WIHM 2022: Role Models For Weirdos
Welcome to Women in Horror month everyone. Here’s a fun fact—there are women in horror every month!! In fact I am going to celebrate some of my favorite women in horror right now!!
As I write this, I am looking back in the past, at the person I was about a month ago. I was excited, unnerved and petrified for the season finale of Yellowjackets. The show that has enraptured the internet, and especially women of a certain age—Yellowjackets. (1990’s kids I am talking about you.)
Don’t worry this is not the one millionth blog post about Yellowjackets, or about our favorite group of fun-loving teenage cannibals, the Antler Queen, the flannel shirts, the fact that we get to see Juliette Lewis AND Christina Ricci in the same show, the character of Adam—so weird and so hot, the strange symbols, or the amazing 1990’s soundtrack. I consider this the decade with the best music. I will fight anyone for this, I am prepared to die on that hill. For back up I will summon the ghost of Kurt Cobain, he will fight with me.
I won’t even mention that this is the second show in the past couple years that made me care—even just for a moment—about a soccer championship. I don’t like sports, they scare me…you’ll get it if you keep reading.
I could go on about all of these things— including my theory of who I think the Antler Queen is, or where I can get a 1990’s girls soccer uniforms that fit real women in their forties…I could even talk about how I already have half a cosplay outfit already made dedicated to this faceless cannibal soccer player with antlers—but this post is not really about Yellowjackets, though it does, in Yellowjackets honor, pay tribute to some of my favorite hormonal teenage characters in horror, life, and literary fiction.
Let’s face it, teenage years are horrifying enough, I could put almost all teenage characters on this list. It was hard for me to hold back.
I will say that this show (Yellowjackets) has really reminded me why I love the rouge-misfit teenage character, especially when they are in dark fiction.
Our teen years at best, are overwrought to begin with.
A simple crush can send us spiraling into despair or mania. Kissing another girl’s boyfriend can lead to years of trauma.
I will never forget when I made that mistake. I didn’t know the boy was spoken for at the time, but I certainly did by the time I saw my name scratched into desks and walls all over school. The words that went on to haunt me for years. “Jennifer Gordon is a whore who will rot it hell.”
Yeah. It was dramatic. When people refer to high school being hell, well, they’re not kidding. (I learned that from life, and from watching Buffy.)
This is one of the many reasons that “coming of age horror” or even just a teenage character placed smack-dab in the middle of a dark story always finds a special place in my heart. My cold-dead-grown-up-heart. It still beats. For them…
SO, today I will give you a list of some of my favorites, the characters and people that reached into my jaded heart and reminded me what it was like to be sixteen again—to have all the feelings, ALL the time.
- Carrie – Stephen King.
There is no list of tortured highschoolers that would be complete without the OG of making her classmates pay… Miss Carrie White.
Now, of course, we all know the story.
We’ve all read the book, and seen the movie, seen the edited version of the movie on tv when we were kids Hell, I’ve even seen the remake. (yikes). But Carrie is not on this list because of the terrible annihilation of all her classmates—no—she is here for her quiet moments. The serenity. The beautiful peace that she felt before she gets her first period in the shower after gym class.
(For the ladies reading this…we know…the book could have stopped there, where her classmates were laughing at her, and it STILL would have been a viable horror story.) She is also here for the sweet and tender moments while making her ill-fated prom dress, she is here for standing up to her overbearing mother. She is here for scoring a date with the cutest boy in class. She is hear for the moment her heart broke when all she wanted was just to be normal.
I feel you, Carrie! Especially all the PTSD surrounding gym class. If high school is hell, then gym class for the unathletic was the ninth circle. To be honest I can’t even watch people play volleyball without having a panic attack. Thank you ninth and tenth grade gym class. I’ll never forget you—for real. I still have the stress dreams.
- Claudia, Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice.
Okay, this one might be pushing it, as she was eleven…. but let’s be honest, she is not your average eleven-year-old. Claudia is turned into a vampire at the age eleven. ELEVEN!!! Do you remember where you were when you were eleven? Do you remember the awkwardness, the greasy skin, all the crying? When I was eleven the girls on my bus threw raisins and peanuts at me. Kids at school prank called me because we were poor, and I wore a used Alf t-shirt my dad got for me at Goodwill. (It was my gym outfit—don’t get me started…it always goes back to gym class.). Can anyone reading this imagine getting trapped there, at eleven years old? Sure, Claudia had amazing gowns, and had formalwear for days, but she was eleven. FOREVER. Her family gave her dolls for years even when in her head she wanted a damn boyfriend, she wanted boobs. What she got was bloodlust that didn’t coincide with her puberty lasts forever lust.
Truly she is both a tragic and terrifying character. Also…RIP Anne Rice.
- Mary Wollstencraft Shelley (Not a character, just actually her, learn everything about her!!)
Marry Shelley is known for being the godmother of science fiction and horror. Mary was an awkward goth girl before that was something you could buy at Hot Topic.
So here’s the thing. I have read Frankenstein three times and I have never loved it. I know, I know, I should turn in my horror/goth card. But hear me out. I love Mary Wollstencraft Shelley. I always have. First, she lost her virginity to a poet when they had sex on her mother’s grave. AMAZING! I lost my virginity to someone while my mom was at Bingo…Oh, and he forgot to take his socks off. (Again, can we remember why high school hell is?)
