Provide a Feminist Reading of Two Slasher Films. How Far Do You Consider Them Empowering to Women Viewers

Provide a Feminist Reading of Two Slasher Films. How Far Do You Consider Them Provide a feminist reading of two slasher films. How far do you consider them empowering to women viewers? In this essay, the extent to which slasher films are empowering to women viewers will be assessed with a feminist reading of two movies; Friday the Thirteenth VI: Jason Lives (1986) and I know what you did last summer (1997). First, the notions of feminism and slasher movies will be explained. This will be followed by an analysis of the two movies.Feminism is the belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power, and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way, or the set of activities intended to achieve this state (Cambridge Online Dictionary, 2013). The feminist movement can be roughly broken down into three waves. The first wave began in the U. S. and the U. K. and developed during the 19th and early 20th century. It requested the official inequalities to be changed (right to vote, education, health care, etc. ).The second wave was really developed after the seventies and focused on the more unofficial inequalities. The third wave started after 1980. It fought against stereotypes and media portrayals of women and was also a critique of the second wave. The feminist reading of these two slasher films would therefore be a third wave feminist reading because it is this wave that focused on women’s image in the media. Slasher film is a sub-genre of horror film. It can be distinguished from other horror film genres by a number of features.Typically it involves a male serial killer that stalks his victims and then kills them, generally with a cutting object. Very often, at the end of the movie, he is defeated by the ‘final girl’. The location, the villain, the victims, the weapons used and the final girl have a set of characteristics that help to differentiate slashers from other horror movie types. The villain is generally male and has been the victim of earlier crime. The location is very often an isolated one where it is impossible to contact the police.Very often it is a lakeside camp, a suburban estate, a small town or somewhere in a wild countryside. The weapons used are cutting objects such as knives, ice picks, pokers and so forth, which means the killer has to be close to his victims and penetrate them with the weapon in order to kill them. Gun is never a weapon. The victims are numerous and mostly females who are sexual transgressors. The killer never missed them. The final girl is the hero of slasher films. She is clever and a bit of a tomboy.She knows about the murders and understands the extent of the threat; however she is not listened to. The two movies analyzed are teen-oriented slasher films. Teen-orientated slayers originated in the 1980s and were very big during the following ten years (Wee, 2005). Friday the Thirteenth VI: Jason Lives (1986) is the sixth film of the American film series Friday the Thirteenth. It was directed by Tom McLoughin. In this movie, the villain Jason Voorhees is back in the town of Forest Green and kills as many people as he can.Tommy Jarvis and Megan Garris – the final girl and sherriff’s daughter – are the two other main characters. Together they try to find Jason and destroy him. Unlike many slashers’ final girl, Megan is not boyish. Clover explained that the final girl is “by any measure the slasher film’s hero” (1987, p. 79)  and her boyishness “proceeds from the need to bring her in line with the epic laws of Western narrative tradition – the very unanimity of which bears witness to the historical importance, in popular culture, of the literal representation of heroism in male form”.In other words, the hero can be a girl as long as she is not ‘fully woman’ and is a bit of a boy. Men and films’ conventional narrative will not be threatened because the final girl’s heroism can be attributed to her masculine side. However in Friday the Thirteenth VI: Jason Lives, Megan is not boyish and on the contrary very girly indeed: she puts make-up on, wears jewelry, tight jeans and feminine clothing. Thus, in this movie, Megan is fully feminine and powerful at the same time.When women viewers identify with Megan, it is empowering to them because her heroism is not seen as the consequence of her masculinity. Megan is adventurous, she threatens her dad’s police officer colleague with a gun to let out Tommy from the cell, she is not scared of Tommy although her dad told him he was insane, she goes to the lakeside camp with the purpose to kill Jason, she argues back with her father, drives her car at very high speed to escape police forces and even saves Tommy who was unconscious in the lake. These courageous and risky acts can be seen as being typically male.Clover’s feminist view is that, in slashers, those behaviors maintain dominant gender paradigms – that is attitudes indicating degree of maleness or femaleness – because the final girl just tries to mimic men (Clover, 1987). However, Wells’ reply to this statement seems far more true and believable. He argues that “These (final girls) are not quasi-men…They often distinguish themselves by not merely rejecting the established tenets of masculine behavior, but enhance their credentials as modern post-feminist women by moving beyond both the traditional/psychoanalytic orientations. ” (Wells, 2007, p. 9). If we accept Well’s argument, Megan is not mimicking supposedly typical male behaviors and women are seen as being brave and risky. When the female audience identify with Megan, they feel women (and thus them) are capable of such courageous actions and it is empowering to them. Unfortunately, Megan is not the only girl the female audience members can identify with. There are other women in the film and they all died helplessly, without even fighting back against Jason. Megan’s two girlfriends, Sissy and Paula, are both murdered, the first decapitated and the second ripped apart.Williams wrote about the female viewer when she is faced to a slasher. According to him, “whenever the movie screen holds a particularly effective image of terror… she is often asked to bear witness to her own powerlessness in the face of rape, mutilation and murder” (2002, p. 61). As Williams’ quote suggests, the murders of those women give the female audience a feeling of powerlessness and thus, disempowerment. If the women who watch Jason lives relate to Sissy, Paula or the other female victims, they would feel disempowered.As explained in the previous paragraphs, identification to the final girl is empowering while identification to the other female characters is disempowering. In order, to understand how far this slasher movie is empowering to women, it is essential to know who they identify with the most. One