Women are represented in a variety of ways in films, depending on the genre and narrative that it’s based on, for example Sci-Fi films. In which they are usually portrayed as intelligent leaders (such as Ripley in Alien (1979) (Her being the sole survivor and leading the team by trying to save them throughout the film.) She’s strong willed in the whole film, which shows another side to women in the industry, creating a wider mass audience than some types of films. Such as chick flicks, which are targeted usually towards a young female audience, which is a much more niche market, basically because it has feminine qualities/narrative. This then enables the audience too empathise with the character, but also feel they can personally relate too. Where as men can’t relate to this as well, so would appeal to them less as they aren’t used too seeing such diversity in women’s roles.
Instead they are much more interested in pleasure of watching a woman “male gaze”. Women understand the emotional films where as In general the majority of the killers/villains in horror films tend to be males, as they are associated more with being overpowering. The position of the female as the antagonist also seems to be a rarity in the genre. Yet in the few cases this has actually occurred, after the shock of finding out the killer’s gender was not male rubs off, it becomes harder for an audience to keep fearing her in the same way. I like the new era of horror, thanks to the likes of Switchblade Romance, Pans Labyrinth and Let the Right One In. These new forms of horror films are great, thanks to the films “not in the English language category” (Sight and Sound magazine (May 2009). “The director, who’s brutal, arty “extreme” movies, set the tone for this cycle”. These really are brutal, but in a lot of contrasting ways, such as gender role reverse in Switchblade Romance, unlike the typical slasher films.
The traditional roles and representations of women are stereotyped as “housewives”, until the emergence of feminism; women were almost treated as objects, passive agents in a male world. Women used too be represented in a lot more of a clichï¿½ style (Damsel in distress/ helpless victim), this may have been down too gender studies at the time. “The annihilation of a woman’s personality, individuality, will, character, is prerequisite to male sexuality.” Just one saying from SCUMS (Society for cutting up men) quotes. (http://antimisandry.com/feminist-misandry/feminist-quotes-20106.html).This is one feminist group, but unlike where feminism started of for political rights, equality and issues, extreme feminism has started to pick up, and the controversy’s that surround it. The roots of the feminist theory go back too the eighteenth century and run through suffragette movement, who fought for the votes for women’s rights.
“The term feminism can be used to describe a political, cultural or economic movement aimed at establishing more rights and legal protection for women. Feminism involved political and sociological theories and philosophies concerned with issues of gender difference, as well as a movement that advocates more gender specific rights for women and campaigns for women’s rights and interests. Although the terms “feminism” and “feminist” did not gain widespread use until the 1970’s, they were already being used in the public parlance much earlier; for instance, Katherine Hepburn speaks of the “feminist movement” in the 1942 film Woman of the Year”
There’s also Laura Mulvey’s theory of the male gaze, which argues that cinema audiences look at films in two ways, voyeuristically and fetishistically. Audiences watch a film without being watched buy the character on screen and usually in a darkened cinema so the audience members do not observe them either. Therefore they are almost voyeurs, watching people on a screen. According to Laura this can lead to two effects, objectification is one, where the female characters are controlling the (male) gaze, or narcissistic identification, with an idea image seen on screen. This overall involved turning the represented figure itself into a fetish (object of sexual desire), so it becomes more increasingly perfect but ends up being so unrealistic, that its now only seen as something or pleasure and visual satisfaction. (Appendix 6 for peoples views on the stereotype there used to seeing).
“Representations of women in Sci – fit have offered women real opportunities to be empowered and to break away from the, more helpless “princess” role. Ripley in Ridley Scott’s Alien *1979) and Sarah Conner in Terminator (1984) were given lead roles who had real power and strength and were often responsible for pushing the narrative forward/ it could be argued that such women play the hero role rather than the heroine”
So far the primary research I have conducted has consisted of a questionnaire and then a graph of the results that I have found. (Appendix 5) I have also begun to look into secondary research about the main films I am focussing on (the Scream series) and how women have been portrayed in each of them, as well as weather this has been changed at all through out the years. In my opinion women are shown in horror films as almost stereotypical, they are mostly shown as weak/helpless, usually the damsel in distress, like Prop’s theory of stock character. They are often seen as objects of sexual desire, perhaps this is to broaden the audience, but it’s an obvious trait for the horror genre in the film industry. However even though they are portrayed as weak, the women in horrors rather than needing to be saved, they become the cause of the problem and the men need to save themselves. I did a class survey asking for people opinions whether women are represented as sexual objects and the majority (11 out of16) think that they are represented in a more sexual nature with horror films. I had many interesting and contrasting comments including one which stated “Women are never seen as equal to men in those films, there always victimised” (wood 2009).
