The Saw is Family


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Leatherface first appeared in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1974, and has appeared in every sequel and remake since. Gunnar Hansen portrayed Jed Sawyer in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Bill Johnson portrayed him in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II, R. A. Mihailoff portrayed him in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, Robert Jacks portrayed him in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, and Dan Yeager portrayed him in the 2012 sequel Texas Chainsaw (3D).

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Leatherface were reimagined in 2003 in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and its prequel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, and a new, separate Leatherface was created: Thomas Hewitt. The films in which Thomas Hewitt is Leatherface is a stand-alone series, and don't follow the events of the original series.

The most recent film, Texas Chainsaw (3D) was written as a direct sequel to the first film, and have nothing to do with the two films before it. It brought Jed Sawyer back as Leatherface.

The following sections are where I think too much. Although they are backed up with facts from the films, the sections are heavily opinionated, and are based on my own perception of Leatherface's character.

Spoilers are everywhere. Read the rest of this page with caution.

My Family's Always Been in Meat

Gunnar Hansen, who portrayed Leatherface in the first film said that Jed is scared of his family and will do whatever they tell him to do. I think fear plays a big part in Leatherface's actions. He seems genuinely scared when new people enter his home.

I think Jed's family uses Jed's fear against him to manipulate him into killing outsiders. His family works with Jed to terrorize his victims. Sequels reveal that the Sawyers use bones from Jed's victims to make furniture to use in their home, and they cook the meat from his victims in chili and barbeque. They sell that meat at their family-owned gas station, and enter it into food contests. Yeah, the Sawyers are pretty sick.

It's not really stated why the Sawyers feel the need to kill. I've always assumed they felt a misplaced sense of threat when outsiders invade their town and their home. I've always got the sense that the Sawyer family was inbred, and weren't quite all there. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II focuses on meat, and implies that the Sawyers are cannibalistic. They could simply kill for meat. The Sawyers could also just be plain crazy. Jed, unfortunately, has their ideals to look up to.

In a lot of ways, I think Jed Sawyer is very childlike. His mental and social challenges make it appear as if he doesn't fully understand the concept of life and death. In many cases, Jed has even kept his victims cripled, but alive. I think he simply feels the need to eliminate a threat to his home and family, and to gain acceptance from those he loves. In many of the films, it's his family who pushes him to kill.

You Like This Face?

Leatherface wears faces.Jed got the name Leatherface from wearing the skin he cut from his victims' faces. It's never really stated why he wears their faces. The revamp of the series gave its Leatherface, Thomas Hewitt, a degenerative skin disease, and he used the faces of his victims to cover up his ugliness. In the original series, a skin disease is never mentioned. There is something clearly wrong with Jed socially and mentally, however. My personal theory is that he wears the faces of his victims to hide from his fear. Wearing another face allows him to have confidence to pursue his trespassers and to kill them.

Another theory I've considered is that Leatherface wears the faces of others out of insecurity. In many of the movies, he kills confident, cocky guys, and is able to embrace that confidence when he wears their faces. I think fear plays a bigger part in Jed's persona than insecurity, however, which is why I prefer my first theory.

Jed is always changing his faces, and even wears female masks. Gunnar Hansen, who portrayed the first Leatherface, has suggested that Leatherface changes his faces to express who he wants to be. He wears an old lady mask, wears an apron, and carries a wooden spoon when he wants to be domestic. He wears a pretty woman's face at dinner when he wants to dress up and look nice. He wears a third, killing mask in the original film when he pursues his victims. Hansen's theory makes a lot of sense, and would explain Jed's need to constantly change his face.

This theory would suggest that Jed has no personality of his own, however. If he needs to change faces to express himself, then it is implied that he can't express himself on his own. Having Jed be nothing without his masks makes him incredibly frightening.

Do Your Thing, Cuz!

In every film, there is one strong female protagonist who Jed has an opportunity to kill, but does not. He chases them down, and fails in instances in which he would normally prevail. It's like he gives them opportunities to escape. Unfortunately, their friends aren't given the same.

I think Jed allows this one female victim to live in each film because he needs a strong female presence in his life. Although he has family in the original film and sequels, they aren't very kind to Jed, and force him to live isolated. Nothing is revealed about Jed's mother, but it's implied that he doesn't have one. In the original film and the 70s and 80s sequels, Jed lacks a mother figure.

I think he eliminates the male threats, and the weaker female threats, to isolate the woman he chooses. His appearance and actions bring this woman fear, but I think he simply wants to be loved. The women are all able to escape when they show glimmers of accepting Leatherface, and when Leatherface feels like he is finally reaching out to these women, they betray him, attack him, and escape. This causes Leatherface to act out in rage, which brings on the final chase scene in each film.

Heather Texas Chainsaw (3D) scraps the events of the sequels and picks up directly where the first film left off. The townspeople act out in horror and rage against the events of the first film, and presumably kill the Sawyers by burning down their home. Leatherface, his grandmother, and a baby Sawyer girl, Heather, survive. We learn that Leatherface had a dominate female presence in his grandmother, who took care of him until her death. She wrote a letter to her granddaughter, Heather, and left her house and Jed to her. Unfortunately, Heather doesn't read the letter and learn about Jed until all of her friends have been killed. In the letter, Jed's grandmother states that Jed is very loyal to his family, and will protect it at all costs. All Heather needs to do is to take care of Jed to earn his protection. Jed gains the dominate female presence and love he was craving in Heather. She even helps him take revenge on the people who killed their family.

I think every horror villain's story has a theme. Freddy Kruger's is failure. Jason Vorhee's is abstinence. Chucky's is mortality. I think Leatherface's is love. He was probably picked on as a child, and just wants to be accepted and loved. This explains his strong bond and connection with his family, even if it isn't returned to him.