Trigger warning for mentions of death and murder, and spoilers for the movie Jennifer’s Body.
What is the Final Girl Trope?
The Final Girl is a horror trope that’s typically found in a slasher movie, where there is one girl or young woman to confront the killer after the rest of her group has been killed. The term was created by the author Carol J. Clover in her book “Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film”. Some popular examples of the Final Girl are Laurie Strode from Halloween and Sidney Prescott from Scream.
Typically the Final Girl is implied to have “earned” her survival due to some kind of “moral purity” (she doesn’t have sex or do drugs), and she’s usually seen as being more clever and intelligent than her peers. She also usually has “not like other girls” energy, usually not taking part in stereotypically “feminine” activities (like cheerleading, for example).
Just because she is the last one alive, it doesn’t mean that the Final Girl gets a happy ending. She is pretty much always traumatised, and sometimes gets killed off in the sequel or ends up institutionalised. Even if she is able to return to her normal, pre-horror movie life, things are never the same, and she still has to live with the fact that most of her friends are dead.
Some Final Girls end up becoming killers themselves, taking revenge on those who wronged them. A good example of this is Needy Lesnicki from Jennifer’s Body. She follows all the “rules” of a final girl, but ends up briefly imprisoned, before breaking out in order to brutally murder the jerks who got Jennifer possesed in the first place.
Usually the Final Girl also serves as the character through which we experience the movie. Since she is the last one left, she is usually the one telling the story. Her experiences and investigation pushes the story forward, and she is usually one of the first characters we meet (aside from the first scene of the movie, which is usually where we meet the killer’s first victim).
Why is the Final Girl Trope Harmful?
While the Final Girl Trope seems feminist in theory, it has some pretty messed up implications. The idea that someone can “earn” not being brutally murdered by being chaste, intelligent, or masculine is obviously pretty bad. It has victim-blaming vibes, whether that’s intentional or not. The trope seems like it’s subverting patriarchal standards, while imposing a completely different standard in the same breath.
It seems difficult to come up with a solution to the harmful aspects of this trope that isn’t just “kill more characters”, but I think that changing up the protagonist’s characteristics allowing more characters to become Final Girls would be a good start. For example, having a Final Girl who isn’t straight or white, and who doesn’t adhere to all the arbitrary and sexist rules of the trope. I think the only real solution would be to do away with the “morality” rules in general, and not dictating which characters get to live based on whether or not they fulfil some ethical checklist.
Broadening the parameters of the Final Girl Trope leads to more interesting and diverse characters, instead of having the same protagonist in different fonts.
TV Tropes. "Final Girl"
Wikipedia, "Final Girl"
is a young writer from Ottawa, Canada. When he isn’t in school, he enjoys reading, writing, crochet, and playing with his two cats. Their favourite genres are horror and fantasy, and they enjoy all things strange. You can find him on Instagram at @nate_fahmi.out yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.