Even after a decade of disappointment and a mountain of ticket stubs, my desire to discover a horror movie that can compare with The Ring (2002) hasn’t subsided. So my best friend and I found ourselves this evening at the Rave, patiently awaiting for You’re Next (2013) to begin. I’ll still be searching for a Ring comparable movie but I was captivated by two of the female narratives in the film and how they continued to perpetuate the dichotomous stereotypical representations of women in horror movies: the sexualized victim and the masculine asexual heroine.
The first scene of the movie already introduces you to the sexualized nature of the victim who is engaged in sex, complete with a shot of her breasts. Afterwards as her lover goes to the shower, she walks around the house in an unbuttoned flannel and underwear, breasts and body exposed. The sexualized victim narrative is not complete without some level of deviance, and our victim has two: she reportedly broke up her lover’s marriage and was enjoying an alcoholic beverage. Needless to say, she met her timely and “deserved” death as the narrative so often predicts. I think the two biggest and most controversial questions to be asked when understanding the sexualized victim are: what implications are there when horror movies associate sexuality and violence; and how detrimental is it that liberated sexuality is followed by a negative consequences? The rest of the movie develops the narrative of the masculine asexual heroine in Erin. She takes charge of the situation, deploying her rational thinking to secure some degree of safety and her intuitive combat skills to take down the three assailants and her conspiring villainous boyfriend. But however inspiring her character may be, it is riddled with complicated gender issues. For instance, the reason her story was so captivating is because you weren’t supposed to expect her to be the movie’s hero (and that’s even the tagline of advertising for the movie). Another is that the skills and traits that helped her overcome the murderous situation, such as rational thought and the knowhow of weaponry and combat, are stereotypically associated with masculinity. The final is that the heroine is asexual. Throughout the movie, she is never engaged in lewd behavior and is conservatively dressed in long sleeve shirts, cardigans, and jeans. The questions and implicated issues I think of when I saw this narrative: what would a horror heroine’s story look like devoid of masculine attributes; and what consequences does distancing the heroine from sexuality have? I would love to open this discussion considering how much attention horror films have gotten for being anti-feminist. What do you think?