A Nightmare on A-hole Street

So I just watched every NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET film back to back and all I have to say (besides what happened to my life?) is...

all the adult residents of Springwood, Ohio are A-holes!

No, it's not because they formed a vigilante mob and burned a man alive, it's not their fault the American judicial system is a joke, and no, it's not because they kept it a secret, nobody likes a braggart. It's because every single second of every day they go out of their way to act as loathsome, nasty and obnoxious as humanly possible. Not for one second do they seem capable of behaving like non-A-holes.

You have to love it, is there any other horror series that exploits the chasm between teenagers and adults as proudly and as prominently as N.O.E.S.?

All of Springfield's adults are horrible. They are what the teens fear becoming: hypocrites, sell-outs, drunken floosies and cold insensitive jerks. The teens depicted seem just as scared of transforming into their parents as they are of being slashed by Freddy the dream demon. No wonder Krueger was able to slip into the role of antihero. He may be a murderous douche but at least he had a purpose and wasn't a soulless cog. (Not only did Freddy have a soul, he collected surplus souls like trading cards.)

I used to think that Freddy Krueger was a personification of the adult residents of Springwood's past mistakes, mistakes that their children must now account for. But "Screw your pass!" as Nancy would say, the adults have more to answer for than just their treatment of Freddy and their amoral behavior is obviously current and ongoing.

The "Mom and Dad just don't understand" bit has been around in horror at least since THE BLOB (1958) but the popular slasher series that predate N.O.E.S. had little interest in it. HALLOWEEN shows adults as ineffectual but still good-natured and the FRIDAY THE 13TH series presented them as, for the most part, the clean up crew after the slaughter. Sure F13's Pam Voorhees was an adult but she was not an established authority figure and the prophets of doom like "Crazy Ralph" had their heart in the right place. Pam Voorhees, like Freddy, at least had a reason to be pissed off, the adult denizens of Springfield have no real excuse for sneering and hissing like Batman villains whenever they get a moment of screen time.

(NOTE: Post N.O.E.S. both other series mentioned adopted the adult as A-hole trope, perhaps to play keep up (F13: PART 7's evil shrink and PART 8's slimy principal/uncle for example or HALLOWEEN 6's abusive Strode patriarch).

"You face things, that's your nature, that's your gift but sometimes you have to turn away too."- Marge Thompson (RONEE BLAKLEY)

The mold was built in the very first NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Nancy's mom is a lush and her father is an aloof promise breaker. They're not as diabolical as the parents to come but they are presented as people who, rather than conquer problems, bury and ignore them. Adulthood is shown as an almost zombie-like state of being where desires (dreams) are neatly tucked away and morality is an unaffordable luxury.

"Morality sucks."- Glen Lantz (JOHNNY DEPP)

"Whatever you do, don't fall asleep!" Nancy Thompson (HEATHER LANGENCAMP)

Sleep is the enemy on Elm Street, that's when you become susceptible to the monster your parents built. We all know there's a time period in every teens life in which they learn to begin to question the world around them and how it functions. People tend to make light of it and it's considered idealistic folly that won't last very long. Eventually the teen will have to buckle down, forget such romantic notions and pull their weight. Eventually they'll give into their culture's will. Eventually they'll "grow up."

"I look twenty years old!"- Nancy Thompson (HEATHER LANGENCAMP)

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET was released in November of 1984, a renaissance period for teens in American film. Less than three months later JOHN HUGHES' THE BREAKFAST CLUB would hit screens carrying the line "When you grow up your heart dies." I won't pretend to know what's in the hearts and minds of teenagers these days but it does scare me to think that they may be running toward rather than away from the adult "sleep" that beckons them. Trust me kids, you don't have to hurry to catch up with that bus, another one will be around to pick you up soon enough...

In the original N.O.E.S., sheep can be heard baying on the soundtrack and seen roaming in Freddy's boiler room. We count sheep to go to sleep but sheep are also known for their docility and the ease of which they are herded to follow.

