Why Are Women in Horror Films Victims or Villains?

Extracts from the full text

  • “… Since February is also Women in Horror Month, what better way to celebrate than checking out some of film’s “scariest” female character types?”
  • “We felt inspired by Hammer’s timeless take on the ghostly woman to explore other “women in black” — cinema’s clichéd, frightful feminine figures.”

Erik’s Take: These various archetypes could be the player characters. I like horror stories where the protagonists are tempted by their monstrous capabilities, and are not just pallid good guys standing up to monsters. Carrie and the protagonist of Firestarter are all agents of horror as well as victims of horrible treatment.

The Obsessed Woman

“When she’s not boiling your pet rabbit for ignoring her calls (Fatal Attraction), she’s breaking your legs with a sledgehammer (Misery), or creepily pretending to be you and sleeping with your boyfriend (Single White Female). Far too often incited by a jilted love affair, the obsessed woman’s infatuation is usually based on an imagined connection that feels warm and fuzzy to her, but let’s face it: she’s insane.”

Erik’s Take: It MIGHT be fun for someone to act out this stereotype, but from my point of view I couldn’t play out the Stanley Kowalski/Heathcliff glowering macho brute stereotype. It would degenerate into camp pretty quick.

The Ghostly Woman

“… the idea of a ghostly woman has been one of cinema’s most popular creepy female clichés for decades … Japanese horror cinema probably wins the award for using this device the most … the yūrei is a vengeful mythological figure in Japanese culture that has made its way to the big screen many times, most popular in the 1990s and early 2000s … Lonely nerds, bullied weirdos, and other malcontent freaks fight back, but the weird part about the wronged outcast is how often cinema implies that their empowerment — no matter how insane it may be enacted — requires supernatural powers to be applied (The Craft and Carrie).”

Erik’s Take: As a person who has [melodramatically] represented himself as the “wronged outcast” I feel the salience of this role. If the average HPL protagonist is a bookish outsider, the temptation to lash out at the misunderstanding would could explain their fascination with forbidden knowledge and power.

The Hot Girl Who Snaps

“One of the more interesting ways directors have transcended the stereotype is by suggesting that the reach for perfection or beauty incited the mental breakdown (Black Swan). Other movies have tried to toy with the hackneyed hot girl by parodying her position of power (Jennifer’s Body, Jawbreaker).”

The Standard Psychopath

“You can diagnose these women as narcissistic or pathological liars, but let’s not mince words: they’re complete and utter psychopaths. Murder is a hobby for them, and Basic Instinct‘s crazed novelist Catherine Tramell is probably the most villainous of them all.”

Erik’s Take: Perhaps a character driven over the edge could turn into one of these?

The Abused Victim

“The horrific evils (sexual abuse and domestic violence) inflicted upon women as children (Audition, Natural Born Killers) or adults (Monster) can manipulate our sympathies and make us question if the blood on their hands is warranted.”

Erik’s Take: Meh. The abused victim seeking revenge has been shot down as uninteresting to female and male consumers both. The whole Laura Croft-motivated by abuse-story got a lot of bad press. Revenge fantasies can be fun, though. Maybe a character taking revenge on behalf of someone else would be better to play?

Slaughtering Self-Discoverers

“Sometimes in film, a little bloodshed can allow a woman to also shed her inhibitions (Teeth), sense of hopelessness and confusion (Ginger Snaps), or the disparaging view she has of herself (May). Often, horror cinema’s way of revealing this transformation is to associate the monstrous and the feminine, which empowers the woman through her newfound, grisly abilities. Tragically, not all women can accept this darker, overwhelming side of themselves (Cat People).”

Erik’s Take: More to my liking. I like characters who are tempted by power. Someone could be brought into magic or pacts with the Elder Things by the temptation to wreak a little bloodshed.


XX Horror ErikWeissengruber