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Women in Contemporary Horror Films

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FEMINITY IN CONTEMPORARY HORROR FILM

One might say that horror film- genre has been invented by feminists. Horror films seem to be one of the only genres that have women as heroines instead of dominated side characters. In horror genre women are the ones fighting against evil and men are the ones dying trying to help these heroines. Or perhaps the horror genre uses heroines to differ it self from hero dominant action genre. Or maybe horror films were created to represent the ultimate horror of the dominant masculine society: a strong woman who can survive by herself. This essay will analyse genders used in contemporary horror genre and it will delve in to the difference of masculinity and femininity presented in present horror films.

As a part of our popular culture, film functions as myth for our society. Through film the ideologies of our social structure are expressed and reproduced. In the case of women's role in society, traditional horror heroines demonstrate predominant attitudes of the time towards women. Before splatter horror films were a big hit, as a sub-genre, women were seen as objects of lust and love. For example women in films like King Kong (1933) and Phantom of the Opera (1943) the masculine monster lusted and claimed these women as their possession. Women were an object who with their natural beauty seduces them. This seduction intrigues as much as it scars the monster.

In the late 1970's the female heroine was born in slightly different form, when splatter horror films started to appear on the screens. The Exorcist (1973) and Carrie (1976) are examples of horror films that represented teenage girls which were overtaken by demonic powers. In the Exorcist a 12-old girl, Regan (Linda Blair) from a divorced family is overtaken by devil himself. A young priest nearby church is called to do the exorcism. The Exorcist reflected society's fear at the time, of opened culture. Young woman were not hiding there bodies at home, women started to be more active part of the society and freedom of female sexuality were issues that scared the masculine society. Male dominants felt like they were losing

their power over females and there fore heroines in these horrors films are obsessed by evil spirits.

Carrie on the other hand represented teenage girl rebelling against her mother and existing social order. Carrie (Sissy Spacek) refused to believe to her mother's toughs and when she was not allowed to live liberal life, which included sexual behavior, the evil forces she held inside attacked the set boundaries. Carrie's own will work through his extraordinary powers. She was shown to be overtaken by this power, like she had no control over it. And in the end the power destroyed her. Carrie was a warning, made by the male dominant, for all the young women in the audience. Not obeying the existing social order will destroy young and vulnerable girls like Carrie. The destiny of Carrie was set to be an example for those women who were trying to fight against dominating, masculine social order.

When the horror film genre made to the 1980s and 1990s the female figure in horror narratives lost its evil spirit. Instead teenage girls had to meet the psychotic monsters, the evil force that came outside, by them selves. Women became sole survivors and horror films became battle grounds of sexes where women fight against the evil men. In these contemporary horror films, the good characters on slasher film, such as boyfriends, usually die quite early in the narrative. Also the traditional authority figures, such as policemen and fathers are usually risible incompetent and there fore often killed, leaving the girl, film's protagonist to confront the killer by herself (Cook & Bernink, 1999 p.202). This development from struggling girls to independent women can be seen as a development in social order. Women got their partial freedom from traditions, single women were not considered to be the freaks of nature anymore. Women were given their freedom to act as part of the society, but had they had to manage on their own. Men were not there to help and protect anymore, they became the competitors and enemies. Also teenage or pop culture, which became mainstream in the 80's so music, art and films were produced to these young adults.

Halloween (1978) and Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) can be mentioned as early films of this new era of horror genre. Halloween represents the social transforming which started in the end of 1970s. In Halloween Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends are being stocked and killed by Michael Myers (Tony Moran), who is suffering a serious mental illness. After killing Laurie's friends Michael goes after her and viewer can witness this battle of masculine evil and feminine good. In the end Laurie stabs Michael and thinks she had killed him. But male monster is not going to give up that easily and it takes another man, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence), to kill the male monster. So even though women can fight for their survival, and seemingly be independent, they are still dependent

of the man to come and rescue them.

Few years later female protagonist did not need the help of men anymore. In the Nightmare on Elm Street Nancy Thompson (Heather Lagenkamp) has nightmares about male monster called Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), who works through Nancy's dreams. Nancy does not need any help with destroying the male monster. The finishing of Freddy was surprisingly easy; Nancy just refused to believe in him. In other words, the female protagonist turned her back to male dominance and denied to be controlled by masculine forces, even though the male monster hardly ever dies in the end. Reason for that might be purely economical, when the monster stays alive, the sequels can be made. Also the society's social order can handle the death of male monsters. If the male monster dies entirely, it would mean that females had won the battle of sexes.

Contemporary horror film's heroines' power and independency keeps on growing when society it

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