It's easy to mistake the film's first kill to be part of the "sex kills" finger wagging that slasher films are often wrongly accused of. In Tina's (AMANDA WYSS) case though, her death can be seen as retribution for falling not far enough away from the tree. In a brief earlier scene director WES CRAVEN has written a bathroom wall's worth of derogatory implications about Tina's Mom. Ultimately though personal behavior has little to do with your outcome on Elm Street. If you're an Elm Street kid, your parents signed you up for this hell ride years ago.

Freddy is a bad, bad man, I'm not trying to discount that but it's important to remember who created him. Ironically, in the Springwood we're shown throughout the series he does not seem to be the only adult with the goal of destroying children (or childhood) on his to-do list. As the series progresses the implication that the parents we are shown are of the same mind is everywhere and the fear of old age and being forced to follow in the previous generations footsteps becomes more and more wrecking ball obvious. Check out Alice (LISA WILCOX) in NOES Part 4: THE DREAM MASTER...

Hey, I watched all of those movies so I could review them and I totally forgot to do that so here goes: The first one is great and then they all sort of get progressively worse except PART 3: THE DREAM WARRIORS which might be even better than the first one. How's that?

I have to admit I still enjoy the entire series but they don't all hold up exceptionally well (or maybe I'm just getting old.) It's still a massively creative franchise and I feel like I've finally found the ace it had hidden up its sleeve all this time. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET plays on a teenager's rightful fear of loosing their vitality and optimism, of becoming callous and dispassionate and a weak, fearful member of the herd. Come to think of it maybe that's a fear we should all, at any age, keep firmly in our grip. Maybe we should hold on to that fear with a razor sharp metal glove if we have to...

WAIT: I'm not done yet! I present you with a rogue's gallery of Springwood's awful adults. Thanks go to the ageless Aunt John for my title:


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aunt john
13 years ago

For the record, I love me some Nancy's Mom!

Pax Romano
13 years ago

Excellent post.
And I am with Aunt John; Nancy's Mom had it going on!/

Amanda By Night
13 years ago

I like the lead girl's parents from Nightmare 2. They let those kids PAR-TAE (and of course had their own party in the meantime). I guess there was one or two good guys (namely Craig Wasson in 3 and that's all I can think of), but yeah, those adults stunk!

I actually marathoned 2 – 5 (yeah, I know, why those?) and I still think part 3 is effen brilliant.

13 years ago

I remember watching FREDDY VS JASON with a friend of mine who claimed it was the literal personification of all teen angst movies because of the theme that gets stated at some point by a character who says something like (paraphrasing here) "You're keeping me prisoner here and taking away my dreams!" to her parents. The classic lament of every REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE-type story, but this time they really were prisoners in a dream research sanatorium, and their dreams were actually being taken away by a prescibed drug. Guess your artictle here just helps to back that theory.

Jeff Allard
13 years ago

Awesome post! I just watched the original NoES and it was wild to be reminded of what total shits the parents were in these movies. When they're not aggresively fucking with their kids, they're just being useless. I don't if the generational divide is as severe as it used to be  but in the Elm St. films, teenagers definitely had no choice but to fend for themselves.

13 years ago

Is that Roseanne as one of the 'Lunatic' adults? XD
I think I need to acquaint myself with this series…

13 years ago

Excellent insights, and you've probably given all this more thought than the screenwriters did who've hacked out the remake. Also adding to your theories: the syndicated FREDDY'S NIGHTMARES television series, which had several episodes where teenagers faced the horrors of adulthood.

Planet of Terror
13 years ago

A most brilliant post. A lot of stuff thematically going on throughout the films. Thanks for stringing it all together in one digestable nugget of goodness. It's amazing that Nancy survived that long in that household let alone had the chutzpah to confront Freddy.

13 years ago

this post is a buttery slice of awesome.

Brian Combe
Brian Combe
13 years ago

I remember having a long conversation about this in Edinburgh with Canadian author Geoff Ryman (much of the conversation ended up as a subplot in his award winning novel WAS…one of my few name dropping claims on someone else's fame).