Warning: Major Scream (2022) spoilers ahead.
Nobody is doing enemies to lovers quite like Sidney Prescott and Gale Weathers, and that’s one of our favorite things about Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox’s iconic roles in the Scream franchise. If you ask anyone about the Scream movies, they’ll say they’re slashers. Maybe they’ll tell you the collection of horror movies is a comedy, or a meta look at the horror genre as a whole. What might not automatically come to mind, though it’s there in a heartbreakingly beautiful sort of way, is how putting all the films together creates the narrative of an unlikely friendship, born out of so much blood and death.
It’s striking how far Sidney Prescott and Gale Weathers have come in 25 years. When we first met them in Scream (1996), Sid was a high school girl, grieving a mother who’d been raped and murdered. Gale was an ambitious, up-and-coming reporter who’d had a theory all along that Cotton Weary, the man who’d been convicted of those crimes but always maintained his innocence, had been wrongfully convicted.
As we later learned, Gale was right. But that part, at least in the characters’ original interactions, wasn’t exactly important. For Sidney, Gale was the enemy. The trashy tabloid “journalist” was hell bent on seeking fame and fortune at the expense of Sid’s reputation and her dead mother’s, and she was not to be trusted as a result. To be perfectly honest, the enmity in the first Scream was, quite frankly, delicious to watch at the time. It still is.
Very few moments hit (pun not originally intended, but we’re going with it anyway) quite like Sid punching Gale in the face after that “I’ll send you a copy” moment outside the jail. And truly, all the toughness Sidney shows throughout the whole ordeal, standing up to the rabid, bitchy reporter and sticking to her truth, is admirable for someone her age. Even at this early stage in our Final Girl’s history, she has already been through—and is going through—so much.
Sidney and Gale’s slow, bloody path to progress
But something happens after Sidney Prescott’s “Superbitch” moment, as Tatum put it: She and Gale Weathers survive.
“I’ve got an ending for you. The reporter, left for dead in the news van? Comes to, stumbles on you two dipshits, finds the gun, foils your plan, and saves the day.”
“I like that ending.”
By the end of the first movie, there’s something approaching mutual respect. Admittedly, it’s grudging. There’s still an element of mistrust, but Gale and Sidney save each other’s lives in Scream, and that counts for something.
…until it (temporarily) doesn’t.
We don’t know everything that happens between the time Sidney Prescott officially becomes Scream‘s Final Girl and the time the next pair of Ghostface killers start picking off bodies at Windsor College, but we do know enough: Gale Weathers’ career took off, with the Stab movie and her literally writing the book on the Woodsboro murders. Her success was, yet again, built on the back of Sid’s trauma and completely unwelcome, given that Campbell’s leading lady was just trying to move on with her life.
Having survived the same horrors together, Gale and Sidney could have instantly been brought closer together…But it’s obvious in their first interaction in Scream 2 that Sidney feels betrayed by Gale, that they’ve nearly been set back to square one.
Sid’s immediately put on the defense when Gale arrives on campus…and then, when it’s apparent all she wants is an exclusive, Sidney’s right back to hating her. She goes so far as to call Gale Weathers a bitch, then bitchslap her…And, again, it’s another great moment…but it’s not Sidney Prescott and Gale Weathers’ whole story in the Scream franchise. It’s not even the whole story in Scream 2 itself.
After all, by the end of the film, Sidney and Gale are standing side-by-side, yet again, as they defeat this year’s Ghostface. It is a choice to show them this way, bloodied but not broken, as they discuss whether or not Mrs. Loomis will come back (the killers always do, you know). After initially thinking, for the briefest of moments that Gale Weathers could possibly have been the killer, Sidney Prescott doesn’t hesitate to hand her the extra gun when asked.
And it’s a perfect moment (one of many in Scream 2) as both women turn, in unison, to aim fire at Mickey when it turns out to be him, not Billy’s mom, who comes back after being left for dead. But there’s still some tension there, with moments here and there of Cotton Weary still standing, quite literally, between them.
…the concluding chapter of a trilogy and more
The tide starts to turn with Scream 3. Sidney asks Dewey if “she” (meaning Gale) is ok. And when they come face to face for the first time since Windsor, the old lack of trust is all but gone. Sidney Prescott is nothing if not genuine, so despite her initial hug with Gale Weathers being somewhat awkward here, her “I’m glad you’re alright” is real.
The end of the originally-planned trilogy is the first time we see any aftermath of the attacks that isn’t all about publicity and reporters. Instead, it’s just a group of people who care about each other, gathering at Sidney Prescott’s home—the one that was hidden, a sanctuary where she tried to escape it all but realized she couldn’t. And Gale Weathers is there, in Sidney’s safe place.
It’s even where Dewey’s proposal to happens. That’s important. Sidney’s home, Sidney’s place of healing is also the setting for the height of Gale’s love story…before, of course, it all goes sour.
Scream 4 sees a happy reunion, but it’s still somewhat cautious, even after all the progress made in the third film. Gale attends Sidney’s book reading, but she lingers in the back. Courteney Cox makes a definite choice in her character’s body language, in her facial expressions as she hears Sid reading her memoir. It’s not quite jealousy—there’s no doubt that she means what she says when she congratulates Sidney later in the same scene—but there’s something resembling regret. The possibilities of what that’s supposed to mean are endless.
