Why Put the "Whore" in Horror?

Why Put the "Whore" in Horror?

Female sexuality suffers in slasher films.
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I love horror films. Forget comedy romps or romance sagas; I’ll take the occult, some demonic activity, and household hauntings filmed through a shaky camera lens over a “feel-good” flick any day. However, my affinity for the macabre movie genre ends at slasher films. I prefer Shyamalan twists and James Wan scream sequences to gory deaths and Jason Voorhees.

Besides the bloodiness of slasher movies, I take issue with the treatment of female sexuality that seems to be ingrained into every film’s plot. When people define classic elements of slasher films, they usually mention either the weapon choices (knife, chainsaw, axe, etc.) or the fact that the movie features a lot of scantily clad women. Think on this-when women die in these types of movies, what are they doing right before they are killed, or as they are being killed? Often times, the first murders of the movie occur as a young, sexually promiscuous woman is engaging in sexual activity and ends up dead because of her “deviant behavior.”

For the sake of a popular example-Lynda Van Der Klok, from Halloween. Lynda has sex with her boyfriend Bob and is immediately punished for her actions. She is lying in bed naked, filing her nails, when Michael appears in the bedroom doorway. The scene is drawn out so that Lynda can ask stupid questions and flirt with Michael, who is standing beneath a sheet and who she thinks is her boyfriend, and so that the audience can occasionally catch a glimpse of her bare breasts. When she’s had enough of Michael’s silence, Lynda gets up and throws a teeny-tiny shirt over her torso (doesn’t button it up so we can still see her chest) and Michael proceeds to strangle her with a telephone cord. Her death takes about 30 seconds, in which time she gasps sexily and arches her back like she’s experiencing sexual pleasure instead of being murdered. Michael is behind her, grunting, and overall the death scene seems more like a grisly porno than a terrifying murder.

But where are the men? As they say, it takes two to tango; what punishment do men receive for their sexual dalliances? In most cases, they end up dead, just as the women do, but it is the differences in their death scenes that promote the desire for purity of women. Bob, Lynda’s boyfriend, is stabbed quickly after sex and is left alone downstairs as Michael slowly makes his way to Lynda. The scene is quick and unfocused, and Bob is quickly forgotten.

The final trope of importance is the “final girl.” In Halloween, the final girl is Laurie Strode, the girl who survives and defeats the monster in the end. The final girl is usually androgynous in the sense that she has characteristics of both masculine and feminine gender stereotypes. Laurie outsmarts and overpowers Michael, both of which are masculine stereotypes, and still remains pretty and pure, which are feminine stereotypes. Another critical characteristic of the “final girls” is that she must be a virgin. The final girl must be untouched by “bad behavior” such as sex, drinking, and drugs; any character to engage in such activities almost always perishes before the movie ends. Remember when Lynda calls Laurie right before she is strangled to death? Laurie gets up off of the couch to answer the phone and throws her knitting onto the couch cushions. It’s Halloween night and Laurie is sitting alone in her living room, knitting.

So, what do these cinematic tropes convey to the audience? First off, the murder of “promiscuous women” sends a message that condemns women who are sexually liberated; if you have sex, you will die. Female sexuality has been limited, confined, and forcibly subdued over the past centuries, and the use of negative imagery alongside sexually active women in popular horror movies perpetrates the idea that female sexuality is something monstrous and must be destroyed. It also strengthens the power of rape culture when we watch and normalize the scene because many of these deaths that involve “the slut” are essentially rape scenes. As I previously mentioned, Lynda sounds like she’s being sexually pleasured rather than dying and her breasts are exposed as she is strangled. And if these women are not being strangled, they’re usually being slashed apart by knives, which are traditionally phallic images in film and literature. The women of slasher films have sex and are raped as punishment, but are remembered throughout popular culture as being part of a “sexy death scene.” Secondly, Bob’s quick demise in comparison to Lynda’s long, drawn out rape/murder scene suggests that male sexuality is not really that bad of a thing; Lynda’s death was obviously punishment for her behavior, but Bob’s was very fast and quickly forgotten, which represents literally all of history in relation to male sexuality. Men are not sexually oppressed like women are. And finally, the final girl. Carol J. Clover coined the term “final girl,” and although some have tried to turn this trope into a feminist icon, the final girl is far from liberating. The final girl caters to male desire in the sense that she is chaste, but embodies masculine traits to the extent that male viewers are able to not only sexualize her, but root for her as well. Halloween is not an isolated incident; Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, these tropes repeat through movies and across plot lines.

Sexuality isn’t the only characteristic of femininity that is attacked in slasher films, and unfortunately it isn’t just slasher films that promote misogynistic ideals. Women are oftentimes the host for evil, and while possessed are not in control of their bodies. They become damsels in distress, in need of rescuing by a priest who, by job description requirements, can only be a man. Other than the misogynistic “final girl,” women are never a source of power or goodness, but instead conduits for evil, shame, and death. Think of Rosemary’s Baby or The Rite or The Exorcism of Emily Rose. The women in these movies are possessed through a violation of the female body and turn the women into vessels of destruction. And when I say destruction, I don’t refer just to the violence that they bring to others. Remember in The Exorcist when Regan, in mid-possession, stabs her vagina with a crucifix which promotes the idea that the feminine body, and (shockingly) sexuality is monstrous. Regan also begs men to “fuck her” several times throughout her possession, suggesting that female sexuality is evil.

