How have women’s roles changed in postmodern horror films? (Intro)

How have women’s roles changed in postmodern horror films?

A woman’s role in horror films has changed, the power women had in their roles and the importance of their roles in the old horror films such as ‘Dracula’, ‘Psycho’ and ‘The shining’ has now changed to the sort of power they now have in postmodern films such as ‘Silent hill’, ‘Cabin in the woods’ and ‘The descent’. They are the beauty that seduces and captivates the creature. This is best summed up by the character of Carl Denham in King Kong when he said “It wasn’t the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast”.

In many of the old horror films in the early 1900’s such as; ‘Dracula’, ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Phantom of the opera’, the female role is played by a young woman and is usually seen upon as the object of the creature’s desire. In ‘Dracula’ the women is held captive by Count Dracula and is saved by male protagonist. The film Psycho, released in the early 1960’s, was considered very controversial as it showed an unmarried couple in bed together, which at the time was unheard of. This then led to a trend in women nudity in horror films and making it acceptable for unmarried women and men to be having sex. Psycho also had the famous shower scene in which Lila Crane (Vera Miles) is stabbed to death in the shower by her killer. This scene also demonstrates this particular woman’s vulnerability and by doing so it then exposes all women’s helplessness in these types of old films.

In postmodern horror films females tend to play a stronger role. This includes playing the role of the main protagonist, main antagonist and playing the majority of the characters. For example, in ‘The descent’, It is an all-female cast with the exception of one male character who dies at the start of the film. In films such as ‘Resident evil’ and ‘Silent hill’ the main protagonist is a strong female role which is a contrast to the old horrors with the weak female role with lack of control. Here it is interesting to look into how the roles contrast from the old horrors to the postmodern horrors. In ‘The cabin In the woods’ there are two female main roles which both contrast each other, one being the stereotypical ditsy blonde who ends up being killed and then the smart, virgin girl (to be seen as pure) who makes it through to the end. Here the comparison between the modern characters can be drawn. The modern women roles can still show some behaviours that also follow old stereotypes such as the damsel in distress.


12 thoughts on “How have women’s roles changed in postmodern horror films? (Intro)

  1. Good start to your investigation with a clear structure showing how females were represented in the past compared to in recent postmodern films- why do you think these changes have happened? are they influenced by any social/political/cultural events?

    • ok, well the political role of women and social role of woman have played a part with women have more social and political power in the modern day they have also had more power in film. I could do a paragraph around this. thanks for the feedback 😀

  2. I am going to start with a negative here evn though there are many positives to be talked about, the first line of your introduction “A woman’s role in horror films has changed” is really not required, it just seems to basic you should just jump straight in with “The power women…” as it would just read better. right now onto the possitives, you clearly know what youre talking about when it comes to horror films as you have clearly talked about a range of different films, both older and more contempory, this is vital when looking into your topic. Very good point raised about the way postmodernism has affected the horror genre, overall a decent opening.

  3. I think you should ask if womens roles have changed in horror films rather than saying at the beginning that it definately has. This means you can now only write about the changes rather than try and argue a case for females still playing the damzel in distress roles, having both sides of the argument is important. Also try and explain the reason for this change, such as the feminist movement in the mid 70’s which went on to influence more equality between genders. It is clear that you have researched a wide range of horror films to distinct between different female roles comparing past characters to new. (King Kong is not a horror)

    • I know king kong isn’t a horror but it talks about women’s role in general before going into more detail to just horror, Thank you for the feedback on the first line, it shall be changed 😛

  4. Ella Stewart says:

    Perhaps you could compare two movies together that are similar, one with a weak female lead and the other with a strong, to really highlight just how their roles have changed. You could also perhaps relate back to comedies such as “Scary Movie” that make fun of horror films, but also overexaggerates the characters in them, women especially.

    • I will go into comparing two films later in the essay but thank you for the feedback. I might talk about the horror-comedy cross genre in one of my next paragraphs 🙂

  5. You’ve stuck to your question well but I think there’s a lot more you can expand on. I like how you’ve given a breif synopsis of the female role in a few films but maybe, (for example after “This scene also demonstrates this particular woman’s vulnerability and by doing so it then exposes all women’s helplessness in these types of old films.” you could add what thrill or entertainment the audience get from this? Maybe also include oppositional films where the woman doesn’t really have a role or it is a mix of genders. The ‘Scream’ collection would be a good example for this- the main character is female, despite several vunerable girls getting killed throughout the series of films, and the murderers are male, however in the most recent film (more contemporary) the killer is female. I do think this is a really strong opening though- also sort out your capitals for film titles!

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