And, of course, there’s also that quip about how Gale has yet to read the book in question…That’s our girl, though: a little bit bitchy, as always.
But compare the Scream 4 hug to the Scream 3 one. And yeah, these two women have grown up quite a lot. It’s obvious they haven’t kept in touch as much as they maybe should have, given all they’ve been through together. But then again, people grow apart. Especially when the thing that made them grow together is too horrible to wrap our minds around.
But time apart doesn’t matter, when it’s someone you care about, someone who’s become a key figure in your life. As they always do, they save each other’s lives, together with Dewey.
Oh, Dewey. Let’s take a moment to mourn…
…and that brings us to the soul-crushing moment in Scream (2022) that brings the franchise’s Final Girls their latest horror-driven need to kick some ass.
2022: Sidney Prescott and Gale Weathers, together
Even after just having sworn she’d never step foot back in Woodsboro, when Sidney gets the news about Dewey’s death, she shows up. Yeah, she’s there to mourn someone who’s stood by her and protected her for decades—her dead best friend’s goofy older brother.
But Sidney Prescott also shows up for Gale Weathers.
It is unmistakable, with the way they cling to one another in their shared grief, just how far they’ve come. Gale Weathers was originally characterized as cutthroat, cold, uncaring. Pick a negative adjective…Not only was she depicted that way for the sin of being a woman looking to claw her way to the top in a male-dominated world, but more importantly, Sidney Prescott thought all of those things about her at one point or another because of the way Gale had covered her mom’s murder.
Over time, and through shared trauma and grief, as Scream forced them to hold each other’s lives in the balance again and again, Sidney learned better. We learned better. And in the end, after the greatest, deepest hurt for Gale—once Dewey, the one who held them together even when they were otherwise at odds was gone—it was just Sidney Prescott and Gale Weathers. Two sides of the same “strong female character” coin, having already defied everything about that trope or any other Final Girl cliche.
It was just them, standing side-by-side against yet another Ghostface. It was just their love and support for one another, their friendship, (and yeah, their total state of being sick of this shit, too) standing between Scream (2022)’s latest pair of killers and success. They decided to end this thing together. Instead of just happening to be thrown together against the bloodbath, as had been the case back in 1996, they chose to stay. They decided where and when to fight, with Sidney lifting Gale up the way that maybe she’d wished someone had done for her teenage self after her own indescribable loss.
“You know how they say ‘don’t fuck with the original’? We’re the original.”
Gale brings back Sidney’s number one rule of remakes from Scream 4. She was listening just over a decade ago. And, more importantly, she remembers. In Scream (2022), Gale is very clear: She and Sid are a package deal. They’re in this together. And they are not to be fucked with. It’s no longer “not in my movie” because it’s both of them as a team. They are going to end this, once and for all.
This time, Gale didn’t have to ask Sidney for a gun like she did in Scream 2; Sid came prepared. And, after so many years of learning from the best—learning from each other—Sidney Prescott had picked up on some of Gale Weathers’ old tricks, impressing her when she put a tracker on Sam’s phone. There’s so much more we can talk about here, like the way the two grasped hands after their attack outside Stu Macher’s house, thinking they’d seen each other for the last time, as Gale was willing to give up the glory, to give up even having someone there by her side as she might die, so Sid could go finish it like they’d sworn to do.
But they both survived. Together. As they do.
So much can be said about the way Scream (2022) turns the first film’s final reveal on its head, all while exhibiting so many parallels of it. But what will always stand out for me is how far Sidney Prescott and Gale Weathers have come, how their teamwork for the entire second half of this film—but especially in that last, vicious showdown—is so much stronger now that they’ve truly gone on this whole journey together.
“This one’s yours.”
If the last image we ever see of Sidney Prescott and Gale Weathers is that of them leaning on one another and deciding, in the back of an ambulance, that it’s time to honor Dewey and “let those fuckers die in anonymity,” it will remain a favorite forever. (It probably will anyway.) Most people wouldn’t look at a slasher and think, “wow, that has such a great example of female friendship, of women supporting women,” especially after how toxic this relationship originally was. But that’s what it means for a franchise to defy everything that came before it, and for two phenomenal actors like Campbell and Cox to send us on a journey—to show us, even in silent communication, just how in-tune their characters have become.
Scream‘s legacy is difficult to put into words, especially so soon after seeing how the fifth piece of the puzzle pulls it all together. (Not to mention, if there’s more, who knows what we’ll see next?) But having grown up right alongside Sidney Prescott and Gale Weathers, I’ll certainly always be able to look back on it, to think about how it showed us some of the best bonds are forged where we least expect them to be. And just as we know the rules of surviving a horror movie are meant to be broken, so too are old adages about first impressions. Because sometimes, believing in our first impressions are just as bad as going outside to investigate a strange noise or something, just as fatal a flaw as saying, “I’ll be right back.”
Just once in a while, the person you thought was your enemy will be exactly the one you need, and eventually want, by your side when it all goes to hell.