Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Art & Art History
Horror films, like any cultural product, are a result of their time and place in the world. The traditional reading of horror films focuses primarily on the negative treatment of women. However, there are some moments of resistance that allow for a strong female representation. As the horror film is a genre that targets primarily the youth market, some of these women step beyond the traditional cannon fodder and emerge as feminist role models. Over time the ways and means by which women stepped out of the shadows in the horror genre changed. These changes can in part be traced to the larger societal movements of their era, including Second and Third Wave Feminism. By looking at specific films and how they defined the horror genre over three decades, the impact of larger societal movements can be seen, as can the changing space of women within the genre. From the 1970s the films explored are: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974), to Carrie (Brian DePalma, 1976), and Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979). From the 1980s the films used are: Friday the 13th (Sean S. Cunningham, 1980), A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984), and Aliens (James Cameron, 1986). The 1990s films examined are: The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991), New Nightmare (Wes Craven, 1994), and Scream (Wes Craven, 1996). Over the course of the decades and through these films this work demonstrates the historical links to how women are portrayed in the horror film, their relationship to the genre as a whole, and the feminist movements of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. In tracing these moments of resistance this work illuminates why these characters have withstood the test of time and why audiences continue to flock to horror films.
Mehls, Robert, "In History No One Can Hear You Scream: Feminism and the Horror Film 1974-1996" (2015). Art History Theses & Dissertations. 28.