They’re All Gonna Laugh At You! — A Few Insights Into Carrie
The Halloween season is upon us, and I thought I’d take a moment to weigh in one of the classics: Carrie.
Here’s how I see it; Carrie isn’t really a horror flick; it’s actually one of the saddest movies and saddest tales you’ll find.
Think about this for a second—seriously. Forget that it was written by Stephen King, master of horror (though, do try to remember that Mr. King has written a great number of stories that do not fall under the rubric of horror, many of which are actually deeply touching). Forget the parts of the story that are meant to scare you (ie, the whole prom scene). Just think about what this story is at its root.
It’s a story about an abusive parent, and a story about being bullied.
It’s a story about a young girl who was pushed too far for too long, and who was unbelievably hurt by the people around her.
Let’s break it down a little bit, shall we?
First, there’s Carrie’s mother, who is bat-shit insane. We don’t know why (and it’s been so long since I read the book that I can’t tell you if that’s explained at all), we just know that this woman is damaged. From what little exposition we’re given, it sounds as if she was always a bit unhinged, but her husband leaving her while pregnant really did her in. So, she did what any logical parent would do—she took it out on her child. Aside from locking Carrie in a closet for her sins (even though we only see it once in the movie, it’s pretty safe to say that this is a regular occurrence), yelling at Carrie because she got her period (which clearly means that the girl has sinned…clearly. Even though it’s likely that Carrie’s mother was a virgin when she got her first period, so she would know it wasn’t true. Though I suppose it’s likely that Carrie’s mother was treated in the same manner. Abuse begets abuse, you know), she tells Carrie that she should have killed her in the womb. Now, my mother has never said anything like that to me, but I’m pretty sure that having your mother say that she should have killed you before you were born because you are the cause of all that has gone wrong in her life would be pretty upsetting.
This is just the nuts and bolts of this relationship, but I think you get where I’m going with it; Carrie’s mother was completely fucked up, and had no business raising a child.
I should hope the part about being bullied is pretty obvious, but I’ll elaborate a bit anyway.
First of all, I don’t know if “bullied” and “harassed” is necessarily the same thing, but the outcome is fairly standard. So if you want to say that Carrie was only harassed by the people around her, you can, but that doesn’t change the fact that she was treated like shit by everyone she came into contact with. Even her asshole English teacher mocked her because she said she thought a poem was beautiful. Heartwarming, no?
Let’s just check out those first few minutes of the movie, bypassing the few actual moments of gym class. I’m talking about the locker room scene, and how all of those girls treated Carrie when she realized that she had blood all over her hands.
Granted, if a naked girl came running at me with bloody hands, I might not react well, either. But to start throwing pads and tampons at her while she’s naked and cowering the shower…yeah, that’s down right cruel. I mean, this is a girl who was seriously freaked out. She had no idea what was happening to her. It’s not like nowadays when she’d be able to see a documentary about a woman’s body on the nightly news. Hell, she probably had to get a permission slip signed by a parent to be allowed to take sex ed, so we can all imagine how that ended. She was genuinely clueless about what was going on with her body; she probably thought she was dying, and not one of those girls showed an ounce of compassion. It’s terrible.
Anyway, against all odds, she winds up going to the prom, and not as some cruel trick by a classmate. She receives a genuine, if somewhat forced invitation, and is encouraged by a kind teacher to go with this boy. But this bitchy, douchebag of a girl, Chris, who is denied access to the prom because of the way she treated Carrie and her refusal to participate in detention, decides that she absolutely hates Carrie (because it makes so much sense—hate the girl who has done nothing to you, who didn’t even tell on you about what you did. It’s totally her fault that you’re a twat), and convinces her boyfriend to help her get back at Carrie. To do this, they slaughter a pig for its blood, and rig the prom court contest so that Carrie and her date will win.
In between this, Carrie’s mother tries to forbid her from going to the prom, even going as far as telling Carrie that they were all going to laugh at her.
Did I forget to mention that, periodically, we’ve seen Carrie exercise a few psychokinetic abilities?
Anyway, Carrie goes to the prom, and her date, Tommy, is super great to her. Not that we saw him be mean to her beforehand, but it seems that he genuinely enjoys getting to know her.
Carrie gets to have a few moments where she feels like the average teenager.
Then, of course, she’s named prom queen. And so the chaos begins.
I’m sure most of you know this by this point. We all have a good handle on this story. Whatever; it’s exposition.
The pig’s blood is dumped on Carrie’s head, and the crowd goes silent, stunned. Chris’s friend, who helped set all of this up, starts to laugh. Carrie, with her mother’s words ringing in her ears, hears everyone laughing at her.
So yes, her psychokinetic abilities start to go ape shit. Considering she’s only been expressing these abilities when she’s under stress, it makes sense.
But I suppose this is where my interpretation of the story is a bit different than most. Most people describe this as a murderous rampage, but I don’t feel this is true. Carrie wasn’t the type to do such a thing. Did she snap? Oh hell yeah she snapped. But given the circumstances, anyone would have. These people just happened to find a girl who had the ability to move shit with her mind.
But here’s the thing; people wouldn’t have died if she hadn’t been bullied and harassed to this point. Getting a bucket of blood dumped on your head in basically any social gathering would probably fuck up just about anyone. It’s truly horrible.
What Carrie did wasn’t right, but I don’t know if I could say it was intentional. This would be a true case of temporary insanity; she was pushed past her breaking point. Again, it doesn’t make it right, but does that mean this is some rampage she went on? Not really.
Then to top it all off, when she went home to cry to her mother, her mother proceeds to stab her. Yeah. That happened. That would have happened even if Carrie hadn’t managed to burn down school and all the people in her graduating class, and you know that’s true.
I think what makes this movie a horror flick to most is the fear, however remote, that this could happen to them. Think about it. I would be willing to bet that the bulk of the population that got freaked out by this movie are people who at some point in their lives treated others the way Carrie was treated. The people worried about karma, and their bad behavior coming back to bite them in the ass. They’re worried about the “What if?”
When I watch the prom scene, I’m incredibly sad. I don’t feel glad that those people die, but I do feel so incredibly bad for this kid who had the life from hell, and just snapped.
Carrie is truly one of the saddest horror movies you can find. But I should hope that the ultimate message should be very clear: Be excellent to each other. If nothing else, just in case.