Do Horror Films Degrade Women?

Several months ago I was asked to be a guest at a Lamar University panel for the slasher genre. It amuses me that the idea of women being degraded in horror films is still so popular. We’ve been hearing about it a lot lately with Women in Horror Recognition Month. The internet has been exploding with various articles on the subject. I don’t know what I can say that hasn’t already been said by hundreds of other girls in the genre being interviewed every day. Since that panel at the university was a lot of fun for me and I was honored for being chosen as a guest speaker, I’ve been dying to write about the subject but I thought it would be best to wait for February to blow over. That and I was too busy writing about the awesomeness that is VHS. A subject that is far more interesting to me. One question that stood out the most to me at this panel was, “Why can’t women be treated as equals to men in horror films? Why are they the weaker character?” Women are as strong as men in horror films, in most cases stronger.  It’s my belief that the genre degrades everyone. Men that argue about how they’re degraded in horror films are inevitably called misogynist liars so I feel it’s my duty to stand up for the dudes. I’m with you fellas. Not only does a stronger female character often survive (the final girl) but even the stronger male character (the villain) is portrayed as weak. Forget all about his muscle tone and the fact that he’s 6’9.” He’s usually sexually repressed or deformed. Lets not forget that he’s typically outsmarted and defeated by a girl. Then we have all of the deficient male characters in films like the Slumber Party Massacre trilogy. You can read all about my opinions on those characters here: http://yourfriendlyneighborhoodjewishgirl.blogspot.com/2012/03/slumber-party-massacre-trilogy.html The male characters are always stereotyped. There’s the geek, the stud with no brains, the rebel, and the old gross redneck. No one ever talks about how the Lifetime channel degrades men but that’s another subject we will have to save for another time. Just pointing it out.

Some argue that women are portrayed as hypersexual damsels in distress that are often killed at the beginning of the film and they’re killed for being a harlot. Right, because none of their sexual partners are knocked off. I never understood this argument. Take Halloween for example. After sex with PJ Soles, the man is killed first. Then we have Friday the 13th where Kevin Bacon is even killed before the girl after the hot, passionate love making. Speaking of Friday the 13th, I read an article where a lad over analyzed the Friday the 13th series and he’s convinced that Jason Voorhees is killing women because he feels inadequate. It’s true that in a lot of horror films the villain is sexually repressed and can only experience sexual freedom by taking away their power but in Friday the 13th, that’s just not the case. Everyone knows that the killer in the first film is Jason’s mother and in those terrible sequels the momma’s boy comes back for revenge. Murder is a punishment for having sex in those films but what about all the innocent characters that are hacked to pieces even though they’re not having coitus? Your argument doesn’t make any sense. It’s illogical. “The women in the slasher genre are often running around naked, making the audience’s ability to sympathize with their characters pretty slim because they are seen as less valuable.” Why is a woman less likeable for showing skin? The female body itself becomes an object of desire for men. I don’t understand what’s wrong with this. What’s wrong with being sexy? Female bodies are very beautiful and sexual and I often view them as a work of art. Even Rosie O’Donnell. Granted, not everyone wants to see Rosie naked and that’s where the ugly, hairy women come in screaming that women are degraded in horror films for being sexy. Women are not always perceived as sexy on film. Precious anyone? There’s even an overweight cheerleader in Spirit Camp and I loved that because lets face it, not everyone is a super model. Some believe sexually independent women are murdered in film as some sort of symbolic punishment. Like in Psycho when Janet Leigh is stabbed to death, the male character is threatened by her sexual power and takes it away by the symbolic rape of her body. In my opinion, anyone who actually sees it this way is over analyzing the film.

