The Final Girl as a Hero

When watching movies, it is usually seen that the women are portrayed as the victims and the men are portrayed as the heroes of the story. In this distribution of roles, we see the male gaze in action as it objectifies the woman. The slasher films are a famous sub-genre of the horror film that typically involves violence, blood, gory scenes involving mutilation, murder, and bladed weapons. These films distinctly have stalking and killing of multiple victims in their storylines. Slasher films also have specific formulas, adding to what was previously mentioned, which include the point of view being that of the victim’s, and isolated setting, and a beautiful and sexual woman.

This woman, as Carol J. Clover discusses in her article, “Her body, himself: Gender in the slasher film”, is the Final Girl. She defines the Final Girl as “the last character left alive to confront the killer” which is both the victim and the hero of the slasher film. Carol Clover also discusses how these films deal with cross-gender identification eventually leading to the change in gender of the Final Girl from victim and female to hero and male. The film Evil Dead is a good example for the application of the concept of the Final Girl. This film was released in March 2013, directed by Fede Álvarez, and produced by Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. The actors Jane Levy and Shiloh Fernandez played the roles of Mia and David respectively.

In the film, the setting was an isolated cabin in the woods owned by Mia and David’s family since they were kids. Their group of friends decides to go there in order to help Mia let go of and stop her drug addiction. Though as they stay in the cabin, one of them accidentally releases a demon or entity causing the murders of most of the members of the groups of friends using different bladed weapons. From the premise of the film, we already know that it is a slasher film only it is more of paranormal than psychological unlike a lot of films under this sub-genre. Though, in this film the concept of the Final Girl is really explored as Mia is the only lone girl left at the end of the film.

At the start, despite everything seemingly normal, it is already evident that Mia is the victim. In this sense, a victim of drug abuse. It is also evident that the story will already revolve around her. She continues to be the victim as she becomes possessed in the film when Eric, one from the group of friends, reads excerpts from the book found in the basement of the cabin. Here, she continues to become the victim of the demon and the demon, a demonic form of Mia also showing the lack of masculinity. More strange events happen as she gets hurt in several ways, for example, she gets burned by boiling water in the shower. On the other hand, during these times and most parts of the film, David, a male, is deemed as the hero. He tries to save Mia and the others from the monster for most parts, even trying to try to stop everything by killing her sister. He shows his masculinity by protecting his helpless sister and friends.

Though, here is where the gender identification changes. Male characters in slashers films are almost always just side characters. In the end, David dies, Mia goes back to normal and is left by the demon, it rains blood, and Mia, a woman, is the only one left. This is a much more obvious application of the concept of the Final Girl. Mia, then, engages in a thrilling fight with the demon who rose from the ground. She finally uses a chainsaw in order to cut the demon’s head in half stopping the possession once and for all. The sky clears, the ground goes back to normal, and everything is bright once again. It is evident here that she switches from victim to hero and that her “gender” becomes masculine from feminine. The viewers, and the male gaze, in these scenes then are forced to identify with Mia, originally the victim, who is now the hero of the film. As she also makes herself in the image of a man, she also emasculates the monster. The female undergoes and suffers through pain as the victim, and kills and destroys her oppressor as the hero as the Final Girl.  “the “Final Girl” is not a feminist character but, rather is present for the male spectator as a vehicle for his own sadomasochistic fantasies”, as mention by Carol J. Clover in her article.

Source: Carol J. Clover, “Her body, himself: Gender in the slasher film.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).

 

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