It’s finally Halloween. That time of the year again when Pakistan’s bourgeois make an effort to look interesting by donning elaborate Halloween costumes that probably took them months (and a pretty penny) to plan and execute. While many snide at the remains of our nation’s colonial hangover (because let’s be honest, we adopt everything and anything that looks remotely like a party because duh, we’re bored), a select few – including moi, revel in the creative side of the “holiday”. I’m talking about Halloween themed doughnuts and cupcakes y’all.
However, it’s just something about the gloomy winter months that makes us brave (read reckless) and we end up watching another slasher movie. From classics such as ‘Friday The 13th’, ‘Psycho’ and ‘Scream’, to slightly above-average movies like ‘The House of Wax’ – the choices are endless. Because let’s be honest, there’s something oddly comforting about switching the lights off, snuggling beneath your weighted blanket and watching the “world” go to shit.
So once you see these characters meet their brutal demise, you wonder, “huh, maybe my life isn’t so bad after all, because heyyy, at least I’m not being chased by some creepy, axe-wielding dude”. However, is that really the truth? Do you actually feel safe after comparing your reality with the fictional violence perpetuated on television, or are you just deluding yourself?
The Far-Reaching Consequences Of Slasher Movies
Believe it or not, being exposed to violence in the media not only triggers emotional responses such as fear and anxiety, but it also alters your perception about gender roles and influences your behaviour negatively… but you already knew that from all the years your parents wouldn’t let you watch an R-rated movie.
Slasher movies in particular portray women as both the siren and the victim and link violence to sex, drawing out the misery of the female character(s) to appease the bloodlust of their largely male audiences (Clover, 1992). Numerous studies have found that consuming slasher movies that contain sexually violent scenes, lead men to ‘perceive the violence as humorous and less offensive and degrading to women’ – which results in desensitizing them. Moreover, they also perpetuate an ‘increased acceptance of interpersonal violence and rape mythology’ (Cowan & O’Brien, 1990).
The Triumph Of Feamle Agency Via The Final Girl
However, some researchers argue that slasher movies provide women with an outlet to channel their rage and become predators instead of prey (Pinedo,1997). They unapologetically depict violence from a woman’s point of view. An apt example of this is when the lone female survivor in a slasher movie a.k.a the “the final girl”, overcomes her fear and ends up killing the attacker. She displays great amounts of strength in an unfortunate situation and quite literally takes the reigns of the narrative back into her own hands.
Viewers today, are more informed and have a better understanding of the slasher genre. they’re all too familiar with its numerous tropes. However, the “final girls” of today’s movies are far more resourceful and unrepentant for doing whatever it takes to survive.
Should You Stop Watching Slasher Movies?
The horror/slasher genre has increasingly become a way to tell uncensored stories of violence against women to bring attention to the pressing need for their safety. Meanwhile, they also portray a diverse range of female leads and position them as warriors in their respective storylines. Though misogyny in the genre does exist, it is relatively more progressive when compared with other genres. Misogynistic or misunderstood? Maybe it’s time we reevaluate the Halloween slasher genre for ourselves and find out!