Friday the 13th is a 1980 American slasher film directed by Sean S. Cunningham and written by Victor Miller. The film revolves around a group of teenagers who are murdered one by one while attempting to reopen an abandoned campground which has a terrible past of murders and deaths including an incident of a drowning of a young boy named Jason. The film is also considered one of the first “true” slasher films in film history.
Slasher films are a sub-genre of horror films, which typically involves a violent psychopath murdering a sequence of victims, usually with a bladed tool such as a knife. The slasher genre often has conventions that include brutal killings showing blood and gore and suffering, screeching and loud music to hint the appearance of the killer that he was near and that something was going to happen soon, and also dark lighting for more mystery and suspense. The general representation of gender were shown through the lead girl character Alice and the killer, Pamela, who was Jason’s mother.
Alice was represented as a modest and decent girl and appearing quite “boyish” (having a haircut that very similarly looks like Luke Skywalker’s haircut, and it was also shown in the scene where she was nailing and repairing the roof doing “man” work which desexualizes her in the film). Alice was seen as a virginal woman in the film as she did not strip in the Strip Monopoly game. After Jason’s mother, Pamela’s death it showed that Alice finally killed her and that only a woman can overpower another woman.
Also, in the film, the killer was portrayed that as Jason’s mother because the male audience finds it more acceptable for the killer to be woman (or as a psychologically messed up male) since they cannot accept the fact that a normal male cannot kill. It is typically portrayed that Alice (the final girl) being masculine and virginal and therefore she lives while the other girls who are sexually promiscuous, die. In some ways, the society in the 1960’s was the opposite of that of the 80’s.
The 1960’s were years of protest and reform – young Americans demonstrated against the Vietnam War, African Americans demonstrated for civil rights, and women demonstrated for equal treatment. For many, society’s hero was the person who helped others. However, for many in the 1980’s society’s hero was the person who helped himself and success seemed to be measured only by how much money a person made. During the Black Civil Rights Movement, women realized that if African Americans could have equal rights then so should women.
Women realized that they could be more independent – the invention of the “pill” gave women more control and were no longer thought of as traditional women who stayed home and looked after children. The role of women in the 1960’s were for them to be good housewives, to get married at an early age and for them to devote the rest of their life to housework. Even if women had jobs, (which are very rare, and those who did have one were often single women who had no one to support them financially) they had the typical nurse, teacher or secretary jobs which were incredibly biased.
Married women need not work as their husbands was the sole breadwinner in the family. However, after the Feminist movement in the 1980’s, women had much more independence and the freedom to do what they like and they did not need to only have that “housewife” role, they had many more options that opened up and they were deemed equal to men and started to have jobs and were definitely freer and could support themselves more, with better paying jobs with higher salaries as well.
The idea of the 1960’s “perfect big family” died down as well due to the introduction of the contraceptive pill that women could take and going on birth control helped them to widen their control over their own lives and body and women could start controlling the way their lives work. The role of women definitely changed in the timeline of 20 years, and it was that women’s name in society risen up and they could be seen as independent as men and could be able to do the same jobs that some men were doing equally as well and they were no longer seen as weak and dependent on men.
A very typical convention of the slasher genre is the final girl, the term coined by media theorist Clover, which is a very common convention which specifically refers to a lone woman or girl alive becoming the last one standing to fend off and confront the villain/killer and is also the last one left to be able to tell the story. There had been many different films where the final girl was observed such as Halloween, Scream, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and also definitely also shown in Friday the 13th.
Clover suggests that in these films, the viewer begins by sharing the perspective of the killer but then experiences a shift in identification to the final girl partway through the film. Final girls are always portrayed as a very good and decent female, a virginal and moralistic figure (that often survives because she has not sinned) who also avoids the vices of victims such as sex and narcotic usage; often does not want to drink, smoke or do drugs as a symbol of her special status.
She dresses up very decently, sometimes having a rather “boyish” look and is also personality rather boyish.. The final girl is the “investigating consciousness” of the film, exhibiting intelligence, curiosity and vigilance. She states that audience identification is unstable and fluid in gender lines. During the final girl’s confrontation with the killer,she often becomes masculinized by taking up a weapon and using it against the killer – however also pointing out that the villain in slasher films is often a man whose masculinity and sexuality are more generally, in crisis.
Clover lastly also points out the fact that in order for a film to be successful, it is necessary for the surviving character to be female and she must have went through abject terror as many males would reject a film if the surviving character was a male. It is the phenomenon of the males having to identify with a young female character in an ostensibly male oriented genre.
The terror has a purpose, that a female is purged if she survives of undesirable characteristics (commonly when it is a pursuit of pleasure in her own right) giving the idea that in slasher films, sex = death. The final girl that was presented in Friday the 13th was Alice and it was presented and showed through the film in many different ways. Alice does not show her body much, she wears and dresses up in very decent clothings that cover up her body that is not revealing.
When Alice was first introduced to the audience along with the other teenagers, differences between Alice and the other girls could be noticed already – she had a very boyish hairstyle (Luke Skywalker hairstyle) while the other girls had long and girly hairstyles. Alice also did masculine tasks as presented in the scene where she was seen repairing the gutter of the roof with a hammer while on top of a ladder.
Unlike all the other girls that were in the film who were very sexually promiscuous, Alice remained moralistic and virginal and did not have sex in the film (thus her survival – Alice also rejects other guys’ sexual advances as well. ) The shot angles of Alice were of some closeups of her face to show the audience of her scared and frightened expressions, as well as there were many low angle shots as well to showcase how vulnerable and how weak and scared she was in the film when all of her friends were all slowly dying and how mysterious everything was.
