Steven's Halloween Ballyhoo: The Philosophy of Friday the 13th (or "It starts with The Mother")

Steven's Halloween Ballyhoo: The Philosophy of Friday the 13th (or "It starts with The Mother")

(This article was written for an abandoned blog site idea in 2015. I think it’s brilliant and I wanted it to be read by more than 2 1/2 people, so I’m using it to kick off Steven’s Halloween Ballyhoo!)

“His name was Jason… and today is his Birthday”

In my life, and in the lives of many, Friday the 13th has played a major part not only as entertainment but as a set of ideas all its own. Throughout my life, I have seen this movie often derided as another “horror movie piece of trash.” But, like any piece of art, it is rich with details and concepts to be analyzed.

In my twenty-three years on this earth I have seen this movie more than fifteen times, and the final scene more than fifty. The movie has gained the love and respect of millions of fans, but few appreciate it as a philosophic work of art and a brilliant portrait of parental and judicial ethics. Having a firm philosophy of life means that even the most minute details of art have significance, to the trained eye and mind.

While I am not a “philosopher” in the professional or academic sense of the word, I consider myself a “Life” philosopher, meaning I apply a specific philosophy to every part of my life, a philosophy you will see laid out in these blog posts in the coming months and years. These essays are not meant to be all-encompassing or “definitive.” They are a small glance into the world and the ideas that construct it.

Looking at Friday the 13th under the microscope of a philosopher, many would disregard it as “fluff.” And, in all honesty, a lot of it is. Most of the acting amateurish, the sequels get increasingly worse as the years go on (can we all agree that the eighth sequel, Jason Takes Manhattan, was a terrible idea?) and the series gets entirely too watered down with the addition of Jason Voorhees as the killer.

But, as many of you may recall, Jason is not the killer in the original movie, which premiered in 1980 (two years after its birth-mother Halloween, starring Jamie Lee Curtis.) The killer in the original movie is his “deranged” mother, Pamela (who is introduced as Mrs. Voorhees.) The basic premise of the movie is a summer camp, Camp Crystal Lake, is about to reopen after years of neglect, the camp having been shut down after the death of two counselors in the mid-fifties and several failed re-openings years later, all barred by mysterious occurrences. As the camp prepares to open again, as a camp for “inner city kids”, each of the new counselors is picked off by an unknown assailant and killed viciously. At the end of the movie, one female counselor Alice, is left alive to face the killer, Mrs. Voorhees. Voorhees explains that her reason for killing them is because the counselors when she was working at the camp as a cook let her son drown because they were off “making love” while her son died, calling for help. Alice, of course, wasn’t even born yet, so Voorhees anger is psychopathic and misplaced, to be certain. Alice ends Mrs. Voorhees reign of terror by decapitated the middle-aged woman with a machete.

With that exposition out of the way, I’d like to talk about the motives of Mrs. Voorhees. Why would a normally sane woman turn on the world in this way, simply because her son died? Plenty of children die every day and their parents don’t kill every person involved with the organizations their children are affiliated with.

The answer is that Jason was his mother’s whole life. Her husband, we later find out, was killed by his wife at the behest of the unborn son inside her stomach. Jason was his mother’s reason for life and her guiding life, and her only child. When Jason died, he took a bit of his mother’s soul along for the ride.

But the big question is: Was Mrs. Voorhees philosophically and ethically justified for murder? In the philosophy of life I ascribe to, violence is only justified in self-defense. If your life is threatened by the force of others, only then can you retaliate to protect your own life.

But looking at the situation using my own understanding of the ethics I believe, the ethics of rational selfishness (described by Ayn Rand as acting in your own interests, “neither sacrificing your self for others nor others for yourself”), the situation becomes harder to analyze. Mrs. Voorhees’ feels she is justified in killing the counselors because of the past counselors ignoring her son and allowing him to die: She is avenging her son’s death. Jason was her highest value in life, her reason for living and her shining star. Yes, Mrs. Voorhees technically “sacrificed” the lives of the counselors to meet the demands of her vengeance, but it was only because she was upholding the single most important ideal in her life: her son. “Does her son’s death justify her killing the counselors?” is the real root of this issue. Does the death of an ideal allow the one who holds that ideal to take the life of several others?

I believe so. Our ideals are the greatest single things we hold dear, our reasons for living. In Mrs. Voorhees’ mind, her son’s death was the death of an ideal. It was not a natural death, it was a death resulting from the lack of order in an organization. In an ideal world, she could have sued the Christies, the owners of Camp Crystal Lake, but in the era she lived in, Mrs. Voorhees did not hold the right to sue for her rights. She was a cook at the camp and nothing more. So, since the world wasn’t able to compensate or even apologize for the death of her ideal, she allowed herself to take the reins. The current counselors, the moment the signed on as counselors, became employees of the organization at fault, and thus became fruit of the tainted tree. They were innocent, but they were collateral damage of an issue that was not resolved. All of them had known the death of the counselors in the past and of Jason, it can be assumed. They knew the kind of man Steve Christy, the son of the former owners, was (Mrs. Voorhees obtained her ultimate vindication by killing him, as she does before the climax of the film.) Christy knew his parents were at fault for the mistakes of the camp in the past, but he insisted on continuing the follies of the past. Mrs. Voorhees came into the picture to stop that from happening and she almost succeeded at her goal.

Was murder the ideal mode of Mrs. Voorhees upholding of her ideals? No. In fact, she was not successful in avenging her son because, as soon as she is about to kill Alice, she is stunned and her own machete is used to decapitate her. The universe was never going to let her finish out her plan, because society has always favored the victims. The trial of Mrs. Voorhees was always in favor of the victims, the ones who knew what depravity they condoned. The victims wrote the script for the end Mrs. Voorhees met. Victims never know true ideals, they only know mind-altering escapism. We see the counselors having sex, smoking pot, stripping, swearing and murdering animals. We know what kind of ideals they hold, those of depravity and destruction of the mind. Mrs. Voorhees is the only entirely lucid person we see in the movie, because even Steve Christy is obsessed with getting the camp open, continuing the “sins” of his parents. Even the police are shown as bumbling idiots, unable to even keep control of the town drunk. Mrs. Voorhees set out that night, as she had when she murdered the counselors in the past, with a firm goal. And she almost succeeded, were it not for one counselor who refused to allow the grieving woman the avenging of her own ideal.

In conclusion, the Philosophy of Friday the 13th is one of a woman’s ideals in a world where her ideals are constantly marginalized and destroyed. She took her life into her own hands, as she always had, and tried to uphold her greatest ideal and was killed in the process. Later, Jason would turn out to be alive and try to avenge his mother’s death in the same way she tried to avenge him. The ideals of mother and son would live on in that immortal beast.

And continue to do so, even on this Friday the 13th.

“Jason was my son, and today is his birthday.”

I was recently quoted in an article in The Washington Post from an article I wrote about Donald Trump’s appropriation of Operatic music at his campaign rallies. Please give it a read!

I invite you to visit my new website,! I’m very proud of my new creation and would love to hear your feedback about it.

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