Date of Award

Summer 8-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)





Committee Director

Elizabeth Groeneveld

Committee Member

Amy Milligan

Committee Member

Tim Anderson


The purpose of this thesis is to investigate slasher films and how they use gendered tropes to respond to and perpetuate cultural anxieties. The methodology primarily uses textual analysis that includes close attention to content, context, and discourse. The study reveals structural patterns and problems that emerge within slasher films, specifically within the Final Girl trope and the behaviors that govern it. In surveilling the Final Girl’s gender performativity, it is apparent that abjection, or a gut reaction to something that exists between two distinct boundaries or categories, is provoked when the Final Girl crosses a socially established gender boundary. Her behaviors are closely monitored by herself and others. In reading the ways that these behaviors are exhibited through the body of the female lead, the thesis focuses on how panopticism, or bodily self-regulation in response to biopolitical power, is primarily expressed through these characters. Michel Foucault’s concept of internal surveillance proves to be a salient concept for examining the character development within slasher films, speaking to the power of self-regulation within gendered power relations. Cultural anxieties around gender are mobilized within American horror films, in ways that speak to both gender performativity and the desire to shore up gender categories as incontrovertible truths.


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Copyright, 2022, by Jennifer Jacinda McLawhorn, All Rights Reserved.