She is typically a virgin, or far less sexually active at any rate, and is less inclined to drink or do drugs compared to the others. The villain, in this analysis, is an enforcer of puritanical morality, punishing the hedonists and going lighter on the relatively more abstinent one. When they do confront each other, the Final Girl is in a stronger position to outwit or outlast the villain, since she has not had her energy and focus sapped by sex and alcohol.
Two opposed camps have sprung up around this shared analysis, the hedonists taking a negative view of this character type because they don't like the puritanical moralistic message that they believe the movie conveys, and the abstainers appreciating the hard-nosed no-nonsense view of the dangers of hedonism.
But this analysis misunderstands the relationship between the villain, the Final Girl, and the rest of the characters. The villain is supposed to be an enforcer of patriarchal and puritanical morality -- yet he is typically neither a husband nor a father, not a powerful elder of the community, and is a slave to his own desires and passions, primarily bloodlust. He is a poorly socially integrated loner or outsider, powerless at an institutional level -- resorting to violence as an impotent form of blindly lashing out -- and if anything, his sexual identity is that of a bitter angry incel.
He targets the rest of the characters not because they are hedonists, but because they are socially integrated normies -- teenagers having sex and socially drinking were things that normies used to do back during the outgoing / rising-crime period of the 1960s through the early '90s. He lashed out at them for taking part in the normal social group behavior of their time and place, which he was ruthlessly excluded from (whether or not that ostracism feels justified to the audience).
The Final Girl mediates between these two sides, as a marginal normie. She associates with the rest of the characters, but is still less likely to participate in their normal social behavior. Or her family life is more disintegrated than the families of the other characters. Compared to the others, she is noticeably farther away from the ideal teen of her environment.
Her being less than a total normie means the villain feels less hostile toward her than toward the others, and perhaps even feels a certain kinship with her, as a fellow loner or outsider. Rather than single-mindedly destroying her, the villain may try to seduce her, feeling that she is reachable in a way that the others are not.
This creates some tension within the Final Girl herself -- does she sympathize more with someone who is even more outside the norm than herself, or more with the normies who are under attack from a force of abnormality? Fundamentally, she is normal herself, not pathological like the sociopathic villain, so she sides with her fellow normies -- even if, in some cases, it takes her awhile to figure out that the villain is a warped psycho, qualitatively the opposite of her, rather than a kindred spirit who is simply quantitatively further out toward the margin than she already is.
And it sets up tension within the villain as well, leading to his downfall. He thought he could win her over, and it would be the two less socially integrated figures joined in a non-normie union -- or even an anti-normie union, where they go beyond withdrawing from the normies to actively trying to destroy them. By misinterpreting her marginal social status as stemming from pathology, projecting his own status onto hers, he goes easier on her, and lets his guard down around her.
This could be his only chance to become socially integrated -- albeit with just one other individual, rather than an entire group, but that beats total isolation and ostracism. His wishful thinking gets the better of him, and viewing her as a kindred spirit leaves him vulnerable to her plans to kill him off in order to protect her fellow normies. Her mere withdrawal of respect -- whether it had been out of fear or affection -- is enough to shatter his delusional dreams, and cause him to collapse into despairing powerlessness, neutralizing him as a threat anymore.
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Without going into an exhaustive review, three key examples of this tension come to mind.
First, Nancy Thompson in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street. Freddy Krueger is clearly intrigued and fascinated with her. He taunts her with hallucinations of her dead friends, rather than treating her as just another prey to be hunted down. He also takes on a more flirtatious tone with her, rather than an angry or hostile tone, and explicitly refers to his killing off of her boyfriend as eliminating his romantic rival ("I'm your boyfriend now, Nancy"). At the end, it is her withdrawal of fear and respect that causes him to collapse.
I don't think that move would have had the same neutralizing effect if it had been one of the fully normie girls or guys who he had targeted earlier. "Fear me or don't fear me, I don't care, I'm killing you off because you're normies who have ostracized me." But because Freddy did feel misplaced kinship with Nancy, and tried to seduce her in a way that belied some level of affection for her, he opened himself up to his own destruction when she dashed his dreams of winning her over.
Second, Sarah in the horror-tinged fantasy movie Labyrinth. She comes from a broken home, in which she is marginal compared to her baby brother. In a moment of anti-sociality, she wishes that the villain would take away her brother so that she wouldn't have to babysit him, and could indulge her own interests. She regrets making this deal with the Devil, and yet still has trouble resisting the Goblin King's fascination with her, as he attempts to seduce her over to his side, hoping that the two of them could be a union of anti-normies against the rest of the world.
