His name virtually synonymous with the cinematic zombie, George A. Romero’s Dead series rewrote the rules of the undead monster. In the original Night of the Living Dead (1968), Romero’s core group of survivors battle each other as well as the zombies in a film which very much reflects the time in which it was made. As one of the group fighting for survival, Barbra is the epitome of the defenseless female. She spends the majority of the film either panicking to the detriment of those around her or catatonic. Her death, via consumption by her zombified brother, is almost a welcome reprieve from her complete ineffectualness.
As Women In Horror Month draws to an end, I wanted to bookend our discussion of the final girl with the character who, I feel, best depicts forward momentum. In order to see a clear trajectory I had to reflect upon Dawn’s discussion of Carol Clover and subsequently consider the criticisms mentioned by others such as BJ Colangelo and noted scholar Isabel Cristina Pinedo. [i] I agree that there are problematic components embedded within the final girl, much of which has to do with the assumption of male spectatorship. Nonetheless, I feel that there are positive representations of womanhood in recent horror film. Most notably, is the character Sarah Logan (played by Anne Ramsay) in The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014).
Sarah Logan is the last woman standing. Granted, The Taking of Deborah Logan is not a slasher, and Sarah Logan is not your stereotypical final girl. Regardless, Sarah Logan is the survivor: she meets the killer, takes it on, and defeats it (or so we hope). This is as far as Sarah Logan follows the formula Carol Clover laid out for the final girl. Sarah is a lesbian in a relationship who has temporarily left her lover in order to care for her ailing mother. What I love most about Sarah is that she is a realistic representation of womanhood. She is vulnerable; we see her struggle, trying to make financial ends meet while balancing her relationship with the nebulous task of managing her mother’s Alzheimer’s. Sarah is flawed, she is scared, uncertain, she drinks to manage her stress, and she sometimes needs help from others. Read more
It has been said that horror involves too few and too negative stereotypes of women. In the years since Carol Clover’s 1992 book Men, Women, and Chainsaws, even the final girl has been criticized for limiting women’s role in horror. I feel that that there has been continuous growth in the industry’s representations of women. The female character is no longer an adornment to be draped over the shoulder of The Creature from The Black Lagoon (1954) or of an oversized gorilla. She does not exist simply to be saved. The following qualities of the present women of horror provide us with a better representation of the myriad of personalities that exist in real women. Rather than the simple formulaic final girls, these qualities reinforce ways of seeing women in horror and of appreciating horror’s growing audience of female spectators. Women are not one-dimensional: we are sometimes weak, strong, smart, silly, scared, simple, and maddeningly complex. Far from complete, this broader range of characteristics celebrates the fact that women in our favorite genre are more than just props, archetypes, or stereotypes. Looking beyond the big boobs, monstrous mommies, and less than virginal victims, women contain a multitude of characteristics that critics often minimize. There was no way I was limiting this list to ten and it’s our month so we are in charge. I hope you will all add some to our list to help us celebrate women in horror.