FINDING MYSELF IN MEDIA: Sidney Prescott and the Strength in Her Vulnerability

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Sidney Prescott, Scream, Wes Craven, Horror

Halloween may be over but that never stops me from consuming horror content. As a huge fan of almost all facets of the genre, my heart sits comfortably with the slasher genre. The first slasher to truly captivate me and keep me coming back to it is Wes Craven’s Scream. Releasing in 1996, the year I was born, Scream has since captivated audiences with its quick satire, all-star cast, great plot twists, and final girl Sidney Prescott. Sidney is the protagonist of this horror franchise and quite possibly one of the most important fictional characters in my life.

Sidney always has a slew of positive adjectives thrown around to describe her. She’s so resilient. She’s so strong. She’s so tough. She’s so badass. She’s so cool. I am not downplaying the validity of all of those descriptors because, arguably, Sidney Prescott embodies all of those words. However, a word that I feel sums up why I hold her so close is vulnerability. Despite everything she has been through, despite everything she’s lost, She still chooses to remain vulnerable when most people wouldn’t react to their trauma like that.

Previously in my Evangelion piece, I discussed how both Shinji and Asuka were two sides of the same coin in how I reacted to my trauma and mental illness. If they showcased how I reacted, Sidney is what I am currently striving to be. On a very personal level, I have only spoken these words amongst my closest friends. But much like Sidney, I have been stalked and assaulted by a romantic partner. I have dealt with intense bullying and teasing in a school setting over my reaction to my trauma. I may not have had such high-profile limelight by one Gale Weathers, but many people casually spread rumors about me and my mental health.

Putting my separate feelings for Skeet Ulrich aside, Sidney’s boyfriend Billy Loomis is a terrible partner to someone experiencing intense grief, guilt, and confusion over a familial death. This brings me back to my freshman year of college where I was grappling with an intense matriarchal death in my family.  Someone who I was romantically involved with knew of this. My mental health hadn’t yet tanked until the night where I found myself on the cusp of sexual violence. Like Billy, there was so much pressure put on me to go all the way, to raise the rating on this movie to R as opposed to PG-13. Thankfully, that person’s roommate was there to quite literally save me and create a stop to such a scary situation. What was scarier though happened throughout the rest of the year, I was being followed everywhere. I could feel eyes on me in every public place in my college. At first, no one believed me. It’s like the scene where peers of Sidney’s say she must be making up Ghostface because she wants the attention.

“Cidnya, stop being so vain.” As if being stalked is some sort of compliment? “Cidnya, you’re anxiety is really starting to get out of control.” How am I supposed to cope with this intense situation where no one is believing me? I cried in public spaces a lot. I felt intense fear stepping into buildings I knew I would see him because I knew there was no way I could avoid him. To this day, I still have very physical anxiety thinking about having to step into these spaces ever again. Unlike Sidney, my stalker stopped after a year. I’m not really sure what finally made him stop but he did. Sidney never gets a break from all of her various Ghostface antagonists but every time, she prevails.

I absolutely did not. I don’t even feel comfortable stepping onto campus anymore. I became hardened. I was always riddled with anxiety, taking caution to unhealthy extremes. To this day, I feel like I shouldn’t even talk about it. As if my experience with being stalked and gaslight amongst others around me were simply not real. But it was, unfortunately. It made me so depressed and withdrawn. I pushed so many people away. What’s so funny is that I rewatched and continue to rewatch Scream. Whether subconsciously or not, Sidney Prescott overcomes the trauma that so many others can relate to and have dealt with. I personally have many friends who have had violence incited to them by a stalker.

I watch Sidney Prescott traverse through her relationship with Billy, her high school experience, and her grief and I marvel over her continuation to love her friends, love her dad, and attempt to remain a source of light. She’s so open to new friendships and partners in Scream 2. She comes face to face with her trauma yet again in Scream 4 and she remains cautious and unflinching. She’s grounded and heartfelt, genuinely feeling sorry for those actively harming her. She is awe-inducing.  It’s taken me a really long time to sit myself down and say, “Hey, maybe there’s a big reason you have rewatched scream at least 7 times a year since your freshman year of college.” It’s cathartic and inspiring.

Sidney Prescott may be all of those adjectives like badass, cool, and strong but I am learning every day to understand I am all of those adjectives too. Sometimes your strength can be from your rawness and vulnerability. I am learning to open myself, to deal with my trauma in a way that’s healthier and productive. My mental health journey has been such an up and down ride of depressive episodes and over-confidence in my abilities. I am finally at a point where this cycle is easing as I overcome my trauma, despite my lifelong mental health issues. When I rewatch Scream, I see more than a classic slasher, I see a testament to the strength of all of us who have suffered and continue to decide to move forward.