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Women Portrayed in Horror Films

Essay by review  •  December 30, 2010  •  Essay  •  2,939 Words (12 Pages)  •  1,584 Views

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Horror films have always been more attractive to the male viewer than to the female viewer. Why is that? Usually horror films mainly present the audience with very graphic mutilation and the raping of females, more so than their male counterparts. Horror films have always depicted females as either objects or as the victim of a horrible act. In Linda William's essay "When the Woman Looks," she says that "there is not that much difference between an object of desire and an object of horror as far as the male look is concerned" (Jancovich 63). That is just the way horror films are, and they will probably not change anytime, because the women in the films usually grab the attention of males. This is why horror films are usually more pointed at the male view. Some males like to see women depicted as the punisher because they like seeing evil women in these films precisely for their viewing pleasures, sexual and otherwise. An online essay defines horror as, "its true subject matter is that of the struggle for recognition of all that society represses" (Niver). Although horror films as well as film noir films are usually fictitious, the violence depicted among women is real and they show the dark side of the human experience especially in women.

In some horror films, females are "often asked to bear witness to [their] own powerlessness in the face of rape, mutilation and murder" (Jancovich 61). Women, who have been traumatized by violence in any way, have to live with their emotions and

feelings regarding their situations everyday of their lives. Witnessing a rape or sexual assault is hard for a woman to watch especially if they have been a victim of one of these horrible acts of violence. It is scary to see something like this happen on film because at any point in a women's life, she is vulnerable to an attack like this. According to Analyzing Moral Issues, "rape seems to be a uniquely human phenomenon" (Boss 358). Susan Brownmiller argues in her book Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, "that rape is a crime of violence- a conscious process of intimidation by men to keep women in a state of fear- rather than an act of sexual passion" (Boss 358). Rape is a form of intimidation. It causes some women to fear for their own lives especially when walking alone in a big city at nighttime or when they feel as if they are being followed. In society today, there are many classes being taught and they are trying to get more women involved in trying to keep us safe. "Rape is worse than physical assault because it is an attack on a person's personal identity and a violation of the victim's right to privacy" and this is shown in movies as well as in real life (Boss 358). Linda William's essay "When the Woman Looks," she states perfectly that "whenever the movie screen holds a particularly effective image of terror, little boys and grown men make it a point of honor to look, while little girls and grown women cover their eyes or hide behind the shoulders of their dates" (Jancovich 61). In Brigid Cherry's essay "Refusing to Refuse to Look," she says that of a study done of female horror film fans and followers, "only 19 per cent of participants claimed frequently to avert their gaze in some way, while 67 per cent claimed they only rarely or never refuse to look" (Jancovich 169). She also goes on to say that her study shows that "there are female viewers who do take pleasure in viewing horror films and who, in what could amount to an act of defiance, refuse to refuse to look" (Jancovich 169). For the reason stated above, if female viewers do not always refuse to look, then what kinds of horror film do they see and what do they get out of them?

The violence among women in movies, let alone horror films, is astonishing. Women are seen as objects in most movies as well as horror films. It is sad to see the way women are still portrayed in movies from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) to the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). One would think that the way women have been portrayed would have changed, but on the contrary, it has not. They are still shown in the same vulnerable manner. Violence against women in today's horror films could be devastating to a women's well-being. Many of the scenes in horror films are fiction, but those scenes could possibly inspire violence in real life. Some young men who watch these violent horror films sometimes find it entertaining to see women abused on film. Few men even devise ways to portray the exact same situation on a female close to them or even on a stranger. Those few individuals want to get that rush of adrenaline that the actors depict in the movies. That adrenaline is dangerous and could potentially lead to many other violent acts.

The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is sensational and extremely well-done for a horror movie made in 1974 by director Tobe Hooper. It is unique for its time, but there is nothing like it out today. The movie begins on a simple, long country road trip that would usually be the perfect way to spend some time with a group of five friends. An online review of the newer version of Texas Chainsaw Massacre states that, "the movie is the adventure of five teens through rural Texas on their way to a Lynard Skynard concert on August 13th, 1973" (Alfieri). The scene is portrayed as a perfect afternoon until the group drives into a deserted part of Texas. The group of teenagers picks up a hitchhiker and later find themselves stuck in a horror chamber where they are all held captive, tortured, chopped up, and also impaled on meat hooks. That hitchhiker is one of the main characters who unleashes an unimaginable chain of events that end up leading to murder, cannibalism and a psychotic killer. The group of teenagers became the prey to a trio of murderous brothers and their cannibal grandparents. This demented, cannibalistic family is what is scary. Leatherface, the son, is the main one who commits all the killings and chases people with a chainsaw. The amount of gore in this movie is pretty low-key compared to today's standards, and there is not a lot of blood until the end of the movie. The portrayal of women in this movie is that the females are more vulnerable. Sally Hardesty, played by Marilyn Burns, is very impressive in this film. She is the last out of the group of teenagers to be held captive and actually lives through her torturing. She was the lucky one and of course became the heroine. She knocked out and when she awakens, she is strapped down to the chair at the kitchen table. She realizes that this family is extremely messed up because they are cannibals, psychos, as well as dysfunctional. At the end of the movie, she screams her lungs out for at least fifteen

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