) Carole Clover came up with the theory of the ‘Final girl’ which basically means that in every horror movie there is always a girl that survives at the end. Carole clover theory is that there is always a final girl that survives any situation; this girl is normally a virgin that doesn’t participate in drugs or sex. To represent her innocence and purity she sometimes is dressed in white as this would represent this. She normally has a unisex name such as Alex, Teddy, Sydney or Billie. Normally the final girl has a history with the killer, this is proven right in saw 2 when Amanda has met jigsaw before. The fact she survives is a reward for her not associating herself in these events. This is relevant for films such as Saw 2, Shrooms, the uninvited, a nightmare on Elms street, the stranglers, the last house on the left and Chucky. There are many more films which apply to Carole clovers theory. Girls are classed as vulnerable as they always need a boy that looks out for them and protects them, so this representation of women goes against our expectations by the girl being the strongest one to survive. Carole clover also argues that the audience’s identification is 'unstable' and 'fluid' across the slasher films. Carole also argues that in the final girls confrontation with the killer is 'masculinized' portraying her as man, this is when she would pick up a weapon, for example a knife. Carole argues that normally the villain of the slasher films is normally a male whose masculinity and sexuality has put him in this situation. An example where this has been used is in ‘Psycho’ with Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcocks. It is argued that if there wasn't a final girl then viewers may be put off watching slasher films as having a final girl shows her strength and how much she has to go through. She is also the one that has normally been through the most terror; therefore her being the final girl makes these films successful One of the most popular plot lines is when a series of victims are killed one by one by each killer in which there is one person left, this is usually a girl. This girl normally defeats the killer or either gets away.
Some films which support this argument of gender fluidity, final girl and the murderer which stops male audiences from identifying with the character. Some of the films that support this are, ‘Nightmare on Elms street’, ‘Shrooms’ and ‘The Uninvited’. Some of the films that support Carole clovers theory I have written below and I have also included what has happened in these films and why I think it applies to this theory. Nightmare on Elms street: In nightmare on Elms street there is a final girl and this supports Carole clovers theory. She manages to pull Freddie out of her dream and into the real world where she is then strong enough to defeat him. Unfortunately he then kills her mother and then it ends there. Although she didn’t manage to kill Freddie, she still managed to survive his ‘nightmare’ whereas all her school friends/family where not, this results in making her the final girl. Shrooms: In shrooms a group of teenagers go to a wood and take shrooms which later gives them all hallucinations. It manages to make the main girl have a split personality which results in her killing everyone. Even though she is the murderer that kills everyone and without her in the film everyone would be alive, she is still the only one at the end of the film that is alive and she is a girl which results in her also being ‘the final girl’ The Uninvited: I believe that there is a final girl in the uninvited because there is one girl that remains at the end of the movie. This film is about two sisters and stepdad. This stepdad later gets a new girlfriend and the daughters don’t like it. Eventually Anna (the youngest sister) kills her dad’s girlfriend and we later find out that she has a mental disorder which made her imagine that her sister (Alex) was alive when in fact she had dies years ago in a fire with her mum. Anna is the last remaining girl in the movie, although she didn’t have to fight off any killer she is still the only female remaining. One theory I researched was ‘The male gaze theory’ this is where many of the male audience became interested in the females bloody deaths and were sexually aroused at the gruesome murders, these were all made possible due to the angles of cameras and lighting. Jeremy Tunstall conducted some research on the representation of women and managed to divide his research into four main categories, these were domestic, sexual, consumer and marital. Women’s representation can vary from being housewives to mothers to eager consumers too sex objects. All of these elements are able to link in with films and can be used in a way that brings women advantages and also disadvantages.
