Sunday, May 29, 2022

Women’s History Month: Sidney Prescott

This article contains spoilers for Scream (2022).

Welcome back to Nerds & Beyond‘s first Women’s History Month series! As a reminder, throughout the month of March, we will be highlighting different women in pop culture — fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — who we think exemplify accurate and honest portrayals of women in the mainstream media and use their voices to empower and uplift.

The horror genre, particularly the slasher sub-genre, was experiencing a decline in interest in the 1990s. The days of audiences being frightened by the supernaturally strong and resilient figures of Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street were over, as the storylines had become overly predictable. That is, the genre was experiencing a decline in interest … until 1996, when Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson’s revolutionary slasher film, Scream, released.

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Scream was entirely different from what the genre had seen before. The killers weren’t monsters, they were humans … charming and likable humans, at that, which is of course accurate to some of the real-life monsters we see. The movie wasn’t about the killers, either – Scream is about Sidney Prescott, the ultimate final girl. The focus of Scream is to deconstruct the horror genre, to make audiences as aware as the characters in the film, and to show the side of slasher movies that audiences don’t normally receive: the survivors. Through this, Craven uses the build of a bond between Sidney and viewers; by the end of the movie, we actually know a lot more about Sidney than we do about other horror protagonists.

“Stop treating me like glass, Dewey. I’m not gonna break.”

Sidney Prescott, Scream 2

Sidney changed what it meant to be a final girl. In a movie all about deconstructing the horror genre down to its bones, Sidney also broke down the dated characteristics that historically made up the final girl figure. In the past, the final girl was almost certainly a virgin, remained fully clothed throughout the movie, and also more than likely did not drink alcohol, smoke tobacco, or use drugs. Sidney is self-aware, self-motivated, courageous, and resourceful enough to take care of herself and face Ghostface head-on. Sidney was immediately upon release, and continues to be, one of the most capable and resilient “final girls” in all of the horror genre. Sidney has sex with her boyfriend, Billy Loomis, right before the third act. Sidney parties and it is established that she drinks. None of these things keep her from coming out on the other side.

To say Sidney Prescott changed the horror genre is, honestly, an understatement. We don’t start the film with Sidney living a peaceful, normal teenage life, as her mother was also brutally murdered just a year earlier. Sidney is dealing with a slew of trauma and stress-inducing events and scenarios – the death of a parent, relationship and sexual pressure (from a very untrustworthy partner), going to school, constant media attention, and all while there is an active killer going after people she knows. In the film’s third act, she is forced to face all of these situations simultaneously – she has to face her mother’s murderers, the murderers of her friends, her untrustworthy and dangerous partner, the reasons her life will never be normal again … all this in just two characters, Billy and Stu, the original Ghostface(s).

“You forgot one thing about Billy Loomis. I f*cking killed him.”

Sidney Prescott, Scream 2

Sidney isn’t only a feminist icon in the first Scream, but every subsequent Scream movie following. In Scream 2 she faces Billy’s mother and another classmate, the newest Ghostface killers. In Scream 3 her past comes back to haunt her again as a new Ghostface terrorizes Sidney. In Scream 4 Sidney has to face her own niece as the newest Ghostface, and finally Sidney returns to Woodsboro once again to help the daughter of Billy face the newest Ghostface killers in Scream (2022) after her long-time friend Dewey Riley is murdered.

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Scream (2022) is currently playing exclusively in theaters. Check out the trailer below.

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