Dissecting the Macabre: Scream (1996)
Hey there, Creepy Peeps! Welcome to my first Dissecting the Macabre written version! I know, it's pretty exciting! If you follow me on YouTube (WTF are you talking about?), you'll be familiar with my Dissecting the Macabre series where I discuss the impact of the most influential horror movies in the genre. On the Tuesdays that I post those videos, I will be posting additional content here! Basically, I will find a related discussion question and tackle it!
So, I figure why not start with my all-time favorite film, Scream (Wes Craven, 1996)! The discussion topic comes from one of my professors at National University:
How does Sidney Prescott compare to other Final Girls, like Laurie Strode?
The Final Girl is perhaps the most popular and most easily recognizable character in the slasher paradigm. We know the Final Girl to be virginal, pure, resourceful, a good girl: “They often show more courage and levelheadedness than their cringing male counterpoints” (Clover 36). Carol J. Clover defines the Final Girl in terms of sexuality or lack thereof. Halloween’s (John Carpenter, 1978) Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) fits Clover’s definition and, whether intended or not, is defined in terms of sexuality. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), the Final Girl of Scream (Wes Craven, 1996), benefits from a traumatic past and can sense danger more quickly than Laurie.
“The Final Girl is also watchful to the point of paranoia; small signs of danger that her friends ignore, she registers. Above all, she is intelligent and resourceful in a pinch” (Clover 39).
Both Laurie and Sidney fit this description; this is the most important character trait in the Final Girl; above all else, the Final Girl is focused. Laurie is the only character that sees Michael watching her and her friends. Laurie’s logical mind tells her that Halloween is a time for pranks and that the stalker she sees is just a prank; her instincts make her suspicious which allows her to see what is happening before Michael can get the jump on her. Sidney fixes this problem with her past trauma of being a key witness to her mother’s murder. When Ghostface first calls Sidney, she writes it off as a prank until her mother is mentioned; at this point, Sidney is suspicious of everyone, even her boyfriend, Billy (Skeet Ulrich). What takes Laurie almost the entire film to realize, Sidney realizes in the first act.
“The Final Girl is boyish, in a word. Just as the killer is not fully masculine, she is not fully feminine – not, in any case, feminine in the ways of her friends. Her smartness, gravity, competence in mechanical and other practical matters, and sexual reluctance set her apart from the other girls and ally her, ironically, with the very boys she fears or rejects, not to speak of the killer himself” (Clover 40).
Laurie fits this mold well, she mentions to Annie that she is too afraid to ask Ben to the school dance. Later, Laurie is mortified when Annie teases her that Ben knows Laurie likes him. This outright fear of her male classmates keeps Laurie from being distracted by sex, something she clearly is not ready for in Halloween. Sidney remedies this by committing the very act that the slasher paradigm says she should not: she loses her virginity! Sidney is afraid of the men in her life in a different way than Laurie: where Laurie is afraid of male attention, Sidney is afraid because she suspects them of being the masked killer.
The character Sidney solves many problematic characteristics of Carol J. Clover’s Final Girl. Laurie, in her reactions and dialogue, shows more fear in sexual terms towards men. This fear is used to set Laurie against her friends who are sexually active and too distracted to notice the man stalking them. Sidney isn’t afraid of the men in her life sexually, but practically; due to her past, Sidney can realize the threat of Ghostface more quickly. Even though Sidney loses her all-important virginal status, she never really stops being suspicious of Billy and can defeat him; making the virgin-status of the Final Girl an irrelevant detail to survival.
Clover, Carol J. Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Princeton: Princeton U Press, 1992. Print.
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