Writer’s Note: I am writing this prior to seeing Scream VI, as I just wanted to give one of my favorite legacy characters, and the actress behind it all, her flowers for all she’s done in the series up until this point. I don’t know if Gale lives or dies in Scream VI, so please just take this as the tribute it is, rather than any kind of indication of her character’s fate in the new Scream movie.
A long time ago, a friend of mine jokingly called me the “Lois Lane of Horror,” which was something that I was really delighted to hear. But the more I thought about it, if I was ever going to be associated with a kickass fictional journalist, I think I would be much happier being called the “Gale Weathers of Horror” than anything else. Going into the first Scream movie back in 1996, the appeal for me was Neve Campbell working with one of my very favorite directors ever, but I came away with it really loving Courteney Cox as Gale Weathers (so much so that I started watching Friends regularly because of her performance, as I was one of the few who didn’t get caught up with the frenzy when the show first debuted).
At that point in my life, journalism was something I was pursuing seriously, and had hoped that one day I’d finally be able to call myself a journalist in some capacity. And while Gale may have been presented as nothing more than a “cheesy tabloid journalist” through several of the Scream movies (but especially in the first one), there was something about the character that I truly admired and found relatable even if I never wanted to exploit the pain of others to advance my career. And I think that, deep down, Gale was similar in her ambitions even if she didn’t always go about it the right way.
The ’90s were the heyday of tabloid talk shows and sensationalist news reporting that hit a fever pitch in the wake of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman in 1994. The character of Gale Weathers was a reflection of what was happening in our culture at the time, where people’s personal tragedies were becoming more visible in the world, and there were entities and outlets out there who were willing to exploit that in the interest of “serving the public.” But you can even tell during several moments in the first Scream that Gale knows what she’s doing isn’t really what she wants to be doing, as she talks about her dream of winning a Pulitzer or laments that no one would ever take her seriously with a name like Gale Weathers to begin with.
And I think that Cox did a brilliant job of subtly infusing a character that should be unlikeable with these hints of humanity and uncertainty throughout the series, but especially in Scream (we also get a lot of it in Scream 4, but more on that later). We take delight in Sidney punching her during their confrontation outside of the police station, but at the same time, we can’t help but want Gale to get together with Dewey (David Arquette) when they take what would be an otherwise romantic walk outside of Stu Macher’s house that fateful night. There’s a duality to Gale—with most of the characters in the Scream franchise, really—that I genuinely appreciate, as it reflects the concept that our heroes or people we simply admire can still be flawed and likable, because we’re all just a little messed up, too—whether we like to admit it or not.
We watch as Gale’s career experiences highs and lows throughout both Scream 2 and 3, where she’s had her share of successes, but also those successes have come with a hefty price tag attached to them. She’s published books, she went on to work on 60 Minutes II (which would be considered far more legitimate than many of the other previous outlets that she’s worked at), and she’s become something of an expert reporter due to her coverage of the Ghostface killings over time (as evidenced by how we’re introduced to her in Scream 3). But all of this came at the expense of her relationship with Dewey, her credibility as a serious journalist, and maybe even a bit of her humanity as well (which she reflects on during her breakdown moment with Sidney in the finale of what’s now known as Scream V).
We see this come into play mainly in Scream 3, as Dewey now works in Hollywood as personal security to Jennifer Jolie (Parker Posey), and Gale is doing her own thing as a lecturer and notable figure in the world of entertainment gossip. Even though Detective Kincaid (Patrick Dempsey) reaches out to Gale because he understands and respects her expertise when it comes to Ghostface, everyone else around her is skeptical of Gale’s motives and abilities (the dig that Tom Prinze—played by Matt Keeslar—makes at Gale’s expense while at Sunrise Studios is really damn great). Eventually, Gale ends up teaming up with the “other Gale”—Jennifer—and watching the two of them in action together in Scream 3 is a bright spot in the sequel as both Cox and Posey have an infectious chemistry you can’t help but be enamored by, regardless of your feelings on the movie (just an aside, but if we went ahead and decided to retire the jokes surrounding Courteney’s bangs in Scream 3, that would be great because it’s just such a tired joke at this point—oh, and stay off my lawn, too!).
