There's a common trope in many horror, in particular slasher, movies known as the "final girl" (aka the "survivor girl"). This is the girl who makes it through the movie, the one who confronts the masked slasher at the end, and the one at whose hands the killer ultimately faces his demise (or so we are led to believe at the time). These are your Laurie Strodes, your Nancy Thompsons, your Sally Hardestys, and your Ellen Ripleys (for a list of our top 10 final girls, check out our post at graveplotpodcast.com).
A good description of the final girl can be seen in the excellent horror-mockumentary Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon.
So what does it take to be a final girl? Cunning? Wit? Smarts? Bravery? Well, if you look at most of these movies, it would seem you only need two things; good looks and a white tank top.
It's become as common a trope as the final girl herself. "Hey, so we've got this girl that's going to wind up being the one to kill the killer. What should we dress her in? Something contemporary, fun, playful? Something that gives us further insight into who the character is?"
"Nah, just a white tank top is fine."
It's not hard to see why the filmmakers do it, it makes the character appear strong while also showing off some of her... softer features. It also is cheap and shows stains very well, be they blood or mud, to show just how hellish of an ordeal our heroine has been through.
The white tank top is a look that was brought into the modern horror genre, much like the final girl concept itself, by Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver in the Alien franchise. Many final girls have been inspired by Ellen Ripley, as she personified the bad ass chick who took matters into her own hands.
Even in remakes, the white tank top cannot be stopped. There was most notably Jessica Biel in the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Elisha Cuthbert in the 2005 rendition of the Vincent Price film House of Wax (seen in header), plus there was Barbara in Tom Savini's 1990 reimagining of the classic Night of the Living Dead.
Not that most major horror movies are that hard to predict as-is, but let's be honest, the wardrobe kind of gives away the ending. I mean, if you're wondering who's going to live and who's going to die, just take a look at the characters' tops. Unless, of course, they pull the ol' trick-a-roo of having the character strip down midway through (which, for the record, we're perfectly okay with).
It seems that no matter how virginal or matronly a character appears at the beginning of a film, by the end, they will all strip down to a white tank top and get ready to kick some ass. So, ladies, if you ever find yourself being hunted down by a masked maniac, a burned up murderer, or a horde of zombies, you'd better hope you've got a white tank top on.
Find more from the Grave Plot Podcast at www.graveplotpodcast.com.