Also, there is a lot of mythology around when/why/where she created Frankenstein. No one knows the truth. Okay, maybe historians do, but I don’t. I want to believe that she was partying for days, weeks, with Lord Byron, and Percy Shelley, and other unnamed and named others. I want to believe she got awkward because of the drugs and maybe too much sex.
I want to think she just took a beat and left the goth orgy before it got too weird—and then she invented the genre I know and love. I want that. I need that to be actual history.
The fictional girls on Yellowjackets need that. Their plane crashed…they need Mary Shelley to be the awkward goth leaving a party to early and becoming greatness. Again, don’t fight me, I will call up the ghost of Kurt Cobain again…
- Agnes, From Daylight to Madness & When the Sleeping Dead Still Talk (The Hotel), Jennifer Anne Gordon
Okay this is when it’s going to seem like shameless self-promotion, and maybe a part of it it—BUT—Agnes was never on my list until I was talking with a friend/super fan about this guest post. I talked about the feel, my love for Yellowjackets, what I look for in a character—that is when they cut me off and said “Yeah, this is exactly why you created Agnes.”
Clearly this friend/superfan knows me more than I do. I stopped, I thought about it, and they were right.
The Hotel series is a two-novella set I wrote back in 2019. It follows the story of my two main characters Isabelle, and Francis and their time at a Victorian “summer hotel” which was the nice way of saying “these crazy people are being sent away.”
Agnes is a character who came to me in a weird fever dream. A sixteen-year-old girl who shot her father during a hunting party, just to see what would happen. What I didn’t know was that Agnes would become more than that, she would play a pivotal role in the first novella, and then a larger role in the second part. Agnes is truly everything I love and hate in a character. She is unreliable, mean, petty, heartbroken, damaged, dangerous. Though she is a supporting character, she is the one character I have written that people message me, and ask me on a regular basis “Is Agnes going to get a book of her own?”
I didn’t know this when I created her, I didn’t understand how people would feel about her—I should have—it’s how I feel about so many characters. So yes, Agnes has to be on this list, because in truth, I love and hate her—and no, her story (though concluded in the novellas) may eventually have the spotlight on her. I have not forgotten her, trust me.
- The Lisbon Sisters – The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
I tried, and I failed to pick a specific Lisbon sister. Now I will say this—this is NOT a horror novel. This is a literary interpretation of teenage girls in the late 1970’s. The book is told in a Greek chorus style. A group of male narrators seeing these girl’s and the tragedy of being a teenage girl from a distance.
I cannot say enough about this book (the movie is stunning too; I sob the entire time). This is the story that made me realize that trauma can be told from multiple points of view. It taught me that trauma is not just about the people there, in the house.
This novel walks the fine line of literary and suspense, it is evocative and visceral as if you were looking as if you were looking for a painting. It is mysterious and horrifying in the way it deals with the unknown.
Remember when I talked about Carrie earlier, and I said her story was in the quiet moments. This novel is all the quiet moments. It’s so subtle, so ephemeral. You meet these girls, and their experiences of the beauty and pain of mundane life are with you, you understand them, and then—it’s gone. This book is a mystery, a drama, a cry for help, and a beautiful memoir of all the times we wrote in journals with weird bubble cursive handwriting.
The book spends more time on certain Lisbon sisters, but to me, much like the Greek Chorus of narrators, the sisters need to be seen as a whole, each one representing a heartbreak, an outfit, a bad choice…each Lisbon sister is a fragment, a moment, a memory. When you read it, you relate to one, then another, then all of them.
I would love to keep going with my listicle…I have so many more. Maybe next month. Until then my loves, let’s remember when we were at our weirdest and most terrified. Let’s try to embrace it.
In the meantime I will be on eBay trying to find 1990’s yellow and gold soccer uniforms to pair with my antlers, blood makeup, and ennui for the next time I need a costume.
- About the Author
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Jennifer Anne Gordon is an award-winning author and popular host of the Vox Vomitus podcast. Her novel Beautiful, Frightening and Silent won the Kindle Award for Best Horror/Suspense for 2020, Best Horror 2020 from Authors on the Air, and was a finalist for American Book Fest’s Best Book Award- Horror, 2020. It also received the Platinum 5 Star Review from Reader’s Choice as well as the Gold Seal from Book View. Her latest novel Pretty/Ugly won the Helicon Award for Best Horror for 2022, the Kindle Award for Best Novel of the Year (Reader’s Choice), as well as the Gold Medal from Literary Titan. Jennifer is a member of Mystery Writers of America, the Horror Writers Association (where she serves on a jury for the Stoker Awards) and is the Agents and Editors chair of the New England Crime Bake Committee.
Her upcoming collection The Japanese Box: Tales of Grief and Horror will be published in August 2023 (Last Waltz Publishing) she is also a featured essayist in Let Grief Speak by Diane Zinna (Columbia University Press 2024).
Her personal essays on grief, trauma, and horror have been published in The Horror Tree, Ladies of Horror Fiction, The Nerd Daily, and Reader’s Entertainment Magazine.
For more information you can visit her website at www.JenniferAnneGordon.com
She is represented by literary agent Paula Munier at Talcott Notch Literary, and Mickey Mikkelson with Creative Edge Publicity.