As I previously mentioned, powerful women are not commonplace characters in most horror movies. Instead, their power is punished by death or a manipulation of character into something evil. Carrie, for example, shows a powerful young woman with extremely unusual abilities who an opportunity to be good, but instead uses her power for mass destruction. The repetition of the fall of formidable heroines in horror films condemns strong women and seems to send a warning-the power of women is a monstrous thing.

It is easy to overlook subliminal messages in movies like horror films and slasher flicks, but the sexism that permeates the cinematic spooks is every bit as scary as the movie’s murderer. This may sound dramatic, but movies have the power to change the course of culture; we learn from movies, form attachments to characters and places, and these movies stay with us long after they’ve been made. It is absolutely okay to love these films and to continue to watch them, (anyone up for a scary movie marathon?) but it then becomes our responsibility to recognize the misogyny in these movies, how it affects our society, and us, and why it is wrong.

Cover Image Credit: Fan Pop

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Your Wait time At Theme Parks Is Not Unfair, You're Just Impatient

Your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself.

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Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios "unboxed" on June 30, 2018. My friend and I decided to brave the crowds on opening day. We got to the park around 7 AM only to find out that the park opened around 6 AM. Upon some more scrolling through multiple Disney Annual Passholder Facebook groups, we discovered that people were waiting outside the park as early as 1 AM.

We knew we'd be waiting in line for the bulk of the Toy Story Land unboxing day. There were four main lines in the new land: the line to enter the land; the line for Slinky Dog Dash, the new roller coaster; the line for Alien Spinning Saucers, the easier of the new rides in the land; Toy Story Mania, the (now old news) arcade-type ride; and the new quick-service restaurant, Woody's Lunchbox (complete with grilled cheese and "grown-up drinks").

Because we were so early, we did not have to wait in line to get into the land. We decided to ride Alien Spinning Saucers first. The posted wait time was 150 minutes, but my friend timed the line and we only waited for 50 minutes. Next, we tried to find the line for Slinky Dog Dash. After receiving conflicting answers, the runaround, and even an, "I don't know, good luck," from multiple Cast Members, we exited the land to find the beginning of the Slinky line. We were then told that there was only one line to enter the park that eventually broke off into the Slinky line. We were not about to wait to get back into the area we just left, so we got a Fastpass for Toy Story Mania that we didn't plan on using in order to be let into the land sooner. We still had to wait for our time, so we decided to get the exclusive Little Green Man alien popcorn bin—this took an entire hour. We then used our Fastpass to enter the land, found the Slinky line, and proceeded to wait for two and a half hours only for the ride to shut down due to rain. But we've come this far and rain was not about to stop us. We waited an hour, still in line and under a covered area, for the rain to stop. Then, we waited another hour and a half to get on the ride from there once it reopened (mainly because they prioritized people who missed their Fastpass time due to the rain). After that, we used the mobile order feature on the My Disney Experience app to skip part of the line at Woody's Lunchbox.

Did you know that there is actually a psychological science to waiting? In the hospitality industry, this science is the difference between "perceived wait" and "actual wait." A perceived wait is how long you feel like you are waiting, while the actual wait is, of course, the real and factual time you wait. There are eight things that affect the perceived wait time: unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time, pre-process waits feel longer than in-process waits, anxiety makes waits feel longer, uncertain waits are longer than certain waits, unexplained waits are longer than explained waits, unfair waits are longer than equitable waits, people will wait longer for more valuable service and solo waiting feels longer than group waiting.

Our perceived wait time for Alien Spinning Saucers was short because we expected it to be longer. Our wait for the popcorn seemed longer because it was unoccupied and unexplained. Our wait for the rain to stop so the ride could reopen seemed shorter because it was explained. Our wait between the ride reopening and getting on the coaster seemed longer because it felt unfair for Disney to let so many Fastpass holders through while more people waited through the rain. Our entire wait for Slinky Dog Dash seemed longer because we were not told the wait time in the beginning. Our wait for our food after placing a mobile order seemed shorter because it was an in-process wait. We also didn't mind wait long wait times for any of these experiences because they were new and we placed more value on them than other rides or restaurants at Disney. The people who arrived at 1 AM just added five hours to their perceived wait

Some non-theme park examples of this science of waiting in the hospitality industry would be waiting at a restaurant, movie theater, hotel, performance or even grocery store. When I went to see "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," the power went out in the theater right as we arrived. Not only did we have to wait for it to come back and for them to reset the projectors, I had to wait in a bit of anxiety because the power outage spooked me. It was only a 30-minute wait but felt so much longer. At the quick-service restaurant where I work, we track the time from when the guest places their order to the time they receive their food. Guests in the drive-thru will complain about 10 or more minute waits, when our screens tell us they have only been waiting four or five minutes. Their actual wait was the four or five minutes that we track because this is when they first request our service, but their perceived wait begins the moment they pull into the parking lot and join the line because this is when they begin interacting with our business. While in line, they are experiencing pre-process wait times; after placing the order, they experience in-process wait times.

