Tobe Hooper’s 1974 film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remains a seriously disturbing horror classic. There’s just something terrifying about the movie’s spooky, desperate nihilism and the way the villains pervert the traditional nuclear family. Honestly, I still get a bit uncomfortable thinking about that incredibly screwed up dinner scene.
Of course, the star of the pic is Leatherface, of lump-hammer bashing and chainsaw-wielding fame. The character’s one of horror’s enduringly iconic villains, but could we’ve been reading him wrong all this time? Could he, in fact, be a she?
That’s the fan theory going around online at the moment, which argues that the character behaves a lot like a traditional 1970s housewife. After all, we see ‘her’ preparing the family’s food, we can assume that ‘she’s’ in charge of the house’s grisly decor and we see ‘her’ applying lipstick and blusher to her insanely freaky mask later in the movie. It’s an interesting theory and, honestly, it’d be kind of neat if one of the founding fathers of horror movie monsters turned out to be a woman all along.
Unfortunately, this theory’s pretty comprehensively shot down by Tobe Hooper himself in the DVD commentary. If you’ve listened to it, he explains that Leatherface has feminine qualities because he’s pantomiming the absent family members – namely, the wife and mother. It makes sense given that the monstrous family are essentially cargo culting their way to normalcy, going through the motions of what would ordinarily be wholesome and twisting it practically beyond recognition.
Even though the 1974 movie’s Leatherface is a guy, the filmmakers of last year’s prequel Leatherface (which was a bit crap) seriously considered making him a woman, saying:
“Yeah, we thought about making Leatherface a female. We loved that idea that the audience could think that even her [Jessica Madsen’s character] could be the boogeyman in the end in people’s mind, And it wasn’t a so crazy idea to have regarding the passion Leatherface had for dresses and makeup in the previous movies.”
So, while this Texas Chainsaw Massacre theory might not go anywhere, it still raises a number of interesting questions about the character.