Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Final Girl

It always surprises people when they find out how much I love horror movies. I wear a lot of dresses, watch a lot of Disney, have a vintage fairy tale collection. Horror movies are scary, gross, and not exactly a feminist's best friend. Now, I'm not arguing that horror movies are feminist. Oh, no. There is so much sexualized violence of women, punishing of sexually active women, and even my beloved Final Girl is only allowed to survive and win because she's masculinized. But I am saying there are things to love about horror movies.  I'm not about to argue any of the points, but let me tell you why I like horror movies. Horror movies, particularly slashers, are really similar to modern fairy tales.

Ew Laura, I can hear you saying. No. Let me explain. The horror movie and the fairy tale both often surround a young girl. The young girl is given a journey that leads to her defeating an often impossible to kill villain- a bad guy, an evil queen. She triumphs- usually. In the slasher genre, this girl is called the Final Girl, and I love her.

The Final Girl exists in so many movies. She is a girl, usually virginal and innocent, to whom some awful things happen. Murder, mayhem, torture, all around her! She is often masculinized through a few different ways: she's often given a unisex name (the queen Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie in Halloween, Syd in Scream, etc.), and her weapon at the end is usually a phallic symbol (a knife, usually). She goes through a transition of being vulnerable and frightened to victorious and resilient- usually while prettily splattered with blood.

It's no surprise I love her. She's weak and strong in equal measure. Although slightly masculinized, she is usually the lone survivor and the heroine. She exists mostly in slasher movies, but also in a lot of supernatural horror movies (which I think you could argue most slasher movies kind of are- seriously, who gets shot so many times and can still show up for a sequel?). I think that an adult version of her exists in the haunted house genre. Haunted house movies usually surround an innocent young mother, who wears dresses and tucks her children in at night, and whose husband is usually absent in some way.

Lately, horror movies have been subverting the Final Girl archetype. Sometimes she becomes the villain, sometimes she argues with her destiny, sometimes she shifts things. Movies that notably do this would be The Loved OnesCabin in the Woods, and Scream 4. Of course, Buffy the Vampire Slayer can't be forgotten as a tv show based entirely on subverting this trope!

My dream for the Final Girl is for her to continue her journey. To stay the final survivor, the heroine, but to adapt slightly. I'd like to see a sexually liberated Final Girl, instead of a virginal one. I'd like to see one so ridiculously feminine, with dresses and a name like Bunny or Candy. I'd like to see some non-white Final Girls- I tried to think of some and came up empty. I'd like to see the opposite of a phallic weapon- which, by the way, would be a yonic weapon. Casie and I discussed yonic weapons, but it's hard to think of some!

What would your dream Final Girl be like? Do you like horror movies? What are your favorite ones?

Further your education!
♥ Watch my favorite slasher movie Scream streaming on Netflix- a movie that both embraces and subverts the Final Girl trope, as well as almost every single horror movie trope! It's a self-parodying horror movie, and it's awesome.
♥ Watch the twisted archetype in Cabin in the Woods and Scream 4 on Netflix. 


  1. As I mentioned on tumblr, Christine Day from the Robert Englund version of Phantom of the Opera!

    That said, I don't think Buffy is as much a subversion of Final Girls as she is the trope played straight. I know Joss Whedon said he intended her to be like the ditzy, "slutty" blondes who get killed, but that's more like her in the movie (or Cordelia.) Buffy is the sort of tough, smart serial-monogamist who would usually survive.

    1. I haven't seen that! I'll have to check it out sometime.

      And good point! I guess she's the trope played out past just the initial kill and explores a Final Girl continuing to fight her entire life.