Jason Voorhees: Changing the Meaning of Summer Camp
What do you think of when you see a classic hockey mask? Our bet is that the actual game of hockey doesn't come to mind. Instead, you probably imagine a supernaturally resilient serial killer exterminating summer camp counselors with extreme prejudice. Thanks to the Friday the 13th series, the hockey mask inspires visions of mass murder by a machete-wielding maniac out for revenge: the indestructible Jason Voorhees.
The first Friday the 13th killer was actually Jason's mother, Mrs. Pamela Voorhees. She was a former cook at Camp Crystal Lake and was fiercely overprotective of young Jason, whose facial deformities made him a target for bullies at the camp. When Jason vanished in the lake and seemed to have drowned, Mrs. Voorhees blamed the camp counselors for her son's apparent death, as they were at a party instead of supervising the children. After a year, she murdered two of the counselors, which led to Camp Crystal Lake being closed down and believed to be cursed. When a new group of counselors arrived ten years later to reopen the camp, Mrs. Voorhees went on a killing spree.
Jason himself was not the villain until the next film, Friday the 13th Part II, in which he avenges his mother and continues her rampage. His character had only just started to develop, with his motivations tied to his dead mother's actions and the mistreatment he'd received as a child. Other characters tried to figure him out while they struggled to survive, but Jason himself was quickly established as a silent, indomitable threat that could never be permanently destroyed.
Jason's Growing Strength
Jason has taken all kinds of gruesome injuries from the victims who fought back, yet he always survives. He gets stronger throughout the series as well, eventually becoming more (or less) than human. Although some fans would sympathize with certain aspects of his character, his creators have repeatedly stated that Jason is not meant to be sympathetic at all. The filmmakers wanted Jason to become even scarier; so he progressed from a former child victim getting revenge, to an inhuman monster with endless regeneration capabilities and superhuman strength. Jason is now a force of nature that can never be permanently defeated, no matter how many times he's injured or even completely destroyed. Fans still generally took his side when he went up against Freddy Krueger in Freddy vs. Jason, though!
Jason's immortality has been interpreted in several ways across the Friday the 13th films and other media, which include novels, comics, and video games. He has been a demon-infested entity, a cyborg, a clone, and even a Deadite from the Evil Dead series. In a way, Jason is a great character for all these different interpretations — he's completely silent and faceless, like a blank slate, suitable for any setting that needs a durable and relentless murderer. In 2020, we're going to see the release of a new Friday the 13th movie, which will doubtlessly add another interesting angle to the character.