Why Does Leatherface Kill?



Why Does Leatherface Kill?

Before we go about answering that question, we must first ask:


Who is Leatherface?

Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

A simple question, but the answer has the potential to be quite long and complex due to the franchise’s utterly confusing timeline. With film’s that contradict the others and make little to no sense in the bigger picture, for this article’s sake, we will be going off of the original film’s family.

Leatherface is a mentally ill, inbred child that was raised by a family of cannibals. They live out in the middle of nowhere in Texas on a family farm in an old, dilapidated farmhouse. Leatherface lives with his father, Drayton Sawyer, his brother, Nubbins Sawyer, and his grandpa. His father operates a gas station not too far from their home that also serves as a barbecue restaurant where they cook and serve up people.

So, since there’s three family members all participating in these serial murders, why is Leatherface the main killer? 


So Why Does Leatherface Kill?

Leatherface's infamous dance at the end of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Due to Leatherface having a mental illness, he is mainly bossed around by his father as well as his brother, who also has a mental illness–just not as extreme. Typically, Leatherface kills because he is told to. The incredibly macabre and disturbing element to the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre'' (1974) is that Leatherface is simply a person who grew up in a dimented and deranged household. He is the product of pure, human evil. 

There is also the lore about cannibalism that goes, “once you try human flesh, you crave it.” So, perhaps that Leatherface has been on a cannibal diet since he was a child and his other reason for murder is because he loves human meat.

But, one of the biggest reasons that Leatherface kills ties back to the first, and that is because he is scared. Having a mental illness typically goes without saying that said person’s reality is heightened and most mental illnesses come with triggers. Throughout the film, the viewer notices the only thing that comes out of Leatherface’s mouth is moans and screams. Clearly his illness is quite severe since he can’t speak and his mannerisms are also very child-like, indicating immature nature, which can equate to him being scared by most things, kind of like children are.


What Made Him Leatherface?

The Sawyer family in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The character of Leatherface is loosely based on the infamous serial murder and bodysnatcher, Ed Gein. In the year of 1954 in Wisconsin, Gein began desecrating graves which led him to start capturing women and murdering them. 

The strangest part in Ed Gein’s whole story is what he did with the bodies after he either dug them up or killed them; he would skin them and then like a DIY project, sew pieces of human flesh together to make things such as body suits, lamp shades, and masks. All of his victims were women, so Gein clearly had a fetish of “becoming” a woman himself. He just decided to take extreme measures when it came to fulfilling his fantasy. It all started when he made a body suit from his deceased mother’s corpse…

So, if you’ll notice in the photograph above, Leatherface has makeup on his mask, as if pretending to be a woman. Jedidiah clearly has some identity issues, and Hooper felt that using what Ed Gein did in real life would distinguish the character as well as amplify his disturbed nature.

There are other theories posed in later film’s that Jedidiah wears a mask because he has a skin disease and he wears masks to hide that. In the most recent rendition of the franchise just like the original, Leatherface switches between masks based on the task at hand; if he’s helping in the kitchen, he’s wearing an old woman mask.


Can Leatherface Be Killed?

Leatherface hunting Sally and the truck driver in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

In short–yes. Leatherface can most definitely be killed. He is one of the only iconic slasher villains, other than Ghostface from “Scream,” that is not supernatural in any way. Leatherface is a mentally ill person with large stature, so the only thing he has going for him is being stronger than most average humans due to his size. Other than that, he wields everyday tools that could be purchased at Home Depot and is probably owned by every neighborhood dad. Quite possibly the only other “strength” he may have against opponents is smelling like rancid death because he wears skin masks, but I wouldn’t call that supernatural–that’s just gross.

A nomad for most of his life, Marques now resides near the bay of Texas for the ocean has captured his heart. He is a surfer of waves, a vintage game / VHS collector, & a creative storyteller.
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