Friends for life: May (2002)

“If you can’t find a friend, make one.”

May is a psychological horror film directed by Lucky McKee. Its title character, May, was played by Angela Bettis. May suffered a lonely childhood because of her lazy eye. She preferred to be isolated from other people and because of this, her mother gifted her with a doll. This doll, Suzie, was her only friend. May was very protective of Suzie and even kept her in a glass case. Suzie was her confidante and best friend.

While watching the film, I thought that I was watching a romantic comedy of some sort. It focused on May’s growing relationship with Adam, a friend she met in her neighborhood. When she saw Adam for the first time, she fell in love with him instantly. She even stalked him at a café at some point. However, I felt that there was already something off about her when she seemed to be more infatuated with Adam’s hands than with Adam himself.

May’s socially awkward tendencies makes her quite relatable. But relating yourself with her stops from there. Because for the most part, we witness May suddenly becoming hostile and violent towards the people around her. The film, like all of the other films that were shown in class, was really disturbing, disgusting and creepy. It was uncomfortable to watch, but I was still hooked into the narrative because of how charming May was and I wanted to know what will happen to her in the end – will she finally get Adam to fall in love with her? Will she at least make new friends? Is Suzie a haunted doll? Why did she have a hand fetish? Is