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Is Hollywood Afraid Of Teenage Girls?

Horror films have been known to prey upon society’s most popular fears: sometimes clowns, oftentimes ghosts, and more often than not, teenage girls.

Many classic horror films have walked the hallowed halls of suburban high schools: from the 1976 classic, Carrie, to 2020’s Freaky, high school girl horror is a classic movie trope that has been around for decades. Typically, high school girls are seen outrunning a serial killing man (or creature) wielding some sort of weapon, while also maintaining their reputation as the squeaky-clean, virginal “final girl” with their noses permanently stuck in a book.

And since horror movies feature society’s darkest fears, I’m left with a simple question: what is so scary about high school girls?

To Hollywood, everything. 

It’s almost comical how Hollywood has portrayed teenage girls. One: the actresses they cast aren’t even teenagers. Take, for example, the original 1976 Carrie film, where the 17-year old namesake was played by a 29-year old Sissy Spacek. And two: despite the age of the actresses, the women in horror movies are shown as demure and modestly coming to terms with their newly budding sexualities. But, teenage girls beware! Don’t get too into your sexuality: rather than STDs, you may be met by death itself.

We all know the age-old horror movie tale: the “sexually promiscuous” cheerleading friend dies a gruesome and gory death after sleeping with some side character, and the timid and modest virgin lives to carry on the legacy of being the final girl. Blah, blah, blah.

This trope, while outdated, shows itself in a variety of modern horror films. It appears most notably in the 2009 film Sorority Row, where the sexually active characters are murdered by a bloodthirsty stalker. In the end, the only two virgins survive. Or what about 2010’s Piranha 3D, a film where groups of pornogrpahic actresses and sex workers meet their grisly fates at the jaws of carnivorous fish during spring break? 

But why is it that sex has consequences? Surely, a mere two minutes isn’t worth a couple of stabs to the gut?

Simply put, this deadly trope plays on society’s collective fear of the rebellious teenage girl to empowered woman pipeline. The teenage girls Hollywood so candidly kills off embody the budding sexualities, sex positivity, and growing independence that society has grown fearful of. The pattern of killing off any teenager who dares to like their body or find pleasure in sex, while perhaps subconscious, sends a clear message to any teenage girl watching: be a good girl, or you’re six feet under.

But some horror films aren’t shy about Hollywood’s biggest fears. For instance, the 1996 cult-classic Scream mocks this trope by killing off the busy, promiscous, “dumb blonde” in the most stereotypically stupid way: she simply doesn’t know how garage doors work. Similarly, Cabin in the Woods sets up the protagonist, Dana, as the typical, virginal final girl. However, Dana wasn’t actually a virgin at all. In fact, it’s alluded to that she slept with her college professor (which isn’t great, but, you know, suck it, Hollywood expectations). Perhaps the tide is changing in the favor of teenage girls. To horror movies, nothing is scarier than a woman who knows her power, and personally I think we should take advantage of that.

So if you’re a teenage girl, or just a woman in general, it’s time to revel in the fact that you might just be Hollywood’s biggest nightmare to date. And there’s something empowering about that, don’t you think?

what's good! my name is julianna marie and i am an editorial intern at her campus, along with a features writer at college fashionista. as a pittsburgh born, los angeles transplant, i enjoy nothing more than a good horror movie, a rainy day, and a surplus of cantonese-style dumplings. whenever i'm not writing a screenplay or an article, you can typically find me drinking a beer on a beach somewhere. it's good for the soul.
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