Scream Queens to Hashtags
by Brad Slaton & Amy Humphries
George Feltenstein, film historian (and senior vice president of theatrical catalog marketing at Warner Home Video) once stated “Women screaming in terror has been a Hollywood mainstay — even when films were silent”. Then the glorious moment when sound was integrated into film, moviegoers delighted in the impact of the “scream”. Fay Wray was the first, and some even consider the best to wow us with her set of lungs and hysterics.
Countless others have pierced our eardrums and sent shivers down our spines over the years. Provoking goosebumps, anxiety and including us in the moment. In the 80’s the term “Scream Queen” was bestowed upon a select group of women who actually made their living in horror films. They lived and breathed everything our beloved genre represented. We hung their posters on our bedroom walls and were the first in line at the video store to grab the newest VHS release with them on the cover. They were not only the damsel in distress but became the architects in creating the forward thinkers in getting away from the killers and saving the others.
This article isn’t about creating a definitive list of who is or isn’t a “Scream Queen” but bringing to the table why the term itself has lost its original hard earned muster. As fans we could debate for decades over the topic of specific names that make the lists and their true legacy. This is about what happened to the title itself. The call to action to address is the term “Scream Queen” has been taken from the fans and placed in the hands of the actresses themselves. It somehow became perfectly acceptable in recent years for any actress who’s been in a horror film to brand herself as a “Scream Queen” for marketing purposes. The true Queens toiled in blood, depravity, & mayhem for years to earn their Ed Gein designed crown of flesh. So where did we lose an earned privilege to a loosely assumed right? Nowadays it’s become as simple as posting a picture online and adding #screamqueen. How did this happen you ask? Social media has enabled people to portray themselves however they see fit without any questions or credentials all the while racking up likes and retweets along the way. Is this an issue with no real fix? Maybe there is no answer that is stops the action itself but one we each, to each degree and depth of love for horror, can address on our own. The next time your social media feed is filled with over one hundred #screamqueen posts stop and think “True Scream Queen or just a hashtag”.