Emily Gagne
September 22, 2015 1:50 pm

I am beyond psyched for Scream Queens, the new horror-comedy series premiering tonight on FOX, from the mind of Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story) and starring some of my fave gals like Emma Roberts, Keke Palmer, Abigail Breslin, Lea Michele and original scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis. A big part of this is the Heathers meets Scream meets Sorority Row (Haven’t seen Sorority Row? Get on it! It’s a ’90s slasher throwback and stars Audrina from The Hills and Carrie Fisher!) vibes it’s giving off, but the main reason I’m bloody excited for this series is that, as a horror fan, I just love me some movie scream queens. In fact, I’d say that I’ve learned a lot of real life lessons from a lot of these reel queens and I’d like to pass on those lessons to you!

Note: I narrowed down my list of scream queens to three final girls to really dig deep into their stories. But there are plenty of other female horror movie leads to look up to, including Mia from the new Evil Dead film, Ellen Ripley from the Alien franchise, and Erin from indie horror flick You’re Next.  Also, if you haven’t seen the movies these ladies are featured in, beware of spoilers below! If you have seen these movies, however, grab your weapon of choice (mine is a large spoon for maximum ice cream impact) and let’s do this!

Lessons from Laurie Strode (Halloween): Courage and how to deal with pesky family members

On a personal note, I owe so much to Laurie Strode, played by Jamie Lee Curtis (Scream Queens connection No. 1!) in the 1978 horror classic Halloween. After all, she was the first scream queen I encountered upon watching the film way too young (thanks for making me watch it one actual Halloween, Dad!). But she can teach us all a lot about courage and how to handle loved ones that aren’t so loving at all.

In the original Halloween, Laurie is terrified of masked madman Michael Myers, but she steps up anyway in order to try and defeat him and save the kids she’s babysitting on October 31 (she doesn’t have great luck with saving her friends, but it’s not her fault that they ditched her to have sexy times with their dudes). While she could have locked herself in a room with the kids and prayed for a miracle, she hides them away in the safest spot possible and then puts herself in a less safe hiding spot (the closet) and arms herself with the only thing sharp she can find (a coat hanger). And when Mike shows up, she fights him, even as she looks scared out of her mind doing so. And you know what? She comes out on top in the end, even if she does have some help from Dr. Loomis, who steps in at the last minute to shoot Michael out the window (hey, at the time it seemed like an effective way to off the guy!).

In Halloween II and Halloween: H20 (sorry, I’m not counting Halloween Resurrection or the Rob Zombie remakes because … reasons), Laurie has to deal with the added horror that this dude who is chasing after her with a knife is, in fact, her brother. But she doesn’t let that stop her. She doesn’t fall for the trap of sympathizing with a family member even after they’ve hurt you. She keeps fighting back, and even uses their connection against him at one pivotal point in H20 when they are left alone together for the first time in 20 years.

What I take from Laurie’s story is that you can’t let your fears of whatever is looming around the corner stop you from turning that corner, even if that thing behind the corner seems stronger than you (don’t discount your strength, girl even in the face of scary spiders, a.k.a. my worst fear of all the fears). And moreover, don’t be afraid to reject people who have hurt you, even if they are family (biological, or otherwise). Sure, it’s unlikely you’re related to Michael Myers, but you don’t need to associate with people who put you in danger emotionally or physically. I myself have started to distance myself from a few people who were killing my confidence and I’m much more alive for it—and it’s partially thanks to Laurie’s guidance.

Lessons from Sidney Prescott (Scream): Change is scary, but often necessary 

While we can also learn a ton about courage from Scream’s Sidney Prescott, played by Neve Campbell, she really offers a lot of wisdom in terms of accepting and adapting to change, which is just as honorable, I think.

From the first film, where she has to turn on her [SPOILER ALERT!] killer (and not in a good way) boyfriend Billy just moments after losing her virginity to him, Sidney is constantly changing her survival strategy to suit the given situation. After finding out that Billy and her friend Stu are the ones who have been wearing that Ghostface masks and asking innocent people (including HER MOM!!!) for their fave scary movies before slaughtering them, Sidney is obviously distraught. But you better believe she doesn’t let her emotions stop her from thinking quickly and figuring out a new plan for the night. Instead of letting things go as these two planned, Sidney sets her sights on attacking these horrible dudes, first killing Stu with a TV (how badass is that?) and then shooting Billy in the head. She gets a bit of assistance from the equally awesome Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox’s news caster character), the final kills are all Sid and they are because she was unafraid to make the change she needed in her attitude and actions.

