AMC is showing just about every Friday the 13th movie this week; tonight they’re on part 3 and 4 and I’m currently watching part 3. Originally the film was released in 3-D and the cheap gags are apparent – a spear, a yo-yo, eyeballs, all flying towards the camera. Watching the film in 2-D makes the tricks even more silly and although I’ve never seen the movie in 3-D, I’m sure it’s a hoot (I know a 3-D version exists on DVD, but I’m not rushing out to pick it up).
I started thinking about Jason and the Oedipal complex, wondering if there’s any validity to my thoughts. Jason is obsessed with his mother. I remember in the second Friday the 13th film the female lead (who incidentally kind of kicks Jason’s ass around a little) imitates Mrs. Voorhees, attempting deception in order to escape his forest hideout. She asks him to knell and it’s only when Jason spots his dead mother’s decapitated head behind the imposter that he strikes. Jason is obviously still mentally adolescent, explaining the subservient posture – consenting to knell like a subject. He needs his mother; he needs her to guide him, protect him, and perform matriarchal functions.
It’s implied in the first Friday the 13th that Jason sees his mother’s beheading, providing the impetus for his kill-crazy rampage stretching across almost a dozen films by now. I’m by no means an expert when it comes to psychoanalysis or theorists like Freud, Jung, Zizek, or Lacan, but I have read a little and am familiar with a few theories. I’m wondering if Jason’s actions (i.e. killing anybody from their teens onward) are an attempt to remove an obstacle to being with his mother. Are his victim’s surrogates for his father? Is this a hyper-violent version of the Oedipal complex, exploring ideas relevant in the last half of the 20th century like latch-key kids or the change in the traditional nuclear family?
In Friday the 13th part 6 Jason demonstrates that murdering children doesn’t interest him. He enters a cabin, teeming with children, and he doesn’t harm a single one. It’s possible he intends to, but is interrupted by the heroine’s father, the sheriff of Forest Green (the name was changed from Crystal Lake following Jason’s rampage)? Friday the 13th part 4 is coming on in a few minutes and I’m going to watch until I fall asleep, but I don’t remember Jason intentionally trying to kill Corey Feldman’s character (later reprised by Return of the Living Dead’s Thom Mathews), who eventually kills Jason. Incidentally, it’s the same character (Tommy) that reanimates Jason about a decade later – assisting him is Ron Palillo (Horshack from Welcome Back, Kotter), who Jason impales with his fist.
Back to the idea of the disintegrating nuclear family or latch-key kid, Jason features a little bit of both. His father is unknown and he drowns after two teenagers are off screwing when he’s swimming in the lake. Both plot points contain characteristics of my assertion. Since his father is anonymous, I’m going to assume Jason’s a bastard child, living with a single mother who’s probably dealing with both the emotional and economic issues of her situation. Mrs. Voorhees is a cook at the campgrounds, working when Jason drowns – further cementing the latch-key kid approach. Considering her slaughtering of the camp counselors in the original Friday the 13th, she cares deeply for her child; why else would she resort to murder in retaliation for her son’s death? I’m not defending her actions, since they are quite misguided (these aren’t even the same kids balling when Jason died), but it takes a great deal of love to resort to murder to avenge her son’s demise. If Mrs. Voorhees didn’t love her son she would’ve probably moved on with her life, regarding the death of Jason as a blessing of sorts – freedom from a life sentence of being bound to a child…and a retarded child at that.
One last point I’d like to touch upon regarding the Friday the 13th films is desire and drive. Jason’s mother dies in the first film and there are about nine or ten movies that follow, all following the same pattern and demonstrating that Jason’s desires drive him. His desire: to be with his mother, impossible since she’s long dead. Lacan’s view on this regards desire as something one can never fulfill, thereby always making the drive relevant. Once one completes a task they continue on to the next and their desire is never fulfilled. This is what drives humans – an attempt to obtain something that’s unobtainable. The mental representation of “the thing,” (an object one wishes to obtain) is always different from the corporeal version, thereby making the obtainment of one’s desire impossible. This describes Jason in a nutshell: always trying to obtain what’s unobtainable, which in Jason’s case is his dead mother. Therefore, Jason’s drive to continue removing the obstacles standing between him and his mother will continue endlessly.