Hollywood has spoken: if you want to scare the bejeezus out of somebody, swap the chainsaw for a girl.
Seriously, just hop in your car, find a fourth grade gym class, pick out the best female crab-walker, and prepare to terrify everyone in your path. According to every horror film made in the last ten years, from 2002′s The Ring to new found-footage frightener VHS, ghosts are girl-children at least 99% of the time.
If you’re a horror movie nerd like me, you’ve heard (or bloviated about) every last feminist or anti-feminist overtone in the horror genre. The icy murderous Hitchcock blonde. The bouncy, beautiful bimbette who can’t run to [literally] save her life. The seriously mean mommy. The virgin…or whore…or person driving-while-female whose personal choices just drive inbred axe-wielders to do what inbred axe-wielders do best. The iconic Last Girl, surviving against all odds.
To live to see another Activia commercial.
The only running theme across the gamut of women in horror films has been breasts and regular periods. But thrown in amidst the babysitters, sorority girls, and Mom From E.T., there’s been the occasional little girl, parachuted in films here or there for dramatic effect and maximum creepiness. Little girls are used to contrast with evil or surprise us by personifying it. The wee girl bringing out the best in Frankenstein’s monster, even while we’re certain somebody’s getting accidentally drowned. The Exorcist‘s reluctant contortionist Regan. The Bad Seed‘s halo-ed hellion Rhoda.
Sure, there were girl ghosts…
…but the whole point of portraying any angelic or evil little girl in a movie was that we were to be worried for or horrified by a flesh and blood tween. Then 2002 happened and well…
…all of the sudden no auteur could think of any scarier device than an undead little girl. The well-dweller in The Ring. Flesh-eaters, background darters, short-statured sex workers. Every kind of ghastly girl appeared in dozens of flicks: Paranormal Activity, 30 Days of Night, The Orphan, Cabin in the Woods, The Walking Dead, Zombieland, VHS, and more.
Yes, there are plenty of wee boy baddies, too. The Omen. Salem’s Lot. Children of the Corn. Village of the Damned. The Good Son. Check that list. It looks to me like, with the exception of 2004′s The Grudge, all the really epic boy baby villains peaked in the 70s and 80s. When the Carries and Rhodas and Regans and Sleepaway Camp Angelas were still exceptions rather than the rule.
Because the only thing I like more than horror movies is siphoning the fun from EVERYTHING, I have to ask: is the girl glut in modern horror a bad sign? There are several reasons for the glut but I have a hard time thinking of any that aren’t sexist:
- “Wait, wait, wait. That GIRL is being scary/violent/creepy? REVOLUCION!”
- Loooooooooooooooooook at her purty long hair and how it flows behind her as she inexplicably runs across the floor behind you as you Skype [because we can't dress ghosts in sheets anymore without invoking Charlie Brown]. Scared, aren’t you?!?!?
- “Scary children? But children are so innocent. Especially the kinds of children that will grow up to use tampons.”
- “More women in film? Coming right up. Watch. There. Did you see her? No, not the one speaking…the one that just ran across the floor like a crab.”
- “More women of color in film? How do you feel about very, very pale blue?”
*sigh* Now, strictly speaking, there are a lot of women in horror films. We could all dissect (ew) how they’re treated, presented, and dressed, but we can’t deny: they have played a lot of lead roles. But just because females are getting screen time, lurking around corners, confronting a foster kid who may or may not have poisoned the dog, doesn’t mean they get to say much. And from where I sit, the more girl zombies and girl ghosts I see zipping through the background, the more male characters I see taking centerstage: sheriffs picking off zombies, boyfriends telling their girlfriends they’re crazy for pointing out that this bitch is haunted, etc. So you know, male characters who get to give speeches, lead crusades, and–oh, I don’t know–be characters.
What’s your take, fellow horror nerds? Is there a weird phenomenon at play or it just my bone to pick?