She’s an acting legend. A horror icon. Just don’t call her a scream queen.
It was back in the 1980s that the term “scream queen” rose to prominence, and it was a label that was soon bestowed upon any actress who made a mark in the horror genre. Of course, Jamie Lee Curtis became THE “scream queen” of the ’80s, but countless actresses from Heather Langenkamp to Linnea Quigley were labeled the same way. And in the wake of Re-Animator, Barbara Crampton became horror royalty herself; she can almost always be found, to this day, on website listings of the best “scream queens” of all time. But it’s a term Crampton is not a fan of.
Earlier this week, Crampton took to Facebook to denounce the term, noting that “it’s overused & undervalued and diminishes the merit of what we try to do.” The post resulted in a flurry of discussion, and the website Birth. Movies. Death. gave Crampton a platform to expand upon her thoughts and dig deep into why she feels so strongly about the term being forever banished.
And really, who better than Barbara Crampton to write such a piece? Though Crampton got her start in the horror genre as a reluctant “scream queen,” she has in recent years shown her versatility as an actress in films like You’re Next, We Are Still Here, and this year’s Beyond the Gates. She has transcended the reductive label – a label she never asked for in the first place.
In the must-read piece, Crampton writes:
This moniker of Scream Queen is limiting in description and also limiting in its ability to reveal that these actresses are more than the sum of the strain of their vocal cords. For many, like myself, it has cemented a career in a beloved genre, yet for some it has also reduced the roles they are offered in other genres, having pigeonholed them to one sort of film work.
Being a Scream Queen implies that you’re good at two things: howling at the top of your lungs and being a woman. Simply being known as a decent actor who just happens to love genre films is far more satisfying, and far less condescending.
We strongly encourage you to read Barbara Crampton: Don’t Call Me a Scream Queen over on Birth. Movies. Death., which includes insight not just from Crampton but also horror pals like Bill Moseley, Edgar Wright, Neill Marshall, Stuart Gordon, and Heather Langenkamp.
We’d love to know how you feel about the term “scream queen.” Sound off below.