The lighting that was being presented in Friday the 13th was mostly dark lighting around Alice’s other friends who had sinned, showing that the sins that they have done were bad and evil thus showing that they were hidden by the dark to represent how much wrong that they have done by having sex and not being moral but however, there were many scenes of Alice where there were high lighting shone on her to represent that she was an “angel” who did not sin as she did not have sex and was moralistic – there is this contrast that showed good and bad between the teenagers with the lighting that was used.
In the scene where Jason’s mother was chasing Alice and trying to kill her, it could be seen that Alice went through a lot of suffering trying to escape the killer and also additionally has to live with the fact that all her friends are dead, which is a typical experience of the final girl, which was to go through huge amounts of suffering as a male audience could not accept that a male character goes through all that suffering.
Even though it could be seen that she participated in strip poker, in the scene when it was however her turn to strip, she doesn’t actually do so as she got distracted with the door blowing open due to the heavy storm which makes sure she was “desexualized” by the audience allowing her to be the final girl. Finally, in the scene where Jason’s mother and Alice was on the beach, the last killing scene, Alice made use of the sword as her weapon to decapitate the killer and her head came off.
This showed that she was masculinized by killing off the villain as well and finally escape danger, remaining the last final character to survive the ordeal in the film, the final girl. Laura Mulvey’s work and the theory of the “Male Gaze” was at the heart of feminist film theory and has been hugely influential since the mid-1970s.
Her most famous work to date is her seminal essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” and according to her theory in her essay, which really assesses the representation of gender and the relationship between the text and the audience from a solely feminist perspective, that women in film are simply objects for “the gaze” of the protagonist or for the male audience.
Applying and using these ideas in Hollywood film viewing, Mulvey suggested that women in film are being represented as ‘objects’, images with visual and erotic impact which she coined as “to-be-looked-at-ness”. Classical Hollywood films positioned the standard audience as male and through the identification with the male protagonist it gave him an active role in viewing the female subject and gaining pleasure from doing so. This look is thus termed “The Gaze”.
This look could be voyeuristic (women viewed as virtuous and beautiful) or fetishistic (women viewed as excessively sexual beings). One example of Mulvey’s theory fitting into the film was in the scene when the teenagers were playing Strip Monopoly, where they had to remove pieces of clothing to “pay up” for their rents. Even though Alice (the final girl) does not strip, the other girl did strip and was seen in her bra, giving the male audience the pleasure seeing this female character strip and some women in this film was indeed sexualized.
The females beside Alice in the film were very revealing ever since the opening scene. There were not any scenes where Alice’s two other female friends were not showing skin or have their boobs pushed up and they were wearing tight fitting clothes and showing off their body unlike Alice who were very decently dressed and was not at all girly. This sexual representation gave the male audience while the female audience rather has to accept that they were presented and acted in this way in the film.
One female character was killed in the bathroom scene which can relate to the “anal” stage of the Mulvey theory which also breaks some of the Hays Code by showing sexual scenes between couples, which shows the objectification of women in the sex scenes. Investigating scopophilia, which means the pleasure of watching, one example from the scene was when the power goes off (because of the doings of the killer), we as an audience, ‘the bearer of the gaze, have relatively more power as we know why the power has gone off but the characters in the film did not which therefore further investigates Male Power.
These fit into Mulvey’s Gaze theory that women are being viewed as objects and sexualized (which leads to them being killed following the Final Girl theory as they have sinned and should be punished) while the decent and virgin woman (not being sexualized in this case) survived the ordeal, thus confirming the Gaze theory. The final outcome of this film is that “the final girl”, being Alice, is the last and also the majority of the time the only survivor in the typical horror/slasher film. The reason being is that she does not engage in drugs, alcohol or in any type of sexual acts.
The final outcome showed Alice overpowering the female killer, who was Jason’s mother. This therefore shows that only a woman could overpower another woman in contrast to the movie Psycho where it was a man who overpowered the killer. Film-makers, even in our more modern society, is likely to still target sexually active women and virgins – the reality is that the average eighteen year old female would have engaged in sexual intercourse or would have also, taken or tried drugs and smoking and also have taken alcohol as well.
Directors and producers are still using rather traditional morals in the horror/slasher genre. Modern day horror/slasher movies are still using the final girl theory and still following along the rules that if a girl has “sinned”, be it sexually or by taking drugs/alcohol, must be punished and killed off while the decent girl is allowed to live (however, she must also go through a big amount of suffering. ) The killer in Friday the 13th is a woman because the final girl in the film can’t overpower a man (or a proper man – if the killer was a male, he had to be psychologically or mentally sick).
The representation of women in all of this is that the ‘Final Girl’ only survives if she is a “good masculine virgin. ” The message being put across to the audience is that if you do participate in not “moral” activities, you will definitely die, meaning “not go far in life”. Women are being subjected to men, because of the way that women were being represented in Friday the 13th where the girls “acted” wildly being sexually promiscuous towards men, and thus were looked on by the male audience that they were more of sexual objects rather than good, proper women.
Women who do not follow the typical “rules of horror” would definitely get killed off – (if they have sex, do drugs). This representation gives off the effect that women needs to be proper and extremely decent if they want to do well and go far in society. This definitely affects the society and the representation of women negatively as the society would definitely look down upon and negatively treat someone because of the certain “wrongdoings” that they have done in their life.
Women now has to think that they have to act a certain and “good” and “decent” way for them to be accepted by society and this is definitely not right as women should be given the most right to do whatever they want in their lives without the horrible judgement of other people in the society. Society, especially in media, should start representing women in a more independent manner that women are able to be strong and independent as well and could go far in our society despite sometimes not “following” the fixed rules.