Representation Dates The representation of women in the early days portrayed women as weak ‘damsel in distress’ this stemmed from classic Disney films such as Cinderella, Rapunzel and Sleeping beauty. For example in Rapunzel she has to be rescued due to being locked in a tower by an evil witch, a prince has to rescue her as she has no way of getting out. In the 1930s the evolution of seeing ‘women in fear’ was seen in black and white films such as Frankenstein. Another film where a woman was seen as a victim was in Dracula in 1931. These classic films included monsters and freak films which portrayed women as the weaker gender who would faint in men’s arms in order for them to save them. Women were seen as glamorous damsels in distress that needed to be rescued as they had no individual strength. Women were still portrayed as victims, most often killed due to the fact that they were not emotionally strong, whereas the hero was. The heroine in the ‘Body snatchers’ was taken by an alien because she is unable to stay awake, unlike a hero. A quote from Boles in 2009 stated that ‘Women are always seen as needy, needing someone, usually a male to save them from the killer and if a male character does not intervene, then the female character will be killed’ this quotation supports the expectations of the women being the weaker gender in the 1930’s. In the 1940’s the wave of feminism started to come into play, a typical example of feminism in a horror film was Cat people’. This film reflected male fears and placed them into a film in which women were able to overcome them in order to represent their strength. In the 1950s films such as ‘Attack of the 50 foot women’ were made, this created a sci-fi feeling to the genre. This film follows the same plot as films such as ‘Godzilla’ (1954) and King Kong’ (1933) In attack of the 50 foot women, a huge women tower’s over all the buildings, This was done as an attempt to portray women as the hero, by making her higher up. This would go
challenge all of the expectations we would normally expect when we see a horror film. In the 1960s the idea of ‘women being seen as victims’, were at its highest point. This is also when slasher shower scenes started to come into play, by following a shower scene
is infamous for the slaughter of a sexually liberated woman by a repressed man with the phallic weapon of a knife. The presentation of women in horror films started to follow the idea that the main women would be pretty, young and sexy. These expectations were furthered by Hitchcock, who only used blonde actresses. 1970’s-1980’s As I have previously stated in my history of horror, women were seen as sexual objects and nothing more, this lead to a second wave of feminism for woman’s rights. Women were seen as ‘vulnerable’ and a ‘burden’ because they were unable to defend themselves. This is what later brought this idea of ‘the final girl’ it gave woman strength, as they were able to survive to the end. The females that we expect to see in horror movies are usually pretty and a ‘sexual object’ this is what gives them there weakness because usually the pretty girls are the ones that have sex in horror movies and result in getting targeted. The camera angle is usually shown from the murders point of view which is so the audience participate in the murderer’s actions. Women can come across emotional in horror films to support the idea of weakness and are often defined through their relationships with men. During the 1970/80’s linked in with the idea that the ‘crazed psycho killer’ normally was associated with a women. She has normally had a past with him or is of relation to him for example, Mother, sister or romantic interest who had no interest with him. A perfect example of this can be seen in Halloween (1978) which was when the killer is incited by his sister’s neglect. The female is later blamed for this rage and then the a victim of it and is punished the whole way through the film because of it. It is argued that she is responsible for the death of the male characters within the film as she was then the reason for the murders rage which resulted in their deaths. The females targeted in horror films are normally teenagers or young adults; this is done purposely to appeal to the main demographic audience. Although in horror films there are normally more male deaths than female, Male deaths are quick whereas
female deaths are longer and more painful. This was done because if the female was not hurt on screen therefore they are exposed for longer and their pain would be increased. During the late 90s producers started to go away from the idea of women against men and started to focus on ghosts and possessed children. Films that support this change were sixth sense (1999) and ‘The Ring’ (2002). In films such as ‘Prom night’ and Friday the 13th women are portrayed as ‘image conscious’ Using there body’s in order to gain male attention which later leads to their death. Ideology: When establishing the final girl, we understand that each time she always has the same characteristics. We learn that she is from a middle-classed family and the final girl is normally a hard worker. This tells the audience that if you work hard in life than you will get rewarded. For example in the last house on the left Mari (the main girl) works really hard at swimming and when she is attacked she is able to swim to safety. Without these swimming skills Mari wouldn’t be alive, so this tells the audience that if you try hard at something it can help you in some way, which is proven in this film. In conclusion I believe that the representation of women has changed a lot over the decades and will continue to change as expectations and audiences change.
Published on Apr 23, 2013