Friday, May 25, 2012

the problem with "Final girl" "phallic appropriation" theory

The "Final girl" is the girl or woman in horror films who is the only survivor, who either ends the evil or escapes. Carol J. Clover popularized the name. Wikipedia notes, "During the final girl’s confrontation with the killer, Clover argues, she becomes masculinized through "phallic appropriation" by taking up a weapon, such as a knife or chainsaw, against the killer."

I do wonder about people who see phalluses everywhere. As Freud noted, sometimes a pipe is just a pipe. The final girl does not become masculinized—she takes charge of her life by using what's available to save herself. Symbolically, she comes of age. The change has nothing to do with masculinity and everything to do with adulthood, where we must kill monsters and then live with our wounds.

6 comments:

  1. I wonder if there's a way to kill a monster that doesn't involve violently penetrating them with something vaguely phallic.

    Poison, maybe, or drowning. Nothing that results in the correct amount of blood and closure. You want the heroine to be forced to get close and start hacking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Definitely close and hacking. I haven't read much theory about horror movies, so I could be reinventing the wheel here, but I think the horror movie owes a lot to folk tales, so you want the conclusion to come as close as possible to slaying dragons with swords or spears. You might get away with shooting a modern monster to death, but you'd have to be close and the blood would have to spatter on you. The goal is to create an extreme image of mortality.

      Delete
  2. Of monsters destroyed by women, one notes that the Sarah Connor destroyed the first Terminator by crushing, the second by melting (drowning), in both cases after conventioinal weapons proved useless.

    Let's see... Ripley destroyed the first Alien with fire from the ship's engines.

    Someone more movie oriented than I can probably come up with more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, remembering Aliens now: throw the monster out an airlock, then throw a bigger monster out a bigger airlock in the sequel.

      Shoving a monster over a cliff completely works. Ditto for melting, which is right up there with burning.

      Delete
    2. And of course, shoving it over a cliff into a big abyss is far more feminist, because we all know that the abyss is symbolic of the vulva/vagina... or something like that.

      Delete
  3. It's possible that modern "Final Girl" theory boils down to "Buffy" theory, at least among the careless, and lo, there is the phallus.

    ReplyDelete