But watching Gale and Jennifer take matters into their own hands is just one of the many aspects to Scream 3 that I truly love, especially since it’s two determined women who take control over the situation as best as they can and try to get some answers to the mystery that is Ghostface’s identity this time around. Beyond that, I’m also a huge fan of Dewey’s proposal at the end of Scream 3, too. It’s a sweet moment for both characters, but I also think it tells you a bit about where Gale is at that moment, as you can tell she’s uncomfortable with Dewey putting any kind of focus on her book, The Woodsboro Murders, at this point in their lives for a variety of reasons. But Dewey turns this negative into a positive by putting Gale’s engagement ring in the book, a visual representation of the evolution of their relationship throughout those years. And it’s true that Gale’s ambition can sometimes be her worst enemy in the Scream movies, but Cox’s character always seems to have these “a-ha” moments when she comes to realize what really matters most.
The time when I probably related the most to Gale in the entire Scream series was in Scream IV, where Gale is at something of a crossroads in her life, both professionally and personally. She’s struggling in trying to figure out what to write, which is just like being stuck in your own personal hell when you are a creative person (I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been in that state myself, especially in the last year or so). But Gale’s frustrations with where she’s at as a writer are understandable and relatable in Scream IV, especially in the wake of Sidney’s book coming out and being so well-received (we see Sid doing an interview at a seemingly reputable outlet early on in the sequel).
There’s also a clear division between Gale and Dewey in this entry, where he’s shutting her out of parts of his life that she previously could be a part of, simply because of his role as the sheriff of the community of Woodsboro at this point. And even though she’s very much still a part of things in Scream IV, Gale is isolated in this story in ways we’ve never seen her character have to contend with before. It’s that detachment from everyone else (plus her ambition) that nearly costs Gale her life when she decides to crash the Stab-A-Thon and ends up tussling with Ghostface for her efforts. But for a character that’s always been a bit bigger than everyone else around her, I really appreciate the way Gale feels much more grounded in Scream IV than she had been in the previous films.
Even though Gale is very much a supporting character in Scream (2022), that doesn’t mean Cox doesn’t get a few moments to shine here. The scene where Gale and Dewey finally see each other after Sheriff Judy’s (Marley Shelton) murder is very short, but both Cox and Arquette do so much in that two-minute exchange with their performances. When Gale tells Dewey that he’s anything but a coward, there is just something about Cox’s delivery of that line that slightly chokes me up every time I rewatch the “requel.” And seeing Gale’s reaction to Dewey’s death is absolutely gut-wrenching, although the character’s quieter moments that follow in the hospital’s waiting area may be even tougher to watch.
At this point, Gale knows that this story she just had to share with the world has eventually cost her the person in the world she loved the most, and she is just broken at that point, even if she hasn’t been completely defeated by the new killers. Also, watching Gale and Sidney team up in Scream (2022)’s final act is just so awesome, and it might be the first time where, in this entire series, the franchise was acknowledging the fact that there have always been two “final girls” in the Scream-iverse.
I can only hope that for Scream VI, we get to see even more from Cox this time around (which seems to be the case based on the trailers that have been released so far), just because she’s a very integral part of what makes the Scream franchise so great. Gale Weathers may not be perfect—she can be selfish, way too driven and is prone to tunnel vision when it comes to what’s best for her career—her imperfections is what makes her so great, because I think that for many of us, we have often had to make hard choices and decisions when it comes to that life/work balance, and regardless of what Gale has achieved over the years, she’s someone who is constantly looking to stay on top because of her professional passion. I may not be someone who would ever make the same decisions that Gale makes in the Scream films, but that doesn’t mean I can’t find a lot to adore and appreciate about the character and Courteney Cox’s portrayal of someone who is both ruthlessly ambitious but also a “lost and lonely little girl” all the same.
Go here to catch up on Heather Wixson’s Scream Week special features!
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Author: Heather Wixson