You know what? Fuck it.
Remember the post I wrote about the incredible book Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson? (yes I push this thing like it were my bible, but there's something amazing about this book. i think it was the part at the end where the author writes that the most surprising reactions she received regarding the book were all the boys who asked her "what's the big deal?")
I watched the movie this weekend. It starred Twilight's Kristen Stewart, and I'll admit part of why I wanted to see the movie is because of her. I wanted to see another aspect of her acting (next I plan to see The Runaways). My husband remarked during the movie that she had been typecast--another depressed, awkward girl who hates the snow.
But in this case, Melinda Sordino (the character she played) had every reason to be depressed and hate everything. She had been raped by a boy she went to school with and had to see every day. A boy who would pass her by and call her "fresh meat." A boy who literally loomed over her as he spoke with her table-mates. A boy who cornered her in a classroom. A boy who moved on to date her ex-best friend.
I gave the movie 3 out of 5 stars if only because the book is ten times better, if not more, and I had some concerns about logistics. My initial reaction was one of disillusionment, but now I want to watch it again. There were some amazing scenes--the rape scene itself was frightening. The boy ignored her pleas, did his thing, and just left her alone like she was nothing. The scariest thing is that, if you didn't know, you'd think he was a good guy. Hot, funny, charming, easy to like. An older boy expressing interest in a younger, more naive girl, a boy who had a propensity for saying all the right things. And he did ask if she wanted to. That's all you have to do, right? I mean, she went with him to his truck. She kissed him like she wanted to go further. That's consent enough, yeah?
And he was so easy to like. I mean to the point where you even begin to think--after the fact--"maybe he's not so bad."
And that's the point.
Throughout the movie, unlike the book, Melinda has flashbacks to the night. I thought this particular mode of storytelling was incredibly effective in the movie. In the book you don't know what happened until about halfway to 3/4 of the way in. Until that point, she is just a very depressed, weird girl who doesn't talk much and has lost her best friends. I felt for her, because that's how I was. It frightened me to think how I would've reacted had something worse happened to me than what did.
The worst part, though, is how her family and teachers treated her. Her family had their own issues. Her father was jobless, her mother seemed...stressed and depressed herself. They were worried about, though annoyed by their daughter. Her best friends ditched her in anger because she called the cops the night she was raped and they came to break up the party. Nobody knew the real reason the cops were called. It wasn't to break up the party. Seeing it was worse than reading it.
At one point, once the cops arrived (without being told why--they thought it was a neighbor calling to complain), Melinda's best friend, angry, slapped her. Bitch, why did you call the cops? Why did you ruin my night?
SHE SLAPPED HER. After the poor thing had been raped. Shit. You. Not. Her friend didn't know, but Melinda knew. Every single viewer knew. It was powerful.
I think that attitude by so many people who should have noticed, should have cared but rather understandably didn't, struck me as hard as the rape scene did. It was a lesson to be learned. We grow up and we forget so easily. We are so caught up in our own shit that we can’t see past the ends of our noses. I will venture to say this happens to every parent, every friend, every authority figure. We are human. We have ill-timed moments of selfishness and self-centeredness.
Artistically speaking, the movie brought to light a few things I didn't see in the book. Her perceptions of her teachers, how she treated others, how she saw her parents. When she was at her worst, so were they. In the beginning, her English teacher was a mess. By the end, she was a put together woman, someone the kids would respect. Her history teacher was a fucking asshole, but by the end found empathy and treated her softly. The world was evil and unrelentingly hard on her.
Before I realized this, the movie pissed me off. I hate these stories featuring kids with ridiculously stupid adults. I get it--kids think adults are stupid, but this is supposed to be a realistic interpretation of life. I don't appreciate caricatures, but this wasn't like that. This was almost projection of what was going on inside.
The movie did seem to drag on a bit. Not a hell of a lot happened for a good long time, but the flashbacks broke the monotony to keep you interested. Melinda didn't talk much. Nobody expressed a real interest in what was wrong, just told her to get over it. That it was a phase.
The beginning was terribly annoying.
"What's your name?"
Ad nauseum. I yelled at the television: WE GET IT. For god's sake.
But the point was made early on in the movie. Parents, friends, teachers: if your child goes from happy, functional, and an all-around sociable person with a ton of friends to a quiet girl who does weird shit like drawing stitches on her mouth and doesn't talk much and has no friends within a short, almost immediate period of time, there is likely something very wrong. Don't dismiss it. Don't say stupid shit like "it'll get better" "just smile" or even worse "i understand." Because the fact is, you very well may not.
Or you might and just not know it. Even if you're going through your own tragedies, this child matters more.
And the movie gave girls who had gone through these things someone to relate with. It was incredibly realistic in this way. And again, the rape scene was terrifying. The fact that this boy went on to date others and charm everyone else and just seem like another decent guy was terrifying. Couple it with the fact that too few people see the problem in a rape, that it's almost normalized (how often do you hear the statistics? how often do you hear about how boys will be boys? were you ever a young girl who had older-boy/man fantasies? how often do you hear shit like "she asked for it" or that guys just can't help themselves, that it's up to the girls to control men by the way they dress? How much is the message of what is rape confusing, etc etc ETC)
In all, Kristen Stewart did a pretty slamming job of playing the part. The important basics of the story were kept fairly whole. Nobody ever would have pinned the guy as a rapist. And in every school there is at least one "weird" depressed girl who doesn't necessarily dress in black but is quiet and generally and uncharacteristically withdrawn, the girl (or boy) we dismiss because they're "that age" and everyone is depressed and angsty and they'll get over it. Or, even better, we become frustrated with them because of that. Goddamn teenagers. We have our own shit to deal with, what the fuck, you know? They need to grow up and get over it.
And yes, the rape scene was absolutely necessary, despite what others may think, because too many people don't get it. Again, we forget so easily. We need a good slap in the face. This is where I believe the church and those who gasp at such things are dangerously wrong. In our minds we begin to see the world as too good. It’s not a bad thing to think of people as generally good, but we need to be aware as well for the sake of ourselves, our friends, and our family.
We need to pay attention to our kids and to each other. Period. Treat others the way we’d like to be treated. We need to take care of each other.
In all, I'd recommend you read the book first and yes, see the movie. It's completely worth it.