Presented by Lisa Frankenstein, 1989 Week is dialing the clock back to the crossroads year for the genre with a full week of features that dig six feet under into the year. Today, Rachel Reeves lists the five baddest teen queens of 1989.
Bridging the gap between the ’80s and ’90s, 1989 was an interesting year for horror. With a robust roster of strong slasher icons to lean on, innovative sub-genres and a thriving physical media industry, 1989 desperately clung to the last gasp of the ’80s while tentatively experimenting with what the ’90s might bring. Along with a wealth of later-entry franchise sequels, this indecisive decade straddling also resulted in some eclectic representations of all-to-familiar tropes, including the “bad girl.”
The allure of the bad girl is one of the most enduring tropes in horror film history. Whether labeled as a witch, vampire, monster, sexually promiscuous, uppity or any other brand of stigmatizing language, these women behaving badly who refuse to conform never cease to lose their appeal. With the rise of the slasher in the ’80s and the teenage blood that fed these monstrous fictional machines, the expansion of the teenage bad girl trope makes sense.
As many can attest, being a teenager is tough. Navigating the ever-evolving rollercoaster of hormonal and physical changes that accompany this period of life alone is enough to make anyone break bad. However, for many young women, the added pressure of socially projected physical ideals and perpetuated gender-role behaviors can function as a catalyst for rebellion. What’s unique about the bad girls put on screen in the ’80s is the broad portrayal of behaviors deemed “bad.” While newfound bad-ness is an empowering strength for some teenage women, for others, it becomes their downfall.
Here are five of the baddest teen queens of 1989 that wonderfully demonstrate a broad spectrum of bad girl energy.
Tamara Mason – Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
The Character: Long before Regina George became the Queen Bee in Mean Girls, Tamara Mason gave wealthy, spoiled blondes a bad name. Portrayed by Sharlene Martin, Tamara is Lakeview High’s Prom Queen and one of the many unfortunate teens who meet their end aboard the S.S. Voorhees.
Bad Behavior: While some cope with the horrors of high school by sleeping through weekends and making questionable hairstyle choices, Tamara pushes the envelope with what she can get away with. With her travel kit of cocaine at the ready, Tamara seeks to turn the celebratory grad cruise’s party meter up a notch by sharing her stash with her fellow grad, Eva (Kelly Hu). After getting caught mid-snort by the less adventurous Rennie (Jensen Daggett), Tamara gives Rennie a bump of her own straight into the pitch-black water beneath. Then, when confronted with a failing Biology project grade, Tamara puts her own genetically blessed biology to work and attempts to seduce her much older teacher. Even though it’s possible these questionable decisions were simply a phase, none of us will ever know as it was ultimately Jason who became Tamra’s last date.
Heather Chandler – Heathers
The Character: As the leader of the Westerburg High clique known as “The Heathers,” Heather Chandler (Kim Walker) wields her power over friends and foes alike with absolute confidence and arrogance. Strengthened by her privilege and beauty, Heather convinces everyone — even herself — that she is irreplaceable and above reproach.
Bad Behavior: By routinely looking at people as stereotypes, assets, and liabilities rather than human beings, Heather soon inadvertently applies this approach to herself. Rather than supporting and empathizing with Veronica (Winona Ryder) when she shuts down Brad’s sexual advances and begins to feel ill, Heather scolds Veronica. She also routinely makes light of Heather Duke’s (Shannen Doherty) eating disorder and desire to be friends. At her core, Heather’s ego is so fragile that she confuses vulnerability with weakness. Though this truth ultimately gets undermined in the public eye by the cover story for her death, Veronica and J.D. will always know the sad truth behind the lie.
Clarissa Carlyn – Society
The Character: Beautiful, bold, and confident, Clarissa (Devin DeVasquez) attends the same Beverly Hills high school as the rich and privileged Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock). Unashamed of her sexuality and intriguing personality quirks that set her apart from her fellow female classmates, she soon catches the eye of Bill. Despite vastly different origin stories, Billy and Clarissa soon bond over their outsider status in their community.
Bad Behavior: For many women, bad behavior is not so much bad as it goes against the grain of what is deemed acceptable by society. This is the position that Clarissa finds herself in. Sexually confident and unabashedly effervescent, her forward approach towards Billy is deemed “bad news” by his friends. Similarly, her lack of concern over conforming to a particular social clique in school elicits jealous responses and glares from Bily’s very socially acceptable girlfriend, Shauna. Then, when forced to choose between adhering to cultural rituals or breaking away to follow her gut, Clarissa checks those societal expectations at the door. She also drives an undeniably bad-ass bright red Porsche 911 Turbo, which practically screams cinematic bad girl.
Alice Johnson – A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child
The Character: Audiences first became acquainted with Alice (Lisa Wilcox) in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. Again, returning as the main protagonist, Alice has the unique distinction of successfully facing and surviving Freddy Kreuger and being able to pull people into her dreams. Strengthened by her initial experience with Kreuger, Alice meets us strong, confident, kind, intelligent, and determined in this film.
Bad Behavior: Teen mothers have long been stigmatized by society. Sadly, this is a truth that remains prevalent, and this culturally perceived result of “bad behavior” is one that Alice finds herself unexpectedly confronting soon after her high school graduation. Despite the pregnancy coming from a healthy, loving relationship with Dan (Danny Hassel), the weight of the news becomes compounded by Dan’s untimely death. Not surprisingly, Freddy uses the situation to weasel his way back into existence through Alice’s unborn child. Against all odds, Dan’s family’s objections, and her friends’ loving concerns, Alice carefully considers all options at her disposal and consciously decides to keep her pregnancy. Risking more than just her life, Alice refuses to let fear win and stands boldly in her truth, summoning her strength (and that of one very special mother who came before her) to destroy Kreuger again.
Angela Baker – Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland
The Character: First introduced in Sleepaway Camp (1983) and again in Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988), Angela once again returns to the screen (this time portrayed by Pamela Springsteen) as homicidal, dangerous, and unhinged as ever. Though her exact age in this film is a bit unclear, there is no confusion about her posing as a teenager in order to return to Camp Rolling Hills and add even more teenagers to her ever-growing kill count.
Bad Behavior: While Angela clearly has her flaws, creativity, consistency and follow-through are certainly not among them. After killing a prospective camper to take her place and gain entry to Camp Rolling Hills, rebranded as Camp New Horizons, Angela continues taking every opportunity available to usher souls off this mortal coil. Utilizing everything from household cleaners and firecrackers to tent spikes, axes, heights, and lawnmowers, Angela is focused and dedicated to her bloody mission. After all, murder is a serious business.
Lisa Frankenstein is only in theaters this Friday. Get Tickets Now!