I Am Laurie Strode: Trauma Touches Us All

Halloween was one of the most eagerly anticipated films of 2018. A direct sequel to the original 1978 film, it continues the story of Laurie Strode 40 years after her attack at the hands of Michael Myers. The announcement that Jaime Lee Curtis would be reprising her role only added to the excitement. The new sequel effectively hits all the nostalgic notes of the original classic while taking the story in a new and terrifying direction. But I was most affected by the story of a woman dealing with the effects of trauma and PTSD and how that trauma affects the lives of those around her. We see that Laurie’s fear of the boogeyman has shaped every aspect of her life. She lives in a survivalist fortress shutting everyone out but her immediate family. She has destroyed marriages and relationships, lost custody of her daughter, and essentially given her life over to the need to regain the sense of control that she lost in the initial attack. Halloween of ‘78 was the day her innocence was shattered, and she learned that the world can be cruel. She has taken that knowledge and run with it to the extreme. 

I also suffer from PTSD. I was in an abusive relationship for three years and the effects of prolonged exposure to violence have taken its toll on me. My first husband became my own personal boogeyman, and instead of building a fortress around my house, I built one around my heart. I’m remarried to a wonderful man and he is patient and supportive, but he has been living with the effects of this trauma as well. As have my kids. It took me a long time to seek help because it can be really hard and scary to admit that you need it. I’m still dealing with that fear and constantly find myself diminishing the trauma because that feels safer than digging into the actual issues. I am currently getting help, and it is helping. It’s hard, but it’s not as hard as I thought it was going to be.

At one point, Laurie’s daughter Karen asks her to get help and says that she is no longer welcome in her house. We learn that Laurie raised Karen as a survivalist and that the effects of that upbringing have caused Karen to suffer from daily paranoia. It would be easy for us to judge Karen for not wanting to deal with her mother anymore. But I can see where Karen is coming from. It can be hard to live with that kind of trauma and projection on a daily basis. The primary victim is suffering, but left untreated, the effects of trauma can wreak havoc on the lives of caregivers as well creating secondary victims. I can understand Karen wanting to move forward with her life. 

We see another version of Laurie in Halloween H2O. This time 20 years later, but the PTSD she suffers from is the same as is the effects on her son John. She has faked her death and now lives in fear that Michael will return for her. H20’s conclusion shows her begin to take her power back in a different way. This version of Laurie has spent 20 years running, but when she is offered the chance to escape she takes the narrative into her own hands. What I like about this version of Laurie’s story is that her weapon of choice is an ax, not Michael’s trademark knife. She turns and confronts Michael but on her own terms. 

The new iteration of Lauria has spent the last 40 years preparing for this confrontation. Knowing Michael was in prison, she’s spent her life waiting for the day that he might escape. Throughout the movie, we see several reversals of iconic shots showing us that Laurie is no longer the victim, she has become the killer. Through her extensive planning, we learn that she has been in control of the narrative all along. We also learn that Laurie has been training and preparing Karen. She has used her own experiences as a lone survivor to empower the next generation to fight back together. She is no longer a Final Girl. She is creating a Matriarchy. While it is empowering to some extent, it’s also troubling. Laurie has chosen to stop being a victim, but she’s taken it a step further. She’s essentially become Michael. She has not taken charge of her own narrative, she’s replaced Michael in his. 

After my first marriage ended, I had a lot of anger. I started to mimic some of the behaviors of my first husband because that’s what I thought power was, and I desperately wanted to get it back. But by doing this, I damaged several relationships, both romantic and platonic. An important turning point for me was when I realized that I will most likely never get revenge or justice or even have a confrontation with my first husband and that I have to be ok with that. And I am. Partly because I’m still afraid of him. And partly because I don’t think it will give me the closure I need. Truly gaining my power back means taking my life in the direction I want it to go. I don’t want to live in the shadow of my first husband the way Laurie lives in Michael’s. What happened to me doesn’t have to define the rest of my life. I don’t want to become him. I don’t want to live his life, I want to live my own. I hope the upcoming films will give Laurie an opportunity to start living again. She will never be able to take back what she lost in 1978. She has been forever changed, but the real power she’s seeking is the ability to overcome and let go.

I belong to a generation of women who have grown up watching Laurie. Through the years, I have been with her as she learns from her experiences, chooses to empower herself, and helps to turn the next generation of women (including me) into fighters. She will use her experiences to keep others from suffering the way she did. Laurie’s granddaughter Allyson offers us a glimpse of what the next Final Girls will be. Women who may be afraid but can rest in the knowledge that they are not alone. That others have survived so maybe they will too. I lost a lot of power in my first marriage, and I’m still dealing with the weight of that. But I can’t get that power back. The moment has passed, and it’s gone. Any power I reclaim will be over someone else making me the victimizer rather than the victim. That power is gone forever. And I don’t want it back. I don’t want to trap him. I don’t want revenge. I just want to be free. And I want the same for Laurie.

Jenn Adams