Tuesday, October 9, 2018

I'm Going to Take Him Away from You...

Jesse is initially presented as the protagonist of Nightmare on Elm St. part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985). The film spends a lot of time with him. We learn he’s new to Springwood. He has a lot of anxiety about fitting in at high school. He has a kind of friendship/rivalry with classmate Ron (Robert Rusler). If you dig into the subtext there is the reading that he’s probably bisexual and is having a hard time with coming to terms with it. Oh, and there’s the whole Freddy wants to possess him thing. To assume that Jesse is the main character is a mistake though. Much like John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China (1986) would do a year later, the film gives us a white male character that for all intents and purposes would be the hero of a film from this era, but then subverts it.

Jesse is passive throughout the film, he’s simply a slave to what Freddy is doing to him. He becomes the character that needs to be rescued by the end, and his rescuer is Lisa (Kim Myers). Introduced as a potential love interest, and subject a lot of male gaze through the camera lens, Lisa eventually is revealed as the character who is actively resisting Freddy. She even moves through the mythological hero’s journey as she travels to the underworld, in this case, a haunted foundry, to bring Jesse back from Freddy’s control. If there is one major flaw in the film, it is that the transition from focusing on Jesse to Lisa is not a smooth one and it can feel like a jarring shift.

Still, slasher movies have a tradition of a final ‘survivor girl,’ but Freddy’s Revenge does one better and gives us a hero who actively thwarts Freddy and rescues someone. This is a pattern we will see repeated several times throughout the series of Nightmare films.

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