If you enjoy watching teen horror movies, you must have heard things like, “the African-American guy always die” or “couples who have sex ended up murdered.” Movies like Scream (1996), Urban Legend (1998), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) strengthen these ideas with their formulaic storyline and negative character depiction. Most teen horror movies comply to a certain pattern. Some of these patterns are rooted from stereotypes.
Stereotypes are standardized and simplified conceptions of groups based on some prior assumptions. We use stereotypes to try to understand our world in an instant way. Most people don’t have the time to intimately socialize with all members of the society. To bridge this knowledge gap, we use stereotypes to fill the blanks in our heads. Although a lot of stereotypes are used in a pejorative manner, some stereotypes depict groups of society in a positive light. In example, French people are considered romantic, women are better at listening, and gay men have better sense of fashion.
Although stereotypes can be used as a way to communicate with the audience, when used in improper context, the result may be negative. The primary harm that arise from stereotyping is that it leads to discrimination and prejudice. The rule of survival in teen horror movies is to understand the stereotype, and conform with the formula. By instilling this idea, the audience may accept that the reality in these movies may apply to reality in everyday life. Stereotypes in teen horror movies are usually negative. Common stereotypes that appeared on movies are mostly about racial and ethnic minorities, female, sex and sexual orientation, the elderly, and the disabled.
For example, women who wear revealing clothes in horror movies are usually an easy target for the killer. Women who boldly outlined their sexuality are considered cheap. These movies drive the audience’s opinion, making them think of these women as second class citizen. The women did not conform with the movie’s formula, hence, the audience feel less respect towards them. Without the audience’s empathy, it is easy for the movie makers to eliminate the characters. When applied to a real world scenario, these stereotypes could turn into prejudice. Woman who chose to wear minimum clothing will be considered dispensable, and may will receive unpleasant reaction from the society. Wearing these clothes are no longer a fashion preference, but rather a statement of a character.
Other stereotypes that is seen in these movies are, jocks and cheerleaders usually have bad behavior, and they are often the first one to die. African-American, Asian, and Hispanics are also on the list to die next. Gay people and those with obesity can’t avoid being taken out too. Those who survived are usually Caucasian male or female who are nice, not promiscuous, and strong enough to take challenge after challenge. Surviving in teen horror movies are never an easy task.
Although teen horror movies are plagued with negative stereotypes, some actually had a positive one in it. Positive stereotypes, like, the heroine in the story is always so strong and resilient to attacks and the leading Caucasian male served as a knight that will do just about anything to save his friends and the heroine.
Stereotypes is inevitable in movies, but there are always something we can do about it. The key is to maintain balance in portraying characters in teen horror movies to achieve more realistic feel. Innovation and fair depiction are rare in the movie industry, but it doesn’t mean that the audience will reject any kind of efforts to tip the scale in the right direction. The film makers should take this into consideration, to prevent further degeneration of certain groups in our society.