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Posted on September 28, 2023

“There Are Better Ways to Die”: Final Girls and Ecohorror

Guest Post

Named for their natural settings, The Handmaid’s Tale season four finale, “The Wilderness” (2021) and Land (2021) are both, importantly, women-directed stories that expand ecohorror elements and the feminist horror genre, flipping the Final Girl horror trope. Protagonists June (Elisabeth Moss) and Edee (Robin Wright) are not simply the stereotypical Final Girls walking out of the woods after violence – a too-common horror trope in which girls and women are victims of violence, at the hands of men, in natural spaces where only men “survive.” June and Edee’s stories start after their traumas – horror already experienced – as they walk into the woods for their own types of healing and then walk out as complicated protagonists rather than flat female-victims-as-porn.

Carol Clover (2015) writes that while the Final Girl is a survivor, her role is mostly based in being demeaned and abused, a ‘“victim-hero,” with an emphasis on “victim”’ (p. x). And that victimhood has historically been rape/ trauma porn made for a certain type of male viewer (there are too many examples to list here). But June and Edee’s survival and renewal, rather than trauma, is the focus in these texts as they find redemption in the classic horror natural spaces for a very different audience. In a reversal of typical Final Girl horror tropes, ‘The Wilderness’ and Land empower women in natural spaces rather than using such spaces as instruments of trauma. These texts utilize ecohorror elements but showcase such natural spaces as redemptive for women, extending the Final Girl horror trope past the immediate violence and past its emphasis on women as victims.

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