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You can’t escape “It”: Misogyny

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Macie Lavender, Staff Writer

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As the month of October grows further and further away, critiques of horror movies seem as stale as old Halloween candy. However, the problems I have with Stephen King’s “It” (which, to be fair, is still of my favorite releases of the year) go beyond petty special effects criticisms or style critiques.

“It”, for those living under a rock the last few months, tells the story of a group of outcast kids (nicknamed “The Losers’ Club” and featuring Finn Wolfhard of “Stranger Things”), who are forced to fight for their lives against the menacing Pennywise, the Dancing Clown (unfortunately, the title is not a misnomer), who appears as a physical manifestation of each kid’s greatest fear.

The strange and somewhat corny plot belies genuinely great acting from the talented young cast, who all portray their various characters with a charm and substance uncommon to child actors. But, The Losers Club, in dutifully paying respects to 1980’s kid classics like “The Goonies” or “Stand by Me” (ironically, another King adaptation), unfortunately employs the outdated 80’s misogyny along with the synth music.

Beverly Marsh, or Bev, is the only girl in The Losers’ Club, and is set up as the token female empowerment figure for girl movie goers. Despite her role as Token-Girl-Warrior, she’s thwarted by the screenwriter in any true attempts at fulfilling her obligations and becoming more than just an empty headed, cheap figure that the director can use to appear progressive.

Many adaptations were made from the source material, Stephen King’s 1,138-page novel “It”, in order to bring it to the big screen as a two-hour movie.

In particular, many aspects of Bev’s character were altered, often unnecessarily and with a touch of sexism. For instance, the sexual abuse Bev endures at the hands of her father is much subtler in the film than the novel, although this could be justified in the name of a decent MPAA rating and avoiding alienating the (mainly young) audience.

While the necessity for this change can be seen, it is much harder to argue in favor of the drugstore scene, in which the director/screenwriter overtly sexualize a PRE-TEEN girl for seemingly no reason at all.

In both the film and the novel, The Losers’ Club needs to steal medical supplies from a local drugstore to treat their friend’s wounds. It is the manner of distraction, however, that separates the book from the film.

In the book, Bev helps the boys create a loud distraction and then escapes with the stolen goods. In the film, the audience is forced to watch a genuinely disturbing scene in which the middle school aged Bev flirts with a clearly upper middle-aged man, while the boys steal the supplies in the background.

Ignoring the blatant sexism and weird pedophilic undertones of reducing the (PRE-TEEN) female character’s value to sexual appeal (AS A CHILD!) for a moment, this scene is also one with serious repercussions for Bev’s character that go against all portrayal of her up to that point.

Bev is introduced as a girl who is tough, yes, but one who is terrified of her sexuality for fear of her father’s aggression. Pennywise even manifests himself as a bathroom overflowing with blood to her, a

clear reference to Bev’s recent first menstruation and her fear of “becoming a woman” to her father. To show her happily trying (TRYING, because she is a CHILD) to flirt with a pedophilic old man is contradictory to say the least.

Throughout the film, there are countless other moments where Bev is strangely sexualized, with seemingly no purpose. One such scene would be a long slow pan over her underwear clad pre-pubescent body after The Losers go swimming.

She’s 14! What part of the audience are these uncomfortable shots appealing to? And why would you want to appeal to this subset anyway?

This bizarre and inappropriate sexualization is nothing compared to Bev’s complete disenfranchisement by the end of the film, where she is reduced to a mere love triangle object to be rescued in a Sleeping Beauty-esque twist. This is perhaps the greatest and most egregious change from the source material, where Bev is herself the rescuer, not the rescued.

In the finale of the book, Bev fights her way down to Pennywise’s lair alongside of her fellow Losers, as an equal member of the team. The film chooses to change this ending, because obviously the idea of a girl treated as an equal member of a team is ludicrous.

In the revised movie ending, Bev is kidnapped by Pennywise and held hostage, in a state of suspended consciousness. She is the pivotal damsel in distress, awakened by a kiss of “true love” (in this case, Prince Charming is the kid that’s had a crush on her the whole movie, mostly unreciprocated on her end, but same thing, right Mr. Screenwriter?).

To put it in another, less fairy tale light, her unconscious body is kissed without consent by a boy who has had a crush on her for the entire film, which she has given almost no signs of returning.

Further solidifying her purpose as Only Pretty Girl and Unthreatening Object of Male Affection, Bev kisses the other boy who’s had a crush on her in the ending scene. So, everyone’s happy! Both boys got their kiss, Pennywise is (not really because there’s a sequel) defeated, and Derry is safe!

Bev gets to move away and live with her aunt in another town, but don’t worry male attendees, you don’t have to sit through some boring scene of Bev coping with her abuse or any icky girl emotions about leaving the only friends she’s ever had behind.

Nope, Bev’s story ends with the most feminist movie ending ever invented by a male screenwriter: She gets to upgrade from being kissed by the nerdy kid of the group, to macking on the Leader of The Losers’ Club. You go girl! I love watching excessive 14 year old make out scenes!

Extremely weird (misogynistic) that the director and screenwriter would choose to give this ending to their singular female character, instead of allowing her to work or exist as a human being on the same level as her guy friends.

I dream of the day when Hollywood will, instead of squandering such a rare, perfect opportunity for a positive, girl role model in horror, give the job to people who don’t hate women or have weird pedophilic tendencies. Radical, I know.

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1 Comment

One Response to “You can’t escape “It”: Misogyny”

  1. Christy Sherrod on January 25th, 2018 8:24 am

    Very good article! Thank you for bringing some enlightenment to our girls’ minds about this topic. Well done 👍🏼

    Christy, mother of freshman Emily Grace Malone.

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You can’t escape “It”: Misogyny