The presentation of gender roles in horror films can be argued to be outdated and offensive. The stereotypical horror film shows a group of privileged teenagers as they Journey through a night tormented by a killer on the loose.In most of these films, the popular, sexualised characters- mainly female are killed first in an almost symbolic manor depicting their punishment for their sins. At the end of the film, the innocent, virginal girl escapes the killer and everyone lives happily ever after.
In Psycho’ and Halloween’ the presentation of women and their role in the development in the film can be argued to express many of these stereotypes. In 1978, the world was introduced to a new establishment in the slasher film genre- Halloween’. Halloween’ was a large influence in modern day horror films as the establishment of the final girl was introduced into the world of horror. For many years, horror films have been criticised for their exploitation of women, portraying them as victims in a series of violent murders.
The horror trope of the final girl’ refers to the last female character to interact with the villain/ murderer/criminal in the film. At the beginning of the film, the plot is usually pushed through this character and her final interaction with the killer/criminal can be seen a symbolic. In many slasher films, the final girl is the stereotypically privileged goody goody’ – a virgin who begins her journey completely oblivious to the sinister acts that will spiral. In many of these horror films, the killer targets people who they believe has committed a sin and therefore should be punished. The ending of Halloween’, does not portray The final girl in its full extent. Laurie is left emotionally damaged after her long and draining escape from Michael is left unresolved. She fends for her life as he tries to attack her and she ends up stabbing him in the neck. Once she returns the body of Michael is missing, frustrated and feeling helpless she turns to the support of Loomis. This expresses the gender role which Laurie represents as although she is shown as a strong character who is able to fight for herself, the end of the film concludes the male domination which occurs in the film as although she believed at first that she had killed Michael, she returns to see him gone suggesting that he had got away and therefore she is left helpless in the eyes of the audience as she nolongers knows where he is and when he will strike again. Similarly In Psycho’, the audience is given an insight to the role of gender in the film through the stuffed bird symbolism that they are presented with. When Marion hoins Norman to eat dinner with Norman in the Bates motel , each of their own personalities is reflected through the stuffed birds that they sit next to. Marion sits next to the song birds, reflecting the innocent and beautiful personality which women were expected to reflect. Whilst it is clear through her actions of stealing the money from her ex boss, that Marion is tainted by darkness, she is a woman who is expected to be filled with goodness. Whereas, Norman (whilst he is calm) rests his hand on a docile bird which is shot in a mid angle medium angle which reflects his capability for reason and normalcy as he speaks to Marion. In contrast,moments later Norman is filled with anger and hostility while he talks of his mother. He is framed by the stuffed bodies of birds of prey in a low , shadowed angle which reflects his capability for evil and his unpredictable and vicious personality. The constant torment of his mother on his mind has cast a shadow on his actions. This scene reflects the gender roles in the film-as well as society at the time, as women are shown to be a soft voice of reason and kindness,whereas the men are seen as intimidating and unpredictable creatures who are capable of unforeseeable outbursts. This scene also sets the motion for the film as Normans outburst over his mother slightly frightens Marion as she is seen to be visibly scared, this expresses and foreshadows the horrific and tragic fate that she receives from Norman as he stabs her later in the film in the famous shower scene. The bird symbolism touches towards the films overall theme of misogyny as women are seen a prey to the men as norman confirms when he says they are kind of passive to begin with expressing his dark desire of making women become submissive to his sexual desires. This reflects the role of women in the film as they are seen as objects to be used to the disposal of men. This expresses the societal views that many men has at this time (1960s) as women were seen a domesticated and only used as objects that were meant to be filled with innocence ad chastity. Marion contrasts this view as she is introduced to the audience as a criminal.The presentation of women in Psycho’ can be seen through Hitchcocks constant use of motifs and symbolism. Alfred Hitchcock emphasises the theme of duality/ opposition in Psycho’ through constant reference to mirrors and reflections. When it is made clear to the audience that Marion has stolen the money, Hitchcock uses the juxtaposition between her reflection and herself to depict her inability to confront herself and her actions. This expresses the presentation of women in psycho as although on the outside she is seen as beautiful and pure, she fails to come to terms with her true self as she has stolen the $40,000 from her boss for her own selfish gain. It is then due to Marions actions, that she finds herself at Norman Bates motel where she inevitably meets her fate when Norman murders her (shower scene) in an aggressive and sinister manor. The shower scene is one of the most iconic and controversial scenes in cinematic history. American censorship laws did not give certificate of approval for release of psycho’ due to its content which did not affect its performance in the box office. The shower scene is a significantly important and symbolic scene in the development of the storyline as the audience sees Marion , as she washes away her guilt and her ‘sins’ as she after makes the decision to return the money. Her punishment , however, is already underway as the audience is first faced by the slow opening of the door before an ominous shadow appears and she is stabbed in the bathroom. Halloween’ can be seen as a reflection of the world that we live in . The whole idea of men constantly seeing women as objects that they can hunt/prey on.In Halloween’ Michael myers creates fear and mayhem in a small town plagued by his presence. In the film many of his victims were women. This expresses the role of women as victims ho are being targeted by a dominating male figure. In one particular scene,the audience is shown Michael through a mid-angle POV( point of view) shot. Through his eyes we see one of his victims as she sits brushing her hair. She is undressed, the audience watches as he slowly makes his way behind her. The horror in her face is shown through the eye holes in the mask as he stabs her numerous times. As stated by Kimberly Ballard As Myers forces his way into the bedrooms of suburban America, he deconstructs the family home into a hostile space ruled by sex and death. Many of his female victims had little clothing on when he killed them. It can be suggested that Michael used violence as a consequence for sex. Laurie- Played by Jamie Lee Curtis, is a virgin and is seen to be different from his other targets. She survives his attacks and reflects the idea that women should stay conservative and docile in the eyes of men to stay safe. The role of gender in Psycho’ can be seen through the use of juxtaposition of the dominant and aggressive portrayal of men and the sexualised and submissive portrayal of women. From the beginning of the film, It is made clear to the audience that Hitchcock strived to use the objectification of women as sexual beings that are to be desired. Do anything you have a mind to. Being a woman, you will. Marion is presented twice as an object to Norman that is to be preyed on. He sees her as an obstacle that he must overcome. Normans aggressive and violent nature comes as a reaction to his sexual desire over Marion and his want to overpower her. In the film, Norman is seen to spy on Marion as he debates whether to kill her or not. Eventually he is overcome with desire and power and the violently graphic- unseen at this time in film, scene was created. Hitchcock effectively portrayed women in this way to convey the villainous nature that men have and how they are able to be thrown by sexual desire. It can be drawn through evidence provided that The depiction of gender roles in Psycho’ and Halloween’