Opinion: The evolution of the final girl

A scene from Final Girl. (Final Girl Productions/Cinedigm Corp.)

Halloween is fast approaching, and with it has come all of the classic Halloween movies sprouting up on TV channels daily. There’s the cult classics, the gory horror, the feel-good fall films and so many more, but there is one thing many of these classic horror films have in common: the final girl trope.

The final girl is the woman who is left at the end — most likely emotionally damaged — but nonetheless, she survives. The damsel in distress, she is loved by all. She doesn’t engage in sexual activity, nor drug use, unlike many of the other characters who are killed off. She’s the classic, innocent girl-next-door.

Though there is the classic final girl, films have begun to add slight variations to this trope.

The new final girl has taken many forms: Sidney Prescott in Scream, Nancy Thompson in A Nightmare on Elm Street, Laurie Strode in Halloween and many others after them. These girls are left at the end to tell the tale of the horrific events that led to the demise of their closest friends. They are left to confront the assassin, and, while these girls appear to be innocent and moral, their villainous sides are revealed when they are challenged by the killer.

It is often found in horror films today that the final girl, while she is good and pure, has to embody a balance of good and evil in order to defeat the killer in the end. The classic final girl has changed. She is not the innocent girl-next-door that she once was.

Sidney Prescott is the last one standing despite unknowingly having sex with one of the killers. Nancy Thompson, in order to kill the demon who visits her in her dreams, must take back all of the energy she gave him every time she fell asleep. These actions conflict with Nancy’s good nature, but in the end, she saves the day. Laurie Strode, while she is a heroine of sorts, is unable to finish the task of the final girl alone. She requires the help of Dr. Loomis, who saves her at the end of the film.

The final girl trope has become a major component in what makes horror films so appealing. Today, the final girl is relatable. She is many of us. People love to see the inconspicuous, unremarkable girl save the day — or at least survive. She comes out of nowhere and evolves throughout the film, eventually reaching her inner-villain to conquer evil.

Halloween movies have become a significant part of American culture. They are fun and festive, but they also explore intriguing ideas about the good and evil that lies within all of us, in subtle ways. Our final girl represents us, and she is one of the elements of horror films that make the genre so relatable.

The final girl shows us that the good and triumphant may not be so black or white but are instead a shade of gray. A perfect balance between the bad and the good.

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sophia Harris at shopia.harris@colorado.edu.

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