Final girl  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The final girl is a horror film trope that specifically refers to the last person (usually a woman or girl) alive to confront the killer, ostensibly the one left to tell the story. The concept has been used in dozens of films, including The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Halloween, Scream, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Alien. The term was coined by Carol J. Clover in her book Men, Women and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Clover suggests 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.

The final girl is typically sexually unavailable or virginal, avoiding the vices of the victims (sex, narcotic usage, etc). She sometimes has an androgynous 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. Also sometimes, the final girl is something like a main character or protagonist.

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. Conversely, Clover points out that the villain of slasher films is often a male whose masculinity, and sexuality more generally, are in crisis. One example would be Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Clover points to this gender fluidity as demonstrating the impact of feminism in popular culture.

The phenomenon of the male audience having to identify with a young female character in an ostensibly male-oriented genre, usually associated with sadistic voyeurism, raises interesting questions about the nature of slasher films and their relationship with feminism. Clover argues that for a film to be successful, although the Final Girl is masculinized, it is necessary that this surviving character is female, because she must experience abject terror, and viewers would reject a film that showed abject terror on the part of a male.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Final girl" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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