Scream: the non-returning main character and its effect on the franchise
The Scream franchise is considered one of the movies that revolutionised the horror genre’s cinematic history by focusing on a subgenre referred to as slasher, the term itself refers to the main antagonist being a masked killer haunting a small town and/or a group of main characters that live in the town. A huge aspect of the movie is that the main lead was in fact a female character, this is an important part to highlight because in horror history, main characters tended to be male, or they were the characters with most appearances or significances to the plot of the story, whereas the female characters had some sort of stereotype in which they had to follow what the male lead would say or wait to be saved. Several movies may represent that aspect, titles such as “The Nightmare on Elm Street 2”, “I know what you did last summer” and “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” all have their main focus point in male characters, and Scream (1996) managed to change that.
The franchise itself focuses on Sidney Prescot (Neve Campbell), Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), Dewey Riley (David Arquette), Billy Loomis (Sketch Ulrich) and Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard) in the first movie, and as the story progresses, most of the characters return for a special appearance in the next movie. The way in which the Scream movies work is that each of the movies consists of two people playing the main role of the killer (also known as Ghostface), this not only adds suspense to the thriller but also makes us as viewers not know who we are able to trust. As the franchise creates new movies, the killers change, although the directors and producers of the movies always make certain that somehow the killer is connected to someone of Sidney’s past, making their motive more personal and making the viewers once again question who may betray Sidney or who is actually the killer.
On the 14th of December 2022, the scream movies Instagram account released the announcement of the new movie, Scream VI. Days later, the poster and teaser trailers were also released, fans realised that Neve Campbell, the main protagonist in the movie since the first movie was released in 1996, was not included in anything related to the new movie. After several interviews and articles with the cast, Campbell announced that she would not be returning for the movie. Subsequentially by learning that she would not be returning, fans began to be divided, although eventually people began to understand her point of view and that the reasoning behind it had nothing to do with the fans themselves but it was the actual way that the franchise treated her. The motive behind that is because she does not get paid the same amount of money as her fellow cast members (especially her male cast mates). The franchise also makes her feel like she is not validated by the extreme amount of hard work to make the franchise itself be as memorable as it is.
As Neve herself stated “I felt the offer presented to me did not equate to the value I have brought to the franchise”.Her fellow cast member Matthew Lillard (Stu Macher) after finding out about her decision to not return to the franchise, stated that Neve should be paid the same amount of money as her male cast members, he started off by stating the question that he was asked “should Neve Campbell be paid for the work she’s done in five movies of a franchise? Yes, because she is the female lead of one of the most successful horror franchises”, he also expressed that if the main lead was male, he would be paid the exact same amount or even more money as a female character. Another cast mate that spoke in the behalf of defending Neve is Jamie Kennedy (Randy), stating that:
“Sidney Prescott is the center of Scream. Neve Campbell is the face of Scream. Ghostface chasing her through the franchise… Neve is the final girl. Its crazy how the people behind the scenes are not paying money to literally the face of the franchise.” In other words, there is no Scream without Neve, she is one of the main reasons why the franchise itself is so successful and the act of simply disregarding all of her commitment throughout the franchise is just not only extremely disrespectful in regard to the actress herself, but they are also putting aside all of her career and years of hard work that she has put in the franchise.
Before Sidney Prescott, women in horror movies had a specific stereotype that did not allow them to actually have a personality of their own, they were viewed as “damsels in distress”, that is because of the lack of validation of the female gender in horror franchises, women were objectified and stereotyped throughout the entire movie. Sidney Prescott was one of the first female leads to change that stereotype as she wanted to survive, she did not allow herself to be saved as she wanted to save herself and her friends. The impact that her character has revolutionized the main protagonist’s in horror movie history. The reasons why she became such a memorable character is not only due to the way that Neve Campbell portrait her but also because of her character traits such as the fact that she is a tough but sensible character, and she is portrait as the kind of person that would not simply just give up on her friends as she is a survivor. For those reasons, Sidney also became a character that is not only relatable by fans, but also cherished because of her resilience. As the release date of Scream VI is in a short period of time (March 10 2023) these are a few of the changes that the fans have been expecting:
Ghostface can be simply anyone, as there will probably be no specific connections to Sidney’s backstory
The characters will be moving forward from Woodsboro (the town that the first movies were originally set on)
The return of other characters from Scream movies
By looking back to the old Scream movies, keeping in mind that the first one was released in 1996. Campbell at the time was only 23 years old, the movie became a critical part in her career. As years passed, the franchise itself has evolved, although the familiarity is something always present. The mentioning of characters such as Sidney Prescott, Maureen Prescott, Billy Loomis, Stu Macher, Gale Weathers, Dewey Riley and of course, Ghostface is something known by fans all over the world. People cannot emphasise enough about how Neve Campbell has brought the entity of the franchise to live. The last time that Campbell was present in a Scream movie was last year’s, Scream five. Although her appearance was brief, that is what fans most adore about Scream, the sense of familiarity every time someone watches the movie, hears the soundtrack or even mentions a character.
As much as people will miss Sidney, fans believe that Neve is right in making that decision. They also believe that there is no Scream without Sidney as she is the essence of the movie, that was Neve Campbell is not going to be a part of the terrifying story. The certainty is that Campbell has dedicated a huge part of her career to that franchise, always making sure to return, listening to the fans opinions and most importantly, playing one of the most unforgettable characters in cinematic history.