Women in Horror
July 7, 2018
These women didn’t run away from danger. They stepped up to it.
It’s no secret that horror films have been known to push a rather sexist agenda against women. We all know of the misogynistic tales of morality that punish certain women for living freely, while rewarding the so-called “good girls” for adhering to a rigid set of archaic societal values. The presence of such films, however, should not overshadow the emblazoned horror movies that have been overtly pro-women. In fact, horror has managed to transform into a genre that is less primordial and more feminist than some might consider.
In Wes Craven’s iconic Scream franchise, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is the final girl who breaks archetype. Not only is she smart enough to slip away while Billy and Stu are busy fighting, but she also acts fast and with unwavering courage by killing them both. In fact, when Billy comes back to life for one last stab, Sidney isn’t having it. She grabs a gun and shoots him in the freaking head because Billy was dumb enough to bring a knife to a gun fight.
Of course, Sidney’s clearest sign of rational thinking is highlighted, over and over, by her decision to call and work with the police to catch the psycho serial killers who have terrorized her life. She gets smarter in every sequel and learns from her mistakes. The horror gods can throw whatever they want at this slasher goddess because Sidney Prescott is always ready to play and fight back.
Then there’s Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) from A Nightmare on Elm Street who remains steadfast in her defiance against Freddy Krueger. Hey, it’s not easy trying to convince yourself and believing that you can escape the throes of a rapturously demented child killer. Yet Nancy holds on and willingly rushes into danger so she can find her crispy attacker’s weakness. She swings at him with a sledgehammer, smacks him with a lightbulb, and even sets him on fire until he begs for mercy. Seriously, Nancy is the definition of balls-y.
Of course, Lieutenant Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) knows all about reveling in one’s kick-ass glory. Arguably the greatest heroine of all time, Ripley is the defining character of the Alien franchise. Flexing both her biceps and motherly instincts, she’s the perfect amalgamation of a delicate and deadly protagonist. Seriously, this woman could comfort a cat just as easily as she could blow the Alien queen to shreds.
Ripley wields guns and asserts her authority because she’s a natural born leader. The woman can handle anything because she’s used to fending for herself. It’s the stark contrast between her levelheadedness and unbridled fury that makes Ripley so palpable. Within the bleak horror of the spaceship, Ripley emerges as a survivor and heroine as opposed to a victim. There are times when she doesn’t seem especially sympathetic towards other human beings, but that’s also because her male counterparts constantly undermine her intelligence. In the end, it’s Ripley who outsmarts a heinous intergalactic creature that has managed to efficiently kill off every male member of her crew.
Ripley is a hero born out of necessity. She is an unexpected lone survivor — the final girl who also happens to be the mother of the modern female heroine in horror.