Halloween appears to be predominantly androcentric with Jack O’ Lanterns, Headless Horsemen and Hitchcockian killers at every turn. Scary movies show us serial killers like Freddie, Jason, and Leatherface. Literature and folklore bestow us Frankenstein’s monster, Count Dracula and Werewolves. Even children’s cartoon are filled with devils, ghosts and ghouls that are taken to be male. And yet despite this, it is still the ladies of Hollywood’s horror screen that have my attention. It’s the final girls, the witches and the evil Queens that come to my mind on All Hallows Eve.
Women have always had an important place in Hollywood’s horror genre, unfortunately it has just never been a particularly progressive one; they are brutally murdered (usually after having sex), psychotically chased down, or graphically tortured. If an actress would like to be in a horror film where her character lives; she has the option of being a daemon she-devil, a rape-revenge psychopath or a mentally unstable mother figure. If the film is more magical than macabre; she can play the part of a witch with worldly power, but only if her focus is set on youth and beauty. If the actress in question would like to take part in a slasher film then she has the option of dying horrifically or playing the survivor who can endure her killer’s attacks with intelligence, spirit and resourcefulness, but only if she is ultimately saved by a man.
Of course, no one comes out looking good in horror films; it is a genre of blood and gore, but it is the way in which women are portrayed in comparison to men that worries me. It’s difficult to find female characters that are agents of their own destiny in any genre, but with the lack of barriers that the mysticism of horror and sci-fi bring, there should be endless options for women. Buffy Summers is not a victim, an avenger or a final girl; she is a monster hunter. I will forever praise Joss Whedon in all his feminist wisdom for creating not only a character such as Buffy but a team of friends where women outnumber men and no one bats an eyelid. So why must they stand alone? Where are all the other Scooby gangs? Halloween is a time to break boundaries, transform characters and bend the rules; an idea that Hollywood has bought into with aplomb. Films that center around fictitious worlds of monsters and dress up are films where anything is possible. So where are all the women at?
Final girls are hardly a feminist ideal; they survive and fight and claw their way through unspeakable horrors only to be saved by a man. Magic makes muscle obsolete, and yet even in situations where the spells of the mind beat the muscle of matter,witches can’t go about being heroes? Magic is possible but apparently men and women still can’t be on an equal playing field. TV shows have tried more than films, because God forbid a block buster rest solely on a female protagonist’s shoulder, but it’s mostly missed the mark. I was never truly won over by the sisters of Charmed, Samantha Stephens basically just wiggled her nose about in Bewitched and let’s not get started on I Dream of Jeannie. Sabrina the Teenage Witch was mostly about changing outfits really fast, I mean wasn’t Aunt Zelda supposed to be a brainiac magical scientist? Shouldn’t she have cured cancer by now or something?Don’t get me wrong I’m actually a fan of many of these shows, but there are just too few female characters so well written as Hermione Granger or Buffy Summers and honestly that’s just not good enough for me.
- Sinann Fetherston