The pre-Scream 2022 debate makes no sense, and I’m tired of pretending it does.
We’re starting 2022 off strong with the release of the new Scream movie this weekend. Because our opening night experience for Halloween Kills was so disastrous (my first rule for a horror movie: shut the fuck up in the theater), we will not be seeing it until the Saturday matinee. As such I’ve decided to celebrate today by weighing in on the topic everyone has decided to pounce on during their personal Scream-a-thons this week: Randy versus Kirby. Who would you save? Who should survive? Who do you like better?
And after some thought, I have one question: wut? In a franchise that challenges so many characters with the oft-quoted query “What’s your favorite scary movie?” why are we comparing the deaths of two characters whose only true commonality is their love of horror movies?
Comparing Randy to Kirby is comparing apples to oranges, Sidney to Dewey, Black Christmas 1974 to 2006 to 2019, my well-worn Doc-knockoffs to a pair of sassy little black pumps. We can debate our favorite and least favorite of the two, but they serve entirely different purposes. It’s the same as comparing any two deaths in the franchise. And m a y b e that is what is happening for a majority of the folks weighing in on the subject. But so many of the arguments I’ve seen are comparing the two as though they are equivalent characters (e.g. calling Kirby a Randy clone), so while the great Randy v Kirby debate has opened up a lot of discussion about what we do and do not like in a character (or horror fan (or ourselves)) in general, a direct comparison is not fair, accurate, or adequate.
The comparison makes sense at first glance, because they are both characters that are very vocal about not only their love of horror movies, but their extensive knowledge of the genre. Where most people seem to be drawing the line between the two is that while Kirby is willing to talk to anyone about spooky cinema, Randy is always talking at people. Think back to the climactic party in 1996, when Randy sits a group of his peers down to watch Halloween during a party. (I mean, I’ve been there so I’m not going to fully judge him, but it wasn’t a group decision.) He then pauses the movie to lecture in his infamous Rules of Horror monologue. Again, I fully love this scene. It is iconic. But you have to admit he’d be exhausting to be around for any extended length of time.
More importantly, this scene IS Randy’s purpose – he is setup guy. He’s letting us know what to expect, gearing us up for the big finale. Think back to Crazy Ralph telling Annie about Camp Blood: boom, setup for what happens in the finale. Or, god help me, Loomis warning everyone that Michael can and will go on an unstoppable killing spree. And what does ol’ Mikey do? But since this is a meta-commentary on horror, the setup is completely, overtly self-aware. It pokes fun at all the horror tropes while letting us know we’d still follow them… with a twist. Not only do we see the consequences of breaking these rules, but as the designated harbinger Randy is not taken seriously even though he ends up being completely right. He goes on to give us this Very Simple Formula again and again in parts 2 and 3, with the sequel and trilogy rules respectively.
Who gives us the rules for a “scream-make” or “shriek-quel” in Scream 4? Not Kirby. In the ongoing debate everyone seems to forget about Woodsboro High Film Club’s president: Robbie Mercer. You know, the guy with a camera strapped to his head that forces everyone to talk about horror on his terms? The guy who makes his love of film his entire identity? The guy who goes to parties but seems to not really love the whole “party” thing? The guy who dies while spouting off the rules of horror?
This is where I keep getting stuck on the topic. But the Randy-Kirby comparison bothers me for another reason as well. Whether intentional or not (and I really, truly believe it is unintentional), there is an undercurrent of misogyny to this notion. Because beyond suggesting that Kirby is Randy 2.0, several people suggested that Randy actually paved the way for Kirby. Randy is abrasive, a bit socially inept, and bases his sense of self around his love of cinema (no judgment from the co-owner of a horror site, just making a point). He works at the video rental store (a few times) and begins studying film theory as an undergraduate student. And while there are other layers to his character, he pushes the film buff thing to the foreground.
Kirby is a character that happens to love horror. It’s a hobby, it’s an interest, it’s a connection point for her to other people, but it is not the only way she relates to other people. And I probably would make the argument that this is a maturation of the Randy character if it were not for Robbie. Because Robbie shares the rules of horror, Robbie’s only point of connection to other people is talking about movies, and Robbie runs the film club and annual Stab-a-thon. It feels patronizing, like the expectation is that a woman who is a fan of anything cannot and should not be aspirational. She has an interest: good for you hun! That’s more than enough. And I am not saying that they should have made Kirby’s entire identity her love of horror – in fact I think it is important that they don’t because it allows her space to have other interests and become a much more dynamic and nuanced character. I think it’s awesome that she has such a breadth and depth of knowledge without making it her only personality trait. But from the current online discourse, it just feels like there is a bit of a double standard or lowered expectations here based on gendered lines. Almost like the opposite of the “fake gamer girl” or “Oh yea? Name 3 songs by [band shirt that you’re wearing]” phenomena. Like, fuck, let women like stuff the same as men.
However, I do believe Kirby is a scream-make/shriek-quel parallel of a character from the 1996 original, one Tatum Riley. If Jill is the new Sid, then it tracks that either Kirby or Olivia would be the new Tatum; it isn’t just Olivia’s early-ish out that clinches it for Kirby. They both take no shit from anyone – including Dewey (see: Kirby nearly crashing into him at the beginning). They’re both fiercely protective of their besties (Tatum brushing off Gale, Kirby brushing off Trevor). Each refers to The Voice as “Mr. Ghostface.” Where do they find themselves at the climaxes of their movies? At the only-youth-feel-this-invincible curfew busting parties. They both hook up with the sidekick killers. Kirby is imbued with this horror knowledge as a play on the meta-commentary that this new entry in a franchise has to be stronger, smarter, and bigger. What makes the new Tatum the new Tatum? Knowledge of exactly what is going to happen to her, so she can fight it off with her knowledge and her I-can’t-be-bothered-with-this attitude, whereas Tatum fought her best fight with the latter only.
There are a lot of reasons why I prefer Kirby over Randy and would rather her appear in multiple sequels, and I am willing to make space for the people that prefer Randy to Kirby. But let’s not pretend that this conversation makes any actual sense if we don’t start comparing every character against each other.
Wait, should we do a Scream franchise death bracket?