We Are All “Carrie”
“Carrie” endures because she embodies the vulnerability we all share. We are all Carrie, says the film’s director, Kimberly Peirce:
We all want love and acceptance, we all face extraordinary obstacles, we all have some part of our lives where we are a misfit trying to fit in. That’s why we can all identify.
I’d thought “Carrie” was a horror flick. Who knew it was a coming of age film?
“Carrie” revolves around the search for personal power, self-esteem and status — and reveals how horribly wrong it can all go.
Insecure kids bully even more insecure kids, trying to raise themselves up by putting someone else down. It all backfires when the tormented unleash their wrath in retaliation. But the unleashing backfires on the avenger.
A cautionary tale warning against paths that look powerful, but which are only destructive.
Happens all the time in real life. Oppressed people instigate mass killings, crime, violence. Which leaves them dead or in jail.
Interestingly, women’s fight against oppression inspired “Carrie” says Stephen King:
Carrie is largely about how women find their own channels of power, but also what men fear about women and women’s sexuality. Writing the book in 1973 and only three years out of college, I was fully aware of what Women’s Liberation implied for me and others of my sex. Carrie is a woman feeling her powers for the first time and, like Samson, pulling down the temple on everyone in sight at the end of the book.
That fear of women’s wrath and power led to both patriarchal and religious backlash — both reflected in the film.
Before patriarchy menstruation was thought a source of power. Post-patriarchy it became a supposed source of pollution. Apparently, Carrie’s uber-religious mom thought it too sinful to even discuss.
So when the blood comes in the gym shower, Carrie panics. Her fear is met with mockery and shouts to “plug it up”! At home it just gets worse when mom locks her in a “prayer closet.” Carrie screams and screams, and then discovers her telekinetic power when she cracks the door.
Media critic, Holly Derr points out that a crucifix bleeds as Carrie shrieks in the closet. The bleeding connects her period to Christ’s suffering, “which deepens the relationship between debased femininity and religion,” she says. And reshapes it, really. Because her first blood moves outside the mistaken view that menstruation is pollution and not power.
Later, when pig blood dumps on her at prom, Carrie is essentially born again, Derr says. Into an extremely powerful person.
But she destroys herself while taking a swipe at – and defeating – many of her oppressors.
On the one hand, heroes often die fighting for the greater good.
On the other hand, surely power can be used more wisely — and constructively — when not in vengeance mode.