As women, we have fought our way in society to be seen as equals to men. Although we have made a lot of progress, there is still room to grow. If this is the case and women are starting to be treated as equals, why are they still sexualized and tortured in the horror industry? In many horror films, women and young girls are merely objects of the males’ desire. Can women be seen for who they are as people rather than how they are seen through male desires?
Scream (1996) is the perfect example of how horror films portray women. In this movie, women are poked fun at and treated as objects that can be messed with. This film is guilty of using the male gaze. The male gaze is defined as a theory where women are only seen through the heterosexual eyes of a man as objects of the male desire. Audiences are left no choice but to watch women through the view of a heterosexual man, according to Racheal Sampson in her article, “Film Theory 101 – Laura Mulvey: The Male Gaze Theory.” In Scream (1996), Neve Campbell plays Sidney Prescott who is portrayed as the perfect innocent girl next door. From the male’s perspective, Sidney is a sexual object for the pleasure of the male viewer.
Typically in slasher films, there is what is known as the Final Girl who is both female victim and heroine. Sidney is a great example of this because she is the one to overcome the killers and make it out alive. There is one scene in particular that explains everything one needs to know about how to be the Final Girl. In Scream (1996), Randy Meeks, played by Jamie Kennedy, explains the rules one needs to follow in order to survive a horror film. To quote Randy, “Number one, you can never have sex. Number two, you can never drink or do drugs. And number three, never ever ever, under any circumstances, say I’ll be right back.” Rule number one says it all. Women are sexualized to the point where the few ones who don’t have sex are the only ones who can survive. “In the American horror film, women are usually murdered because of their having had sex, or desiring sex,” according to the author of “The Final Girl: A Few Thoughts on Feminism and Horror” in Offscreen.
Women’s sexuality should be up to them, and it should not fall into the hands of a man for him to be the one in control. It is almost like a woman’s virginity is her protective shield against the killer or the man. Once she loses her virginity, she loses her only weapon against the killer. This depicts women’s sexuality to be seen as a derogatory feature about a woman when it should be something that is celebrated. As Randy mentioned, before, the Final Girl is completely sexualized to fulfil the man’s desire. The Final Girl is
supposed to be a virgin, and Sidney starts the movie as one, but does not end the movie as one. So, how can she still come out as the heroine? She did not follow the rules Randy clearly explained.
Often in culture today, sex is a big part of changing from adolescenes to womanhood. Having sex does not automatically make you a
woman, but many people feel that is a part of growing up. Overall, the male gaze is a tool for men to make women feel powerless especially in horror films. Women are just seen as objects and are more often than not the targets of so many of these films. So, why is the male gaze still a thing today? We still have progress to be made on treating women equal to men. As much as I love the horror genre, they tend to be extremely sexist towards women. Sidney Prescott is only one example of this. Many other slasher films are
built on the same basis. Sex does not define a woman, but looking through the male gaze one would think that it does.
References: Sampson, Rachael. “Film Theory 101 – Laura Mulvey: The Male Gaze Theory.” Film Inquiry , 3 May 2018, www.filminquiry.com/film-theory-basics-laura-mulvey-male-gaze-theory/. “The Final Girl: A Few Thoughts on Feminism and Horror.” Offscreen, offscreen.com/view/feminism_and_horror.
Cora Epley is a Recreational Therapy major at Indiana University. She is currently a freshman, soon to be sophomore student with a love for horror films. Ever since she was a young girl and her mother forced her to watch her first ever scary movie, the original Pet Sematary (1989), she has been hooked. Since she started watching horror movies, Scream (1996) has been one of her all time favorites, even if it does not seem that way from her blog post.