the horror of voyeurism


i’d like to use this space to talk about the topic of the voyeuristic nature of the slasher film that we briefly touched on in class. there were several long, sexualizing shots (often in the killer pov) of multiple campers, especially of terry. we saw terry walking alone in tight short jorts through the woods, with the camera focusing on her butt, terry undressing and entering/exiting the lake, and ginny/vickie undressing alone in their cabins. each of these give a feeling of spying, seeing something we aren’t supposed to see. dr. jones touched on this class, pointing out that the audience (which would presumably be full of horny teenage boys) get to “enjoy the benefits” of taking on the perverted figure’s point of view (in the case of Friday the 13th, Part 2, primarily scott and jason) by viewing the form of a sexy, scantily clad woman. although the audience members (hopefully) personally condemn the spying and observation, they are certainly “benefitting” from the perversion of the characters in the movie. however, it can be argued (especially with a modern viewing) that by tying these perspectives to perverted or evil characters, the films take a stance against this brand of voyeurism. i take issue with that interpretation for the following reasons:

consider that

  1. these films are old enough to be considered foundational in the slasher genre: they were the blueprints that many sequels and much of the rest of the genre were based on. they are not camp; rather, they are the source material that campy movies attempt to imitate and capture the spirit of
  2. these films are primarily (almost entirely) directed by men
  3. sex sells

i don’t think that the form of voyeurism that these films force the audience to indulge in is as intentional or intellectual as filmmakers would like you to believe. my interpretation is supported by film theorists laura mulvey and vivian sobchack, who both wrote (to the effect) that by combining the viewpoint of the camera and characters, it effectively hides the voyeurism taking place by explaining it away not as what the filmmaker is thinking, but passing that title of perversion to the character, when the character isn’t really punished for their actions. in Friday the 13th, Part 2, scott is killed, by not in a horribly more gruesome, vicious, or painful way than any other character. were he not ensnared by the bear trap that paul set, he likely would never have agreed to stop harassing terry, and never seemed to show remorse for his actions even after being caught. only after being put into a position where terry has extreme power over him (essentially being responsible for his life), does he negotiate with terry and agree to stop completely dehumanizing her. there is also no real guarantee scott gave that he would stop his behavior, as he could very easily have been lying in order to get out of that position, and the instant terry lost her physical dominion over him, he could very easily go back to his previous horrendous behavior. scott’s actions are treated with heavy overtones of “boys will be boys”, as a (MAYBE) annoying but ultimately harmless intrusion on terry’s privacy that isn’t taken very seriously. in fact, audience members are often relieved that, after utilizing killer pov, the “killer” turns out to “only” be scott, and not the actual killer (jason) instead. by contextualizing the alternative to the objectification of women as actual murder, it becomes very easily for the audience to swallow scott’s behavior as “the lesser of two evils”, when it’s in reality a far more likely behavior to occur in real life. without even going into the effects of gruesome murders of women onscreen on public perceptions of femicide, i believe that these portrayals lead to attitudes of complacence and apathy, or even an unwilllingness to report/call out these behaviors in real life. terry never moves to punish scott by making his behaviors known to either paul or his peers, possibly because she knows that his behavior would simply be tolerated by them. it’s as if she never even thinks that relying on outside forces to put a stop to his harassment is a possibility, or that his behavior is not a serious enough problem to rely on others to help bring a stop to. ultimately, i feel like the crux of the problem with these portrayals is the deception employed by these directors and filmmakers. by using abhorrent, unrealistic behavior (being murdered by a crazed serial killer), these men are able to minimize the harm and vileness of the blatant objectification of women by opportunistic men, and reduce the likelihood that these problems will be taken seriously by their viewers and audience. if anyone has any other interpretations or would like to disagree, feel free to respond.

(if the lowercase formatting is a problem i can reformat it, i just think it’s a kind of nice stylistic choice)

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