With an actual Friday the 13th happening today, it would be fitting for us to look back on the film that reinvented slasher genre. Most people usually focus on Jason because he is a larger icon and more profitable in the horror world. Yet he wasn’t the start of the franchise (directly), Mrs. Voorhees was the catalyst for the whole mythos of the Crystal Lake world. Many view her as a malevolent creature who murdered innocent campers during that hot summer of 1980. I want to take time and argue that she was not unjustified in her actions; in fact her doings were no less absurd than the maternal instinct of wild animals. Don’t get me wrong, Pamela was not at all sane but she was led down the road to destruction by elements that she could not control.
Pregnancy: The Beginning
Pamela Voorhees became impregnated at the early age of 15 by Elias Voorhees and was actually 16 when she delivered the child. This is the most important step to the downfall of Pamela; early pregnancy is not something that is easy to deal with. The woman’s life is now going to be focused on her child in her most early years. She won’t get to go to college and get a proper education to further herself in something that she would really enjoy doing. Pamela will have to stay home on those weekend nights taking care of her child while the father worked or went out with his friends. To make matters worse, Jason is born malformed; he has what is medically defined as hydrocephalic. Hydrocephalus is an accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles around the brain; this in turn creates a misshaped cranium and can cause mental retardation. So Pamela is not only dealing with all the issues I stated before but her son is mentally retarded and will require a greater amount of attention. There is not much talk about WHO Mr. Voorhees was or what happened to him but we (critics/audience) can assume that he took off due to the amount of responsibility that would be required of him. So here we have a 16 year old girl, husbandless, and forced to raise a handicapped child alone.
The Death of Jason: The Catalyst
There are three incidents that stick out in the mythos of the Friday the 13th world that push Pamela farther and farther down the rabbit hole. Pamela initially took on the role as Camp Cook at Crystal Lake to be able to support Jason and herself financially (Mr. Voorhees?). Jason could join his mother at work and be watched over by the counselors there whist she was busy doing her job. The employees at the campground were not as protective as they should have been because they constantly teased Jason everyday in relation to his physical state. Pamela probably had to hear and deal with Jason crying during the night due to all the mockery he received. She probably had a lot of anger towards the staff and was unable to fully call them out on it because at the time we can assume, that maybe she was not as open with her opinions. I would like to think that Pamela was soft spoken and timid because of her life thus far, a woman in a time when men ruled over everything (50’s, 60’s). These pent up emotions probably didn’t help with her psychotic behavior that she executed later on. She was paralyzed, left to deal with her life on her own.
Jason had enough of the teasing from the staff at Crystal Lake and wanted to prove to not only the counselors but his mother too that he was the strong individual she wanted him to be. Late at night he went for a swim in that dreaded lake and drowned because the staff that was supposed to be in his cabin were out at a party. He died because of their negligence. Pamela knew this; she was enraged and began to slip down into the world of murderous insanity. She later killed two of the counselors whom she thought were the ones who should have been watching Jason that night. The camp was closed soon after that and nobody was the wiser to her actions. A few years later, they tried again to open Crystal Lake but Pamela poisoned the water and set fire to areas of the camp. The camp became Pamela’s representation of everything that made her life awful, her husband, the mistreatment of Jason, and the life that she never was able to have. The fixation of sex is an interesting point as well in the series; sex is what began this long, arduous, and gruesome journey.
PTSD: The Downfall
The camp was going to be reopened in 1980 and the people behind it were successful. Pamela had retreated to a cabin close by since the death of her son to keep close watch of the area. We of course, know what happened during that reopening in 1980 so I won’t go into it too much. Pamela was still hearing the voice of her child, telling her to “Kill them mommy”. I like to think that there was a very strong love/hate relationship between mother and son. She loved Jason because he was her only child and became special to her. The hatred comes in because she was frustrated at her life and he probably got in the middle of that routinely. The kids she butchered in 1980 were not the ones responsible for Jason’s death nor did it matter to anyone anymore but she became stuck in a purgatory in which she killed everything around the lake until her decapitation via machete.
I want to again being up Jason’s attempt at swimming, I fully believe that he wanted to show his mother how strong he was and show her that if he could make it on his own then she could as well. Pamela may have realized this later on and it further angered her that her son finally tried to find a way to show how much he cared. To come to a closing, Pamela had a very hard life, one in which many people would break emotionally. She was strong but it was Jason, her love for him that destroyed her. Don’t you feel a little sad for her? She is not a monster; she is human like you and me. Someone could discuss about how Pamela represented the frustration of women in the 50’s and 60’s as they tried to become equal with men (in rights that is) but that maybe for another time. Pamela will forever remain in our hearts as one of the queens of murder and one that was not too far away from being human.