October Poetry Pick: Final Girl

Autumn is in the air.  So is Halloween.  My neighbors’ lawns are full of ghosts, goblins and zombies.  At school, my colleagues talk about the drama at home: what their children will be wearing for Halloween costumes.

As for me, I have been catching up on my horror movie watching.  Both AMC and the SyFy channels have been running horror movies back to back, especially in the evening.  This past week, while grading papers, I’ve been watching movies from the Halloween franchise.

So, I admit it.  I love horror movies.  As a feminist, I know this relationship is problematic.  I also agree with Isabel Cristina Pinedo, who in her book, Recreational Terror: Women and the Pleasures of Horror Film Viewing, admits that being an avid horror fan and a feminist is an oxymoron.   Pinedo’s book is a complex one, and her views about the relationship between women and slasher/horror films are interesting.

It’s this relationship that Daphne Gottlieb explores in her book, Final Girl (Soft Skull Press, 2003). As the author notes in her introduction, this book is influenced by feminist film theory created by Carol Clover.  I am familiar with Clover’s work and her book, Men, Women and Chainsaws is a thoughtful critique of women’s roles in contemporary horror movies.  Clover coined the term, Final Girl defined loosely as the last girl who remains standing at the end of a slasher film — the girl who faces the killer.

In Final Girl, Gottlieb traces this image.  Indeed, the book has a refrain that addresses the predicament of the Final Girl in several poems.  For example, in “Final Girl II: The Frame” she warns the female character: “Don’t answer the phone./Don’t answer the door./Don’t do it. No — really. Don’t.”  Then, she offers these words of wisdom of survival: “Watch as everyone around you dies/Scream until your eyes work”  and “You will fight back. You will become a girl who is a boy.”

However, to say that Final Girl is simply about horror movies would be misleading.  Yes, pop culture horror icons such as zombies and slasher killers make appearances.  And in the poem, “Slut” we also get to hear the voice of  the first girl killed in slasher movie, the girl who explains, “I die first/in every horror movie/before the innocent boyfriend, the too/curious best friend/and the foolhardy pal.”   But more importantly, Gottlieb also explores the captivity narrative in American culture: Patty Hearst speaks as well as Mary Rowlandson.

Roger Corman, in one of the back cover blurbs, (and how cool is that — to have Roger Corman talk about poetry) says, “The slasher film, while perhaps deservedly underrated as a genre makes clear on thing about our society: we want certain things to survive.”   And this is what we see in Final Girl, a book of survivors.

So, there you have it!  Final Girl may be my October pick, but it’s also my Halloween pick! If you have read any poetry books that could fit into the Halloween category, I would love to hear about them!

1 Comment »

  1. This is fascinating! Thanks for pulling all these thoughts together!


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