The Final Girl: A LGBTQ+ Representation
Living as a gay man, I’ve looked up to many people from many different backgrounds, fictional and in the “real world.” As someone who jumped head first into the world of horror at a young age, the majority of fictional inspirations came in the form of characters from the genre. But, of course, there’s one type of character that I always gravitated to, and that’s the “the final girl.” The one girl who was able to use her wits, her smarts, her past, and other traits to outdo the antagonist, and live to tell the tale.
As I’ve interacted with the gay horror community on social media, there are a lot of LGBTQ+ individuals who grew up with a connection to a particular final girl. For some it’s Nancy Thompson (A Nightmare on Elm Street) while for others it may be Sidney Prescott (Scream). There’s one aspect of these cinematic individuals that we all relate to, and it is that they survived. Sure, they survived maniacs out for revenge, but we relate to them due to what those maniacs represent for us.
For the majority of people, it was hard to grow up not understanding why we felt that we were attracted to the same sex or that we had to conform to the sex that we were labeled as at birth. It’s a freaking confusing time. The journey through that confusion is - in essence - the journey that these final girls take while they are a chased and battered almost to the brink of death. While that may seem like a melodramatic statement, for those of us who grew up in a world where what we were learning about ourselves was considered immorally or internally wrong, that statement couldn’t be any more true.
My introduction to horror came in the form of Freddy Krueger. He terrified me to the bone, and he didn’t only terrify me through my TV screen, but he did so in my own dreams, as well. Krueger went on to face 5 different final girls (Yes, I’m including the wonderful Mark Patton’s Jesse), but there was one among that amazing crowd that aided me in my journey to discovering the me in my homosexuality. She is the Dream Master. She is Alice Johnson.
Alice began A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master as a shy and closed off individual. She didn’t dress as hip as her friends did. She didn’t have the confidence to approach those she was attracted to. She was a product of a home that was suffering from a lack of understanding and communication (Note: Not from her brother, Rick, but from her father). To me, she was a lost individual with no comprehension of her identity or worth. This is the exact same person that I was the first time that I was able to watch Nightmare 4 without hiding under the covers. It would still take a few more years and rewatches of the film to completely understand why I was so drawn to Alice.
The connection that Alice had with those that she was surrounded by really affected me. In my later years of high school, I was lucky enough to have a few people that surrounded me that knew of me trying to accept who I was. They supported me, and helped guide me through that time. Tools were supplied by these lovelies (who I am still friends with to this day) that aided my journey. While Alice would eventually lose her friends to Krueger, she received pieces of their persona that would help her defeat Freddy by movie’s end.
This is where Alice’s journey really ties into my own. If it weren’t for those few people that supported me through my journey of discovery, I wouldn’t have been able to defeat the bigotry and hate that was thrown my way. As Alice took down pictures from her mirror of each friend that passed on, she was able to reveal a confident and aware individual. Thankfully, my friends didn’t have to die for me to receive their gifts of strength, courage, and love. They were - and are still - able to be there for me during my journey. They are a part of why I was able to defeat my own Freddy Krueger.
Seeing Alice transform into that person who was able to fight the battle against Krueger was also a nudge that guided me along the way. And this is one of my favorite parts. The moment where she turns the shard of broken glass to Freddy, and shouts the end of the Dream Master rhyme - “Evil shall see itself, and it shall die!” - helped open up all kinds of doorways for my discovery.
It aided me in seeing that I wasn’t the one in the wrong. There was absolutely nothing wrong with who I was, and who I was becoming. I was not the evil that they were making me believe that I was. In turning the reflection upon the true evil, Alice helped me realize those who were calling me “faggot” and threatening to ruin my life just because of how I identified helped me realize that the hatred that they were exuding was the actual evil. She helped me garner the energy and strength to turn that mirror away from myself, and turn it towards them in hopes that their own hatred would or would eventually destroy them. I no longer had to hold on to those fears and self doubt because who I was - who I am - is perfect and should be protected and celebrated.
I have lots of love for the lady who brought Alice to life. Without Lisa Wilcox, Alice probably wouldn’t have had the same effect that she has on me. I was able to meet Lisa at Mad Monster Party in 2018. Although we weren’t able to have a true conversation in which I thanked her for what Alice and she has done for me due to the chaos of the convention, I was able to spend a good 5 minutes with her. Her attention was solely on me as we joked, posed for pictures, and she signed the multiple things that I had for her. She was incredibly welcoming and grateful, and has a strong, brave aura exuding from her.
Final girls may be a trope in the slasher subgenre, but they are needed. Not just to be that last person to defeat the psycho, but to be an inspiration for those with their own struggles. Alice, the character, and Lisa Wilcox, the actress, helped me climb an extra few steps that I needed to take for my own journey. For that, I will always be thankful.
Joshua loves horror. Loves what it can do for an individual. Loves what it did for me. So I like to talk about it. You can find his writing at Nightmare on Film Street.