Establishments in the hospitality industry do what they can to cut down on guests' wait times. For example, theme parks offer services like Disney's Fastpass or Universal's Express pass in order to cut down the time waiting in lines so guests have more time to buy food and merchandise. Stores like Target or Wal-Mart offer self-checkout to give guests that in-process wait time. Movie theaters allow you to check in and get tickets on a mobile app and some quick-service restaurants let you place mobile or online orders. So why do people still get so bent out of shape about being forced to wait?

On Toy Story Land unboxing day, I witnessed a woman make a small scene about being forced to wait to exit the new land. Cast Members were regulating the flow of traffic in and out of the land due to the large crowd and the line that was in place to enter the land. Those exiting the land needed to wait while those entering moved forward from the line. Looking from the outside of the situation as I was, this all makes sense. However, the woman I saw may have felt that her wait was unfair or unexplained. She switched between her hands on her hips and her arms crossed, communicated with her body language that she was not happy. Her face was in a nasty scowl at those entering the land and the Cast Members in the area. She kept shaking her head at those in her group and when allowed to proceed out of the land, I could tell she was making snide comments about the wait.

At work, we sometimes run a double drive-thru in which team members with iPads will take orders outside and a sequencer will direct cars so that they stay in the correct order moving toward the window. In my experience as the sequencer, I will inform the drivers which car to follow, they will acknowledge me and then still proceed to dart in front of other cars just so they make it to the window maybe a whole minute sooner. Not only is this rude, but it puts this car and the cars around them at risk of receiving the wrong food because they are now out of order. We catch these instances more often than not, but it still adds stress and makes the other guests upset. Perhaps these guests feel like their wait is also unfair or unexplained, but if they look at the situation from the outside or from the restaurant's perspective, they would understand why they need to follow the blue Toyota.

The truth of the matter is that your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself. We all want instant gratification, I get it. But in reality, we have to wait for some things. It takes time to prepare a meal. It takes time to experience a ride at a theme park that everyone else wants to go on. It takes time to ring up groceries. It takes patience to live in this world.

So next time you find yourself waiting, take a minute to remember the difference between perceived and actual wait times. Think about the eight aspects of waiting that affect your perceived wait. Do what you can to realize why you are waiting or keep yourself occupied in this wait. Don't be impatient. That's no way to live your life.

Cover Image Credit:

Aranxa Esteve

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There Actually Is A Point to Voting in Local Elections

Is it a lack of self-efficacy or just plain laziness?

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Last Saturday, I was at a local library as part of my public duty: to volunteer for a political campaign for a council member I supported. I've never really been the type to get involved in politics, so this was a first for me. I'll admit that most of the reason I've ever voted in national elections is because that's one of the privileges that come with turning 18 and it seems a waste to give up free privileges.

The sight I found at the library was surprising, to say the least. Because it was Saturday, the library was close to bursting with people of all different ages and races. Children were checking out movies, teens browsed through graphic novels, adults squinted at the computers in the technology section and the voting room? Almost completely empty.

In the close to two hours I spent at the library, I didn't see more than five people enter the voting room. It was clearly accessible and there were about ten signs posted inside and outside the library leading up the room along with the giant arrows creating a walkway to guide voters inside the library — not knowing it was there was certainly not an excuse. And the voters I did see all appeared to outwardly belong to roughly the same demographic — same age range, same ethnicity, everything. I'd be surprised if all of them didn't live within five miles of each other.

It's something my political science teacher griped on about a lot because, in her opinion, these were the elections that actually made a difference. According to her, the election for mayor was much more important than the election for President because it was the decisions the mayors and other representatives on a more localized level made that actually impacted us.

At the time, I excused her thinking it to be characteristic of someone so involved in political science to urge us to vote, vote, vote but I 'm finding myself agreeing with her more and more. Because it's not the President who decides what to be done with our tax money, or whether to raise or lower the state's property tax; it isn't the President running the school districts of the area and deciding how much funding to allocate to public education. It's people at the state level, at the city level and the district level that are responsible for making these decisions. I'm a college student and when it comes down to it, my state representatives have much more of a say in-state college tuition rates than anyone in the national government ever will.

I don't mean to downplay the significance of national elections (I don't really think I could do that, anyhow) but I want to make clear why I think it's important to get out and vote in local elections. There was an election for school board members in my city today and I'm certain that most of the city's population even had an idea that that was going on. We can't let our ignorance be an excuse anymore, not if we want to have a right to complain and have our voice heard. If we want change, we have to make sure we're paying attention to who we want making our decisions. Does it guarantee that everything or anything will change for the better. Maybe not, but if the alternative guarantees failure and the same cycle of complaints, then it's clear which is the better option. I'll be keeping my voter's ID handy with me from now on and I mean to come prepared to local and national elections.

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