Just yesterday I sat in a darkened movie theatre with over 150 Communications Technology students to watch Halloween (2018).
It’s always a treat to sit and watch a horror film with teenagers in a shared space. Unlike most adults who may sit through horror violence gently shimmering in their seats, teenagers yell at the screen. Their visceral reaction to characters unknowingly walking into the shadows of their death or running in the wrong direction, speaks to the shared cultural experiences of genre. In regards to horror, the conventions of narrative are known and recycled. Students shout out of a great knowledge of what is to come and respond personally to characters’ lack of situational knowledge. This was so evident during the screening of Halloween where students where both quiet and belligerent.
Within the quiet space of our Halloween screening was where Laurie existed both as victim and survivor. As the film transitions from an opening scene obsessed with the evil of Michael Myers and the lure of his mask, Laurie as a horror-infused Sarah Conner (Terminator 2: Judgement Day) in training and waiting becomes culturally pressing.
Laurie, now forty years after the initial attacks of Michael Myers in 1978 has had a tainted life. From having her pre-teen daughter removed from her care by social services to failed marriages and continued conflict with her now adult child, Laurie has endured an ongoing present unjustly impacted by terrible acts of violence. It’s with our beginning to know Laurie of 2018 that co-writer/ director David Gordon Green paints a portrait of the Trump Era. As Laurie is told to get “over ” her victimized past multiple times by her daughter and grand daughter or where pod cast journalist show more humanity towards Michael than her, the politics of the Times Up And Me Too movements are clear:
- Where is the respect and empathy for the victim in both the past, present and future?
- Why do we concern ourselves so deeply with perpetuators and not support victims with pure intentions?
It’s within this context of Trump’s America that attempts to undermined or devalue female empowerment, that the quiet in the theatre during the “melodrama” resonated. Laurie, could be the mother grandmother, sister, cousin or friend of anyone in the theatre. Importantly, Laurie could be us.
Furthermore, in regards to Laurie who has been victimized, she is a woman not waiting for a man to protect or save her. She responds actively to the events of 1978 by transforming herself into a predator. As such, she is a character with forty years of living history who rises from the tradition of horror ; an experiment of repressed cultural anxiety.
- How do we define victimization?
- How do we encourage victims to find their voice?
Alone, she needed to take matters into her own hands. Like the brave women who share their trauma and work to support and empower others, Laurie forty years later is writing her own story and next chapter.
As the film turns to the final act and the showdown between Laurie, he daughter, grand daughter and Michael ensues, the reimagining of the final girl is shaped. Whereas the final girl responds and survives as a victim, Laurie has been praying for Michaels return, so she can kill him. In this film Laurie is not a victim. Whereas we’re first re-introduced to Laurie as a recluse, we discover that her domestic and self imposed cage is really a fortified trap ready to be used against Michael upon his return. As Laurie asserts that she loves her family and worked to prepare her daughter for the violence that is typically placed on women (both on and off screen), the quiet of the theatre turns to applause as Michael become prey.
This applause is significant as I teach at a publicly funded all-boy school. As such, sitting in a theatre with 150 plus high school boys, applauding to the action response of Laurie Strode is significant. Her strength and courage resonants and also shows that boy culture is responsive; recognizing that film heroism does not need to be shaped by a male saviour. As shaped in class today, students were asked to define their political sensibilities through the context of the film.
- Do they understand Laurie’s struggle?
- How do they view issues of equity in their own life?
- How does the film help shape their learning of culture?
- How does their cultural learning resonant in the film?
This is the genius of the film and why in the era of the re-boot it works so well. It’s a true continuation not merely of story but life. This story could only be told 40 years later. As Laurie evolved and so did the true life narrative of cultural experience, Laurie’s story is made for our today and for our lens.
Finally, Laurie is a calling card for all mothers to daughters and importantly men. Not to take up arms (as that is a metaphor within the context of genre) but to be ready. As a father to a daughter this resonated with me. I must nurture my daughter to be empowered and equally my son to be responsive, respectful and empowering. Laurie is not doing what a man can do, she’s doing what she must do. Like Sarah Conner before her, Laurie must write her own narrative.
Ultimately in this Halloween, Laurie is more than than a final girl. She is the predator.