It’s the kick-ass women, no lie. Even before I identified as a feminist, they were the main reason I loved this series. Back in October I mentioned my intent to talk more about this film series, and it’s time to make good on that promise.
The Nightmare on Elm Street series has always stood out from its contemporaries as a horror franchise with a focus on women as protagonists. Though female characters are often the focus of slasher films, they aren’t exactly what one would call a “protagonist”, and they usually fall into one of two categories: meat or Final Girl. (I wish I could remember the blog I got these titles from, but I can’t seem to find it) The meat are there often to be objects of lust, the comic relief, the mean ones, or some other minor role to fill, but ultimately they’re there to die. They are nothing more than fodder for the killer. The Final Girl is just what you’d guess from the title: she’s the one who makes it to the climax. She’s not necessarily the smartest or the strongest and she usually doesn’t do anything, she just lives the longest. She is the best avoider of death, typically through little to no effort on her part.
From the very beginning, however, A Nightmare on Elm Street was different. The first (and best, in my opinion) protagonist of the series is Nancy Thompson, played perfectly by Heather Langenkamp. Nancy is smart, resourceful, and determined. She was the first horror movie character who I saw take an active role in her own survival. She was proactive rather than reactive: she didn’t just wind up in a confrontation with the killer and have to fight her way out—she planned her attack. She learned all she could about her enemy and then researched methods of attacking him. Nancy Thompson is quite literally my hero.
The series continued to put women in roles of power and agency as it went on; some were more significant or worthwhile than others, but all of them managed to carry the film and, if not deliver the final blow themselves, had a direct hand in the climactic defeat of the villain. In the near future I’m going to take some time to discuss each of these women, from least to most prominent in the series, so if this post has piqued your interest in these movies (and I hope it has, because they’re awesome) you can look forward to hearing more about them soon!