Sidney continues to make needed changes in Scream 2, which sees her screening any phone calls to make sure they’re not coming from Ghostface, or if they are, she knows where he/she is making them from. She takes even further steps to adjust herself in accordance to Ghostface’s patterns in Scream 3, first hiding out in a super-remote location and changing her identity and then, once she can’t do that anymore, rocking a bulletproof vest and a weapon to a showdown with that movie’s killer (whose identity makes her kinda sorta one with Laurie Strode, if ya know what I mean). And don’t even get me started on how savvy she has become by the time Scream 4 rolls around, with her finishing that film’s killer, Emma Roberts’ Jill (Scream Queens connection No. 2!), twice over with the help of a defibrillator and a good ol’ fashioned gun. (Double-tapping, as any scream queen should know, is essential.)

What’s particularly great about Sidney is that she doesn’t just change to suit Ghostface’s changing, well, face, but also to suit herself and to try and achieve some semblance of happiness in spite of her trauma. A really powerful Sidney moment comes at the end of Scream 3 when she opens up the gate to her formerly secluded home and then leaves the door open as she settles in with friends. You might argue that it’s kinda careless of her to be so open to letting just anyone in after all she’s been through, but at the same time, scream queen heroines need to move on and attempt to have normal lives while they wait for the next sequel to sneak up behind them and force them to change the game again. And the same goes for regular girls like you and I.

Long story short: Don’t be afraid of change if you need it. And if you are afraid, know that Sidney is standing there with you. That’s what I think every time life throws me a personal or professional curveball. Just recently I had to change my entire already swamped working schedule to account for a family trauma and was I able to do it after taking a deep breath and thinking of Sid, who rolled with the good and the bad times and figured out a way to survive it all.

Lessons from Nancy Thompson (A Nightmare on Elm Street): Have confidence to realize your dreams 

Once again, Nancy Thompson, the heroine of A Nightmare on Elm Street and survivor mentor of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (FYI, this is the best Nightmare film out there, in case you were wondering), ought to be considered a primo example of bravery and badassery alongside Laurie and Sidney. But Nancy, played by Heather Langenkamp, also sets herself apart from the scream queens that came before her and came after her in terms of her dreams.

Now, you might be thinking, this is a cop-out because the villain of A Nightmare on Elm Street, total creep Freddy Krueger, literally attacks Nancy and her pals while they’re sleeping. But obvious metaphors aside, we have to shout-out to Nance for not only catching on to Fred’s claw-slinging sleepytime shenans, but also for having the confidence to go up against him and achieve her ultimate goal of defeating this evil and avenging the deaths of her friends and family. Had she not channeled her inner self-esteem, forcing herself to believe that she was stronger than this nightmarish entity and could turn her back on him (literally), she would not have survived the night (ICYMI: Freddy feeds off your fear and attention, and when he’s not getting either, he’s a goner). But she did it and in doing so, she both took back her dreams and achieved them. I know I often think back to that moment when I feel like I need to face some of my own personal demons, whether in sleep or in real life.

Nancy continues to be confident in her ability to make her dreams a reality in Dream Warriors, when she not only helps to vanquish Freddy again, but also helps keep him out of the picture by working with troubled kids in a hospital. It’s her confidence in her past actions and their results that drives her to lead a group hypnosis and teach the kids to find their powers and use them to defeat Freddy in their dreams. And while, sure some of these kids still don’t make it out alive for various reasons, Nancy essentially achieves her goal, as Kirsten (Patricia Arquette in her first role!) becomes the new Nancy, getting rid of Fred, after she dies.

If Nancy (and Sidney and Laurie) only knew how many other girls she’d be passing on her courage and confidence to, including the ladies of Scream Queens and the ones, like me, who could only dream of holding such a title.

Catch the series premiere of Scream Queens Tuesday, September 22 at 8 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. CT. on Fox. 

(Images via Fox, Anchor Bay Entertainment and New Line Cinema.) 

Related:

In praise of Scream Queens’ Jamie Lee Curtis

The opening sequence of Scream Queens is just bananas

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