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Since the beginning of horror, audiences have seen female leads tormented leading them to be the “final girl.” Female-driven plot lines have led the genre of horror. 

The “final girl” trope is one that is heavily used in horror movies and the subgenre of slasher films. Over the years, this trope has evolved to strong female characters that fight their way to survival, becoming the last standing girl to recount their story. 

Coined by Carol Clover in her book, “Men, Women and ChainSaws,” Clover breaks down the trope of the last standing girl and the social commentary that it implies in films. 

The “final girl” archetype often follows the same cycle, a girl is separated from the group of her friends and is then led to survive on her own.  

The virgin status of girls in film go hand in hand to see if she survives at the end. The common occurrence of the final girl being a virgin is no secret, it could be thought to represent innocence against evil. 

This archetype follows the innocent girl being the outsider from her group, restraining sex and drugs unlike her peers which often get them killed. Often viewers can identify with the final girl and root for her towards the end. 

Slasher films like The Texas Chainsaw Saw Massacre, Halloween, and Scream are all known for using this trope. This trope is so versatile that it extends into the sci-fi world as seen in Alien

When done right, this trope can often be seen as an empowered female figure and not just a character exploited for the male audience. 

In recent years, we have seen more women in horror and not just an oversexualized character that gets gruesomely killed. The next generation of horror is leaning into a more feminist direction and empowerment mindset when it comes to adapting this trope. 

Films like Ready or Not, Fear Street 1978 and Happy Death Day all follow the final girl archetype, but push their boundaries by not following the many rules of old slasher final girl tropes.  

Modern female horror heroines are on the rise and won’t stop until they are the last ones standing. 

Tag us on Instagram @HerCampusSJSU and let us know some of your favorite horror movies with the final girl trope!

Lesley Rodriguez is currently a third year journalism major attending San Jose State University.
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