Final Girl

laurie strode by nik holmes

alice hardy by nik holmes

The final girl is a thriller and horror film (particularly slasher film) trope that specifically refers to the last woman or girl alive to confront the killer, ostensibly the one left to tell the story. The final girl has been observed in dozens of films, including Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Alien and Scream. The term was coined by American professor of film studies, Carol J. Clover, who argues that in these films, the viewer begins by sharing the perspective of the killer, but experiences a shift in identification to the final girl partway through the film.

According to Clover, the final girl is typically sexually unavailable or virginal, avoiding the vices of the victims (sex, narcotic usage, etc.). She sometimes has a unisex name (e.g., Teddy, Billie, Georgie, Sidney). Occasionally the Final Girl will have a shared history with the killer. The final girl is the ‘investigating consciousness’ of the film, moving the narrative forward and as such, she exhibits intelligence, curiosity, and vigilance. One of the basic premises of Clover’s theory is that audience identification is unstable and fluid across gender lines, particularly in the case of the slasher film. During the final girl’s confrontation with the killer, Clover argues, she becomes masculinized through ‘phallic appropriation’ by taking up a weapon, such as a knife or chainsaw, against the killer.

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