I have chosen to compare 2 films which completely contrast in views. “Scream” (1996) is a slasher horror; this is obvious because of its unidimensional structure of characters and straight forward plot line, of killings one by one, in addition to the barbarous killings of young females usually dye to the fact they have secome to some form of indulgence, such as sex. Not to mention the displacement of sexual objectification. Where as my second choice of film; “Alien” (1979) is said to be sci- fi it also contains elements of the horror and thriller genre, Based on the gory killings and language. However it doesn’t use the female character in the typical way of victimisation, it does let the main character Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) survive at the end. This is a trait of the horror genre, but again you must also consider how her role was masculine anyways, which can easily be perceived by her appearance, of clothing and a shaven head. However she still remains sexually as a woman, due to her; (“Attractive physical features”) (Edwards 2009). The men show lack of respect towards her throughout, both are equally distinctly different to analyse, yet equally reinforce the stereotypical theories and challenge them (look at appendix 2).
After watching the beginning of “Scream 1” and “2”, the first thing that was noticeable was how a woman always seems to die first. The visual codes that indicated the killings included the colours red and usually the start of the scene seemed calm at the beginning, but then changed for the worst. Drew Barrymore is the first woman who appears in the film, when she picks up the phone, she thinks it’s a prank call at first and harmlessly flirts with the caller, (again this is a feminine trait). She also knows a lot about horror and it takes a trick question to fool her. She’s put in control of her boyfriends life so she has a chance to get the answers right, but in some ways is still powerless. This is a twist compared to the usual horror genre/narrative expectations, instead of the male dominance; Drew has actually got some of the power.
However, this then slips away as a trick question catches her out, the killer has all the control again, and doesn’t spare any thought in ending her life. Where as in the beginning of Alien (1979) you immediately see Sigourney Weaver (Ripley’s) leader qualities as she appears to be in control by trying to quarantine the protocol when the alien first attacks. This shows how opposite that the directors of each of the films were trying to construct and represent the females. Personally I feel Scream (1996) actually represents a more realistic version of women. This is because even though Ripley is a great strong female role but it’s primarily androgynous, as the character was originally meant to be male. Because of this I feel the character could have easily been played by a man, so I don’t see it as being an accurate representation. It’s a very male dominated film.
Scream has a lot of post modern features that are quite distinct. For example the way the opposition or dissimilarity is used when it comes to when Randy says “if you want to live you can’t drink, you can’t have sex” (Scream film), but Sidney does and she still lives and saves the day. However it is typical in this sort of slasher genre for a female to make it to the end. Through them both have the head female roles, Ripley takes control throughout hers and takes the role of the “Action hero” and predominant leader, like the stereotypical male would do. Where as Sidney is more of a victim, simply trying to escape the killer.
The creator of “Alien” (1979) was Ridley Scott, who had also done films such as Gladiator, Hannibal, Black Rain and Thelma and Louise. “Alien” (1979) was his first success, due to the disappointment he felt for his first feature film “The Duellists”. He wasn’t originally going to direct the film, but when Carl Rinsch decided to drop out Ridley Scott accepted the job. His films are varied in genre, so it’s difficult to categorise and define why he chose certain aspects in each. Where as Scream (1996) was directed by Wes Craven, who is well known for his love to create explicit, gory and very violent films, Such as Nightmare On Elm Street, The Fear, Body Bags and The Last House On The Left.
In my opinion in his films he liked to explore the nature of reality and test peoples fears based on a twist of reality, which can be related to. Wes has a way of creating suspense in his films. In his film Scream we find such an empowering representation of the female, though the main character (Sidney Prescott), who not only has to work out and defeat the killers, but try’s to save her boyfriend. Because of this, she’s portraying the lead role as the saviour/ hero, and by doing so changing the conventional gender role or the male hero and damsel in distress in reverse. (Look at appendix 3 and 4 for more detailed summary).
In conclusion, women have been represented in many different ways for a long time in horror films, stereotyped or not, there’s always going to be an audience for both. Women’s strength as characters with more intelligence/power and being antagonists are slowly but surely becoming more popular, and representing women in ways they should have always been. I think “Scream” had all the stereotypical aspects of a slasher horror, but the main character (Sydney Prescott) was strong in many ways by proving herself through out. Where as Alien, was a great film to contrast this slasher horror with, they brought a strong less feminine female character to take the lead role as the protagonist to the table. Although I was disappointed to find that originally in Alien the main character was going to be male, I think by twisting the conventions around the story line works a lot better, whilst adding a modern twist.