She disillusions him about the idea that she wanted her baby brother gone for sociopathic motives. It was just out of fleeting frustration, not an enduring desire to sow chaos, subvert norms, or sever social relationships. As she realizes that he is her opposite, she withdraws her fear, respect, and affectionate curiosity toward him, causing him to collapse. That would not have worked if it had been a target who he did not already care about winning over as a kindred spirit. If Hoggle, Ludo, or the baby brother himself had withdrawn their fear of him -- big deal, he would keep callously exploiting them anyway. But the one chance of winning over an object of his affection? That is too much for him to withstand.
Third, Veronica in the serial killer comedy movie Heathers. She not only makes a deal with the Devil (J.D.) to kill off her fully normie friends, who have made her the black sheep of their social clique, she gives into his sexual advances, and they do become an anti-normie couple. Like Sarah in Labyrinth, she comes to realize that her anti-social impulse was an unimportant frustration with certain individuals, whereas the villain who she has aligned herself with is pathological and therefore targets normies in general.
When J.D. wants to blow up the whole school, that is the last straw for her. By the end, she does not just express regret or balk at his plans, as she had done in earlier attempts to wiggle her way out of his grasp. She directly confronts him with a withdrawal of fear and respect, calling him a mere psychopath, not the cool rebel she originally thought he was. After she ruins his dreams of winning her over to kill all normies, he gives up his entire anti-normie project and commits suicide. That ego destruction would not have worked if she had been a generic popular girl or jock who called him a psychopath -- it had to be someone who he treated as a kindred marginal spirit and felt capable of winning over to the anti-normie crusade.
These two Final Girls show a character arc that wraps up in redemption after making a deal with the Devil. In what way did they align themselves with the villain? Not to punish the hedonism of her peers -- Sarah's object of hostility was a little baby, incapable of sex and drugs, and Veronica engaged in casual sex and drinking herself. So that cannot be the role of the villain, and those are not the themes of the movies that the Final Girl appears in.
Rather, she aligned herself with the villain around the goal of lashing out at full normies who were in some way responsible for her assuming a marginal social status. Veronica was the black sheep and butt of jokes in her clique, and Sarah was stuck babysitting her brother instead of living a normal teenage lifestyle because of the baby himself, and her callous stepmother who stuck Sarah with the duty of looking after the baby while she herself spent the evening out on a prestigious social date.
The true theme is deviance vs. normality, with the Final Girl being a marginal-status go-between. It has little to do with hedonism vs. puritanism, with the Final Girl being the abstinent go-between. And the Final Girl becomes a heroine by defending normality against the pathological forces of deviance that threaten it -- an effort on behalf of a group that she belongs to (however marginally at first). She does not become a heroine by winning a contest among individuals as to who can outlast the villain -- the socially blind conclusion of the standard analysis.
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Boomers originally came up with this completely clueless analysis, which stems from their undying worldviews that every action must always take the form of a status contest, and that their hedonist project is under assault by puritanical forces that must be stopped.
The Gen X-ers who appreciate these movies, however, have still accepted this framing, only disagreeing about which side is good or bad. Yes, it's still a status contest among individuals, and yes, the more abstinent individual wins instead of the hedonist individuals -- but that's a good message, not a bad message.
It's time for a fresh look at the pop culture phenomenon of the Final Girl, as well as the quarter-century of analysis on the topic, from a late X-er / early Millennial perspective that sees the Boomer view for the fundamentally mistaken view that it is, rather than accept it analytically but take the opposite side of the value judgment. That stance prioritizes the Culture War implications rather than the objective understanding of the culture itself. For when you troll into the Culture War, the Culture War will troll back into you.
The correct understanding of the Final Girl trope still allows for a battle between two sides who approve or condemn the message. But now, it is between who approves of deviance threatening normality, vs. a marginal normie defending full normie-dom from deviance, even if they are somewhat sympathetic to the deviant side.
Boomers cannot appreciate this drawing of battle lines, because their worldview is all about the debate between "If it feels good, do it, man" or "Keep it in your pants, if you know what's good for you." It's a guide to individual survival and pleasure, only arguing about how those two may conflict with each other. It's not about social cohesion, which opposes normality and integration against abnormality and disintegration.
Boomers grew up in a socially cohesive world, which they took for granted, and have only ever concerned themselves with individual well-being. But Gen X-ers, and especially Millennials, grew up in a more and more socially fragmented world, making them more aware of concerns about social welfare. That allows them to understand a cultural phenomenon that is distinctive of a socially fragmenting climate -- like the Final Girl -- and to more generally re-analyze the zeitgeist of the mid-1970s through the present.