Why Do Women Survive Horror Films, but Men Don’t?
From time to time horror discussions with the wife prove enlightening. Note that I said from time to time. The typical exchange leads to frustration and drastically opposed viewpoints. That’s okay, that’s a part of life and the luxury of opinions. However, in those rare moments when the convo turns compelling, you’ve got to sit back and soak up the moment. Hell, even the most educated horror buffs out there stand to learn a lesson or two.
As you probably guessed, some recent banter between the wife and I yielded some thought provoking words.
Our topic of debate? The all-but-guaranteed survival girl. Why have men been pushed to the side in favor of the heroine? Why are the most iconic survivors in horror history (Laurie Strode, Nancy Thompson, Alice Hardy, Sidney Prescott, Suzy Bannion, etc., etc.) women? Sure we stumble upon our occasional Ash Williams, but let’s be honest: 90 percent of the time someone survives a horror film, that survivor sports perky breasts and feminine ferocity.
Am I opposed to this typical approach? Not in the slightest. I’m all for the final girl overcoming the odds – in Alice Hardy’s case, lopping off the head of Pamela Voorhees, or in Sidney Precott’s case, gunning down the overconfident Billy Loomis – and succeeding where naïve viewers expect them to fail. Triumph is a pretty crucial piece to cinema in general, let alone horror exclusively.
I’ve always considered the final girl, or survivor girl, if you prefer, to be a representation of innocence shattered and strength refined. The hapless, destined to be victim who evolves with the moment, discovers the inner courage and unwavering will to defy the odds and survive that which – by all accounts – should not be survivable. The final girl marks the true beginning of hope; the closing moments of a terror ridden piece of film in which the antagonist has finally been disposed of, and something better rises with the sun as it washes away the blackness our characters have been enveloped in since the beginning of the third… that’s the final girl. She is hope. She’s perseverance and humility, she’s resilience and thankfulness. Everything that the evil forces bring to the picture are negated by her presence.
That’s always been my firm stance on the final girl. It’s always been her definition, in my mind.
Now I’m forced to examine another angle – brought to light by the attentive wife – that does undeniably make a wealth of sense.
Are you ready?
What if the survivor girl isn’t a representation of hope, but a statement of misandry and a counter to testosterone driven ignorance? Not so much the positively perceived symbol of accomplishment, purity and adaptation, but a narcissistic poke at the machismo of man. A poke typically delivered in awareness to man, by man (of course there are female filmmakers out there who love to flirt with the genre, but this is a branch of cinema predominately decorated by “man leaves”), as not only a simple slap in the face for assuming we’re the big bad tough guy destined to survive a trip into Hades, but also as a quasi-satirical jab at man’s overall self-induced ineffectualness.
Think about it: our own gall gets in the way of our brain all the time, and our attempts at heroism are often thwarted by misdirected confidence. For some strange reason, we believe we’re always going to be the one to save the day. The first one to shove the ladies aside and tackle the boogeyman head on. We do have the big muscles after all, right? Is it admirable to be willing to go out on your shield? Perhaps. Is it more admirable to stop and think; know when to fight, when to flee and when to make your final stand, subsequently improving everyone’s chances of survival? Absolutely.
Could the survivor girl really be a craftily presented mark of manipulation and superior intelligence? Maybe as men it’s time we asked ourselves, are we heroic, or the butt of a very well aligned joke?
That kind of maneuver certainly doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility. I know countless filmmakers, and let’s just say a whole hell of a lot more than just one fancy themselves certified creative geniuses. To send that kind of a message, using such a cryptic device seems highly pretentious, but there are a lot of highly pretentious filmmakers out there.
I still hold firm to my belief that the final girl is an uplifting figure meant to instill optimism. However, after running the opposing point of view through my head countless times in just 12 hours, I cannot completely refute its possibility. I don’t necessarily think it’s plausible, but there are some colorful minds at work in this industry. If we as men have been unknowingly duped for years, it wouldn’t come as the world’s greatest shock. It may however qualify as the finest “troll” movement ever launched.
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