Depictions of violence towards women in ‘Halloween’
However the initial praise heaped upon Halloween for It’s portrayal of a previously unheard of strong female character may have been premature due to the almost Insurmountable criticisms heaped upon It by the second wave feminists at the time.Despite attempting otherwise, the film, and the horror genre as a whole, have been misguided In bringing what the audience Is to perceive as strong female character to the screen.Although years have passed since it’s first release in 1978 Halloween can still be viewed by many as misogynistic and over equalized.
Presenting a negative outlook on women, judging them based on gender as well as showing them only as sex objects and devaluing their worth.
We are introduced touch Carpenters film ‘Halloween’ through a subjective point of view killing of a young woman, a young woman, who without the directors intended perception of events, has done nothing to deserve such treatment. Throughout the opening scenes of this film we can sense the disapproval and contempt for the sexual actions that both Lane and her boyfriend are partaking in, and while they are both equal participating parties.
We watch as Michael allows the male to leave down the stairs and out of the house unscathed before continuing upstairs to murder his male of course to is be applauded for exercising his sexuality but the female who should pride herself up her purity deserves to be punished for it. This gender inequality is only further enforced when we follow Michael upstairs to his sisters bedroom with a knife, we see him turn his head towards to bed as if to verify that she has in fact ‘defiled’ herself before turning back and stabbing her multiple times.
This behavior of Judging women much more harshly is prevalent throughout history, where the actions of a man would be taken much more lightly then if the same action had been undertaken by their female counter part, even in young children we are taught to view assertive women as bossy and assertive men as confident. Watching the rest of the movie we are shown several scenes where the mans behavior is over looked in favor of inflicting violence being upon women. Pulling up to the mental institution Dry. Loomis is allowed to exit the car unharmed by Michael, even though
Michael would have had 15 years worth of reasons to use the opportunity to attack him, while the young nurse is subject to his terrifying harassment before she manages to escape the car herself. Another such scene occurs after Michael has taken his first victim. In this scene he does kill Bob but does so quickly and only his association with Lynda, we are made well aware of the fact that upstairs Lynda is his primary target and this is proven by the lengths he goes to to torment her before slowly killing her.
What we are left to gather from these scenes of violence being inflicted upon women is that the inequality between genders is prevalent enough to influence a 7 year old boys decision to murder his older sister and develop his view of women in the future. It seems to be a common theme in slashes films to depict women in compromising or sexual positions near or during their time of death, this over equalization of women and their bodies portray them as objects to be view, coveted, desired, or in the case of ‘Halloween’, murdered.
With Michael Myers being 7 at the time of his first murder it would be hard to attach any sort of sexual impulse to his desire to murder is sister, but we are clearly shown a connection throughout the film between the nakedness of women and his desire to murder them. His sister, being the first was completely naked in front of a mirror at the time of her death, Annie and Lynda, while not naked during their deaths, had both been depicted in various states of undress in the sequences leading up to them.
While of course up until the climax of the film it would seem that both Annie and Lynda had avoided being completely nude on screen however we are then shown that both of the girls had been stripped down stormed and left for Laurie to find. In Linda Williams essay When the Woman Looks,’ she writes that ‘there is not that much difference between an object of desire and an object of horror as far as the male look is concerned’ (Williams).
It seems that in slashes films it is not enough to simply show women being murdered on screen, they must sexuality the act by having the women be naked at the time or be stripped down after the fact and displayed for the audience under the guise of Michael Myers perverse pleasures. Of course the act of equalizing the deaths of these women is not solely because halls symbol of the knife, as wielded by Michael, could be used as a means to expend his own sexual frustration upon these women, by means of the thrusting of the knife and the subsequent penetrating of their flesh.
Although this point is disputed specifically in Carol Clover’s Men, Women, and Chainsaws where in John Carpenter is quoted saying, “They [the critics] completely missed the boat there, I think. Because if you turn it around, the one girl who is the most sexually uptight Just keeps stabbing the guy with a long knife, she’s the most sexually frustrated. She’s the nee who killed him. Not because she’s a virgin, but because all that repressed energy starts coming out. She uses all those phallic symbols on the guy… “(Clover).
A fair point to be sure but calling Laurie out on her own repressed sexual urges in no way diminishes the perversity of the acts of violence undertaken by Michael in the first four murders in this film, but actually Just verifies the fact that Michael does indeed express his own sexual frustration through these over murders. Further more, by looking at this film we see violence being inflicted upon women… ND only women, we must draw the conclusion that simply being feminine is enough to warrant your death in a slashes film. Feminine’ in these movies often being synonymous with weak. It is a tried and true formula of horror film to present women in a negative light, as the victim, simply a plot device used when seeking to reach as large a body count as possible. However it has been argued in recent literature that ‘Halloween’ presents the audience with a female victim that forces the audiences identification to shift to that of the female victim and begin relating to Laurie as a throng feminine character.
Once again referencing the works of Carol Clover, she writes that Halloween, in line with the second wave feminist movement, marks the beginning of a more positive portrayal of women in horror films. “Given the drift between Texas chain Saw and Halloween – from passive to active defensive – it is no surprise that films following Halloween present Final Girls who not only fight back but do so with ferocity. “(Clover).
We are being told that the final girl presents the audience with an empowered female figure, but we must now take a look at the scenes which present Laurie as the final girl who ferociously fights back, or perhaps more importantly the scenes leading up to them, for it isn’t until Laurie exchanges her feminine attributes for masculine ones, by arming herself and actively seeking to fight back, that she manages to gain the upper hand and become a serious threat herself.
Through the film we are shown woman after woman being senselessly slaughtered simply for the ‘crime’ of being women and it isn’t until the audience no longer views the final girl as feminine do they find themselves able to relate her and goes she earn the right to survive the horrors being inflicted upon her. ” … The slashes film resolves it either through eliminating the woman (earlier victims) or reconstituting her as masculine(fall girl). (Clover) We are not given a final ‘girl’ we are told from the beginning that the weak female deserves what is being done to her and the only one worthy of avoiding causality is the female who is the embodiment of masculine traits. Halloween fails to depict women any better then its predecessors in the western point in women in horror cinema, perhaps it planted the seeds of thought in the erectors which followed John Carpenter that women could be more then what they have been for the past decades.
Fortunately we mostly tend to see the poor portrayal of women in most of the western horror film and do have many European films to look to which often have women shown as the killer and predominant threat which is refreshing to see. We must hope to see the trend continue in future slashes film where we see women continuing to fight back against the years of mistreatment and misrepresentation. —Bibliography— Clover, Carol J. Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film.