I asked everyone which horror films they thought degraded women the most and why. People kept listing comedies and I completely agree with this. Like the Lifetime channel, that’s a subject I will have to get into another day. John Waters is brought to my attention almost every time. The man lives for bad taste. Cut him some slack. The only problem I have with his characters is that it looks like a crayola gang banged their faces. Lars von Trier happens to be a popular answer as well. While all his films seem to depict abused women, Antichrist is the more popular vote. I didn’t view Antichrist as a misogynistic film. I thought it was about a battle with depression. Lars claims that his characters are built on his persona. “I think women are better and more understanding. This is my female side.” Try as they may, men will NEVER know what it’s like to be female. This is why I argue with transsexuals so often. You cannot tell me you are a woman because you have always felt like a woman. This is impossible. Naturally, Lars von Trier is going to disappoint women with his ‘female side.’ I Spit On Your Grave is without a doubt one of the most celebrated horror films that may or may not objectify women. This was also brought up in the panel at the university. True, this woman gets violently raped but in the end she gets her revenge and even takes one of the attacker’s manhood away before killing him. I thought it was empowering. How do feminists have a problem with this? The Stepford Wives, I think this one gets people because in the end the men win. I like the ending because it’s different. Men don’t want a stronger, bra-less wife with a career. They want June Cleaver and they get it in the end. This very idea infuriates a lot of women. Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom is mentioned a lot as well but I thought that also degraded the boys. It’s also one of my least favorite films of all time because of the irrationality of the message and all the consumption of feces. Say it’s about fascists all you want, I am pretty sure they didn’t consume feces. Back on subject, A Clockwork Orange because a woman is gang raped and dies as a result to it. Later in the film, a woman is bludgeoned to death by one of her own dick sculptures. I want to go into further detail on what Kubrick was thinking another time because I don’t know how to sum it up into just a few sentences. The Last House on the Left because two girls are brutally raped and murdered. It IS brutal and hard to watch. The grittiness of the film from the VHS era makes it even harder because it contributes to the feeling of it being snuff instead of entertainment. However, in the end the gang of psychopaths are viciously murdered by the parents and the mother takes away ones manhood, just like in I Spit On Your Grave. As for Roger Corman productions, I don’t understand why nudity is ‘required’ in all of his films. In the Slumber Party Massacre trilogy, nudity was required and the female directors agreed to this. It was a parody of the horror genre and poked fun at the genre but I still don’t see why there HAS to be nudity. I explained this further in my article about the trilogy. 17 year-old girls just don’t dance around naked at slumber parties. At least, none of the parties I attended. People name several non horror films that they feel degrade women and I can turn down the idea within two sentences. Example; Requiem for a Dream, the ass to ass scene with Jennifer Connolly. It’s not like the film is portraying ALL women. The film shows what lengths her character was willing to go in order to get her drugs and in most real life situations, women will do far worse to get what they want. Then there’s The Brown Bunny because of Chloe Sevigny’s giving Vincent Gallo a blow job. I’ll admit, I was a little surprised to see this but lets be honest, the majority of women give head on a regular basis and Gallo happened to be her partner at the time so what’s so shocking about it? I found the blow job scene in The Pink Flamingo’s to be more disgusting because of the flaccid penis and I found the actors to be pretty gross unlike Sevigny and Gallo.

Now lets talk about all the films that feature strong surviving female characters! Again, Slumber Party Massacre! In the end, the girl chops off the killers drill which actually symbolizes his penis. We have Nancy in Nightmare on Elm Street. Alice in Friday the 13th. Ripley in Alien. Sally in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Laurie in Halloween. Wendy in The Shining is one of my favorites. Wendy was very weak. She lowered her head and backed down every time her husband dominated her but in the end she fights to survive and escapes with her little boy. Sidney in Scream, even though I am not a fan of Neve Campbell…. She plays a strong character. Jess in Black Christmas. Jill in When a Stranger Calls. I could name at least 50 horror films right now with strong female characters. Then we have people like Tara Reid playing archeologists in horror movies. Now that’s degrading.

People forget that horror fans aren’t just sad, fat bastards living in their mother’s basement. Friends of mine make these comments on my posts about horror films all the time without realizing that there’s an army of women out there who enjoy making their own horror films and they’re getting stronger. The majority of these women disagree with the idea of horror films degrading women.