Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Disheartened and Disjointed Rambling About the Stepfather

I'm going to do something relatively rare for me and blog about something that ticked me off in my school's newspaper, fortunately this is the modern age and everything's on the Internet so I don't have to feel guilty about possibly misrepresenting the thing that annoyed me.

So, here is an interview with the guy who is, I guess, the lead in the new Stepfather remake.

If you can't tell already, the part that ticks me off is when the guy starts talking about how they switched the gender of his character for the new one:

Q What personal touches did you, the directors and the writers make to separate this film from the 1980s original?

PB (The original) was more of an eerie, creepy slasher film and this was more of a broad thriller. I think there’s more of a story that will draw you in and keep you invested. (In the original) my character was a girl.

I think they changed that to make the relationship between the stepfather and my character to be one where you can only see one of two ways for it to end, that probably one of them was dying. So it has to end in a battle, so it’s a different kind of rapport that they developed.

Q Do you think we will see more male protagonists in horror films?

PB I don’t know how it will influence or if it is a sign of the change. It’s less predatory, because now the character can go head-to-head with the killer. I think it just changes the whole dynamic between the killer and the victim ­— they’re less victimized. I think it’s an exciting one.

...god, how that annoys me.

I don't really blame the actor for the sentiment expressed, since I think it's an accurate depiction of how Hollywood filmmakers think. But it annoys me nonetheless.

Why exactly is a male victim less "victimized"? Is it because he's allowed to fight back, do more than run and scream? Is it because he's allowed to WIN if he does fight back?

Women are the most common victims in horror movies, and they do seem to be, usually, more inclined to run away screaming than try to fight back. "Scream queen" is a B-movie staple, after all. I'm pretty sure this is the idea that the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer was lampooning, by allowing the tiny blond girl to actually fight back.

I guess what I'm mostly annoyed at is that, I'm getting the impression (perhaps wrongly) that they specifically changed the girl character to a boy so that he could fight back. So they could change the dynamic from "get away and survive" to "kill or be killed." And that shouldn't be necessary.

Sure, the average youngish girl can't take a big guy in a fistfight. But she CAN probably figure out how to fire a gun. Or use a knife. Or set a trap. Or some other way to use cleverness to even the odds. If Hollywood actually wanted to shift the dynamic of a horror movie, they could, even without changing the gender. And if the emphasis was less on "victim" and more on "fighting back" for female protagonists too, then ultimately the gender of the victim wouldn't have to matter at all.

It's just a bit disheartening to me. I don't like normal horror flicks. I DO like kill-or-be-killed action/thriller flicks. But as much as the interview might have made me think I could actually enjoy the remake, I'll never be able to watch it now without thinking how much I'd like it more if Penn Badgely's character had gotten to remain a girl.


  • At October 07, 2009 2:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    One reason why I liked 90's Scream was because I saw the female character fight back... they could easily have done this with the Step-Father.

  • At October 07, 2009 5:41 PM, Blogger Ferrous Buller said…

    It's kinda sad that 30 years after "Alien," the notion of a female protagonist who fights back in a horror film is still considered "implausible" or "unrealistic" by Hollywood. [There might be even earlier examples, but that's the first one which sprung to mind.]

  • At October 09, 2009 12:28 AM, Blogger pla said…

    If you haven't read Men, Women, and Chainsaws, you probably should. I'd say that the vast majority of slasher films have a female protagonist (or, at least, end up having one by the end - Clover argues the films tend to shift focus from killer to final girl as the film progresses).


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