way of finding out comes from Clover ‘s explanation of the role of the camerawork in the identification with the characters (1987, p. 79). At the beginning of slasher films, the I-camera – which represents someone’s point of view – is the killer’s point of view.However, as the story unfolds, the point of view becomes the final girl’s. Clover explains that “We are in the closest with her, watching her as the killer breaks through the window and grabs at her; in the car with her as the killer stabs through the convertible top, and so on… We belong in the end to the Final Girl; there is no alternative”. In fact in Friday the Thirteenth VI: Jason Lives, the point of view is first Jason’s and then Megan’s. Seeing through Megan’s eyes makes the female audience identify more with her than with the other girls.Another factor contributing to women’s identification with Megan – and thus empowerment – is the fact that she is one of the main characters (along with Tommy and Jason) and she is “the only character to be developed in any psychological detail” (Clover, 1987, p. 79). Megan appears often, we see her from the beginning and a lot of attention is paid to her. The audience gets to know and to relate more to her than the other underdeveloped female characters. From this analysis, it can be concluded that Jason lives is empowering to female viewers. The second text analyzed is I know what you did last summer (1997).When the movie was released it was a triumph at the box office and now it is one of the most famous slashers. The story is about four friends, Helen, Julie, Barry and Ray, who are being pursued by a killer. As in many slasher movies the killer’s identity is unknown. The audience can only see an individual wearing a fisherman rain coat and a hat. It is only at the end of the movie that the killer’s identity is revealed: a psychopathic fisherman named Ben Willis that the foursome ran over with a car and dumped in the sea at the very beginning of the film.In the very last scene, when everything seems to be fine and Willis is allegedly dead, Julie is about to take a shower and suddenly Willis jumps out of nowhere. The four characters are given an almost equal attention in the movie, although the two girls, especially Julie, are given slightly more attention. It is easy to guess that Julie is the final girl: she is given more importance than the other characters, she appears much prominently than her three friends on the DVD cover, she is a bit boyish and possibly survives at the end.In terms of powerfulness, Julie is not very different from the other female characters such as Helen or Helen’s sister. She is not seen as a heroin neither because she does not perform any heroic acts. Ray and Barry are perceived as more powerful and heroic than their two girl friends. For instance, Willis tries to kill Barry by running him over with a car. Barry does not die, making him the only survivor of Willis’ attacks and somehow a hero. At the end, Ray and Julie end up on Willis’ boat and as Julie is about to be kill, Willis’ hand is caught in a rope.Ray then lift the rope, Willis’ hand is cut off and he fells in the ocean. Ray is Julie’s savior, which is another instance of the powerfulness of Ray and Barry. Despite that, the two girls are still seen as powerful by viewers as they are positively portrayed. They try to fight back against Willis. Helen almost escapes from him when she valiantly jumped out a window into a dumpster. They also investigate about the man they thought they’d killed by visiting his sister twice. Two other men are also killed, Max – an acquaintance of the four friends – and a police officer.Unlike the girls who manage to resist for quite a long time, they are murdered very easily. The female audience identify with Julie and Helen as they are the only important female characters. As Ray and Barry are more powerful and Max and the officer are less powerful than the two girls, it seems clear that women and men’s power is equal. The question remains if this movie is empowering to women viewers. The answer is positive; Julie and Helen might not be the most powerful characters when fighting against Willis but they are still seen as powerful.Additionally, we can look at the killer and the victims of both movies to attempt to answer this essay’s question. In these two movies, the killer is the most powerful character. In fact, Jason Voorhees and Ben Willis murder an impressive number of people with incredible ease. Furthermore, they are not completely defeated in the end; Jason is attached to a rock at the bottom of a lake but he is still alive and Willis who had supposedly drown attacked Julie in the very last scene. The fact is that in slasher films, the powerful villain is almost always a male.This could be empowering to the male audience but I would argue that it does not disempower female spectators; they can identify with the final girl who is also powerful. A closer look at the victims allows to deduce that men are not more high-powered than women: they are both helpless when faced to the killer and they both die in comparable horrendous ways. It could even be argued that the numbers of victims is empowering to women; eight men and four women in Jason lives, four men and two women in I know what you did last summer.In this essay, two slasher movies where analyzed in order to understand how empowering they were to female spectators. From a close analysis of Jason lives, it was deduced that the movie is empowering to the female audience members. The final girl is powerful; firstly, as she is very feminine, her heroism is attributed to her and not to some masculine propensity and secondly, as Wells explained, her courageous actions are really hers and not masculine attitudes (2007, p. 19).As females, women viewers identify with women characters; thus, either with the powerful final girl or with the helpless female victims. As Megan receives a lot of attention and the audience sees through her eyes (I-camera), they are much more likely to identify with her. This, in turn, is empowering to them. The second movie was also empowering to women but in a lesser extent; Julie and Helen were brave but not the bravest. In both movie, the male killer was the most powerful character but women were still seen as courageous and brave.The number of victims could also empower women; in fact more men are killed. Earlier in this essay, the three feminist waves were explained. First and second wave feminism would consider the two movies to be empowering to women; the first-wave because they are officially equal and the second wave because they are unofficially equal too. The third-wave feminists are concerned about media portrayals of women. They would probably also find the movies empowering to women viewers as women are positively portrayed and

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