#1: Female Tropes in Horror Movies

It’s not often that you hear someone say, “Hey, I’m in the mood for a really feminist film… Let’s turn on a horror movie, maybe a slasher flick!” This is probably because many horror movies employ tropes that…well…just aren’t feminist. There are many ways to tell if a work is feminist. One way is to apply the Bechdel Test. The following video summarizes the test and even gives examples of movies that do not pass.




Another way to tell if a film is feminist is by paying attention to its portrayal of female characters. Often, women in movies can be categorized into tropes. Here are just a few tropes found in the genre that don’t necessarily shine a favorable light on females.

  1. The Black Widow:
    • The Black Widow is a woman whose husband or love interests keep dying under somewhat shady circumstances. Often portrayed as a man-eater,
      Catherine Basic Instinct.jpg
      Catherine from Basic Instinct

      this character falls somewhere between con artist and serial killer; she repeatedly seduces men and murders them for their money or for sport, always using a new name and identity to escape capture. Some examples of this trope are Valerie from Curse of the Black Widow (1977), Debbie from Addams Family Value (1993), and Catherine Basic Instinct (1992).

  2. The Creepy Child:
    • Though they may look innocent and sweet, the Creepy Child knows too much and there’s always something just a little off about them. They might not be physically dangerous, but their inversion of the idea that children should be innocent and dependent calls to viewers’ deep-rooted fears. This trope is seen in Wednesday from The Addams Family (1991), Esther from Orphan (2009), Samara from The Ring (2002), and Alessa from Silent Hill (2006). Some other tropes relevant to the Creepy Child are the Oracular Urchin, the Changeling, the Waif Prophet, and the Woman in White.

      Wednesday gif.gif
      Wednesday (and Pugsley) from The Addams Family
  3. The Damsel in Distress/The Screaming Woman:
    • Put simply, the Damsel in Distress is a female character who is put in danger to drive the plot or as a purpose for the characters. Sometimes the character is kidnapped because of her inordinate beauty or for ransom. The Damsel in Distress becomes a Screaming
      Allison Tucker & Dale
      Allison from Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

      Woman when she simply stands and screams for the hero to save her. Allison from Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010), Casey in The Unborn (2009), Kay from Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), and Barbara from Night of the Living Dead (1968) exemplify this trope.


  4. The Emotionless Girl:
    • This character exudes and uncanny emotional numbness that often makes viewers think “is she even human?” Isolation and ostracization are pretty common with Emotionless Girls, if not physically then symbolically she is “alone in a crowded room.” The Emotionless Girl might be seen as manipulative, disturbing, or even crazy. It is not uncommon for the Creepy Child to also be an Emotionless Girl. This trope can be found in Lydia from Beetlejuice (1988), Alma from The Happening (2008), and Emily from The Final (2010).

      Lydia gif.gif
      Lydia from Beetlejuice
  5. The Final Girl:
    • In addition to being the namesake
      Laurie Halloween.jpg
      Laurie from Halloween

      of this blog, the Final Girl is an incredibly popular trope in horror, especially in slasher flicks. The Final Girl can really be boiled down to “the last character left alive to confront the killer.” Usually, this character is intelligent, resourceful, uninhibited by drugs or alcohol, and virginal. Some examples of Final Girls include Laurie from Halloween (1978), Dana from Cabin in the Woods (2012), Sidney from Scream (1996), and Alice from Friday the 13th (1980).

  6. The Good Bad Girl:
    • The Good Bad Girl is just a little less pure than the other female characters. She probably hit puberty early and, ever since then, men have taken notice of her. This character is notable for her sexual
      Tatum scream
      Tatum from Scream

      experience in contrast to the Final Girl.  Almost always blonde, due to the Slashers Prefer Blondes trope, she is likely to meet an untimely end before the conclusion of the film. Casey and Tatum from Scream (1996), Lynda from Halloween (1978), Tina from Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and Jules from Cabin in the Woods (2012) are all examples of this trope.

  7. The Demonic Possession:
    • This one is pretty obvious. There’s
      Em The Possession.gif
      Em from The Possession

      a demon. The demon possesses someone. What’s interesting is that, though this could happen to anyone, more often than not it is a young girl who is the subject of demonic possession. There are plenty of examples of this in film, including Regan from The Exorcist (1973), Em from The Possession (2012), and Carol Anne from Poltergeist (1982). is rig

  8. The Witch of the Woods:
    • This trope relates back to the witch hunts in Europe during the 16th and 18th During this period, tens of thousands of people were executed. Some common threads between witches were that many were older women who lived in or near the woods. Witches might be accused of cannibalism, hexing their neighbors, having animal familiars, or consorting with the devil. These ideas seem to have stuck in our minds because they can be found in plenty of witch-based horror movies. Some examples can be found in The Blair Witch Project (1999), The Witch (2015), Hocus Pocus (1993), and Suspiria (1977).

      Sanderson house hocus pocus
      The Sanderson Sisters’ House from Hocus Pocus

Be sure to check out next week’s post where I’ll review some classic Final Girls.


feministfrequency. “The Bechdel Test for Women in Movies.” YouTube, 7 December

“Black Widow.” TV Tropes, tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BlackWidow.

“Creepy Child.” TV Tropes, tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CreepyChild.

“Damsel in Distress.” TV Tropes, tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DamselInDistress.

De Leon, Victor. “Vic’s Top 10: Best Horror Movie ‘Damsels in Distress.’” VIC’S MOVIE DEN, 24 Apr. 2015, vicsmovieden.com/2012/10/28/vics-top-10-horror-movie-damsels-in-distress/.

“Emotionless Girl.” TV Tropes, tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/EmotionlessGirl.

“Final Girl.” TV Tropes, tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FinalGirl.

“Good Bad Girl.” TV Tropes, tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/GoodBadGirl.

“Hollywood Exorcism.” TV Tropes, tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HollywoodExorcism.

“Live-Action Films / Creepy Child.” TV Tropes, tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/CreepyChild/LiveActionFilms.

“Screaming Woman.” TV Tropes, tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ScreamingWoman.

“Slashers Prefer Blondes.” TV Tropes, tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SlashersPreferBlondes.

“Wicked Witch.” TV Tropes, tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WickedWitch.

Image Sources:





Winona Ryder GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY




Possession GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY



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