Terrible Females: Forever Girls of Video Games
You are not Sidney Prescott
It’s finally cold in New York City, the leaves have turned orange late, and the gloomy October seems far beyond the promise of a cool and happy December (depending on how much you love your family). We’re slowly moving into next year, but while Halloween is well behind us, I find playing horror video games to be relevant all year round. Concrete example, I just started to replay Transmitted by blood for the millionth time. Her gray skies and black clothes are suitable for this time of year, when the sun goes down at 5 p.m. and you get home early to avoid the cold.
This will be the last column of my Terrible Females theme, and, as you may have gleaned from my introduction to the enduring nature of horror, I thought of one element of horror games that really remains present: women, if you can even do it. to believe.
At one point or another, you’ve probably heard of “Final Girl,” a term first used by American film teacher Carol Clover in her 1987 newspaper article “Hey Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film ”. In the article, Clover calls the Final Girl “the survivor,” a woman who “is a boy” in her “intelligence, gravity, skill.” […], and sexual reluctance ”, and quotes Halloweenis Laurie and Extraterrestrial‘s Ripley as prime examples.
Horror movies began to move beyond the stereotypical Final Girl and become a more overtly sexual and feminine Final Girl (Cam, Environment, and Titanium are a few more recent examples), but the Final Girl still strongly defines the genre (A quiet place, Until death, and Candy recent examples of its lasting influence!) Horror games, however, have managed to sidestep the trope for most of its history.
Come back to Transmitted by blood, non-playable characters like The Doll, Yharnam, Pthumerian Queen, and Arianna are all sexual or visually female characters, and yet all of them are allowed to live (depending on how you play the game) until the end. Unlike female characters in horror movies, these characters aren’t punished for their sexuality or their open expression of femininity. They are shown adorned with bows, robes or, more grotesquely in the case of the Pthumerian Queen and Arianna, bleeding or beaten in childbirth. As players, we take this female presentation at face value. During a horror movie, you might spot the lewd, dressed woman in a dress early on and tell yourself that she is going to die.
That doesn’t mean, however, that horror video games never indulge in the Final Girl stereotype or the stereotypical female character in general. When you scroll through photos of famous female horror game protagonists (especially in survival games, the video game equivalent of the heavy slasher movies of Final Girl) you see a lot of ponytails, short hair and generally modest clothing.
This suggests that the developers at least share one opinion with many horror directors – if she’s virginal, she lives. Even so, these game protagonists aren’t usually the only women left alive in the end, and audiences usually get a wider range of characters than the virgin, whore, and bad girl that horror movies have. tendency to seek. While both mediums unfortunately approach women the same way, the games still avoid taking the short cut to the intrigue and characterization that is Final Girl.
Video games also tend to flex a subversive Final-ish Girl, like Juliet’s Lollipop chainsaw and Aya from Parasite Eve, in part because of the frequent inability of video games to see women as non-sexual, but it’s still something horror movies rarely give us outside of Jennifer’s body.
While Forever Girls from video games is certainly a welcome contrast to the film’s Final Girls, it’s somewhat baffling that horror appears to be the only genre where women in video games are allowed to thrive. People have discussed why this is before, often noting that video games position women as weak and more prone to horror, or as an interesting comment in a 2016 Reddit thread gamers might not like. ‘expecting a female protagonist to survive, which forces them to invest in her. story, when they would expect a male protagonist to “stand up and be a hero”.
Personally, I think the Forever Girls of video games exist because, unlike films that require a passive audience, video games anticipate an active, and often even aggressive, audience. Instead of enjoying watching a killer slice up girls one by one like a movie buff would, a video game player can make his own choice: will he kill the girl himself? Will they help him? Will they or they die instead?
So the Forever Girls in video games aren’t immune to the same anti-female motivations as the Final Girls in the film, and apart from that, horror video games leave room for improvements in diversity. of their female characters, including in terms of personality, looks, and running. But it’s worth noting how heavily women populate the horror genre, and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on that in the comments. Nothing is scarier than female domination!
[More articles in the “Terrible Females” series: Anatomy of a woman monster, Against the damsel in distress, When you’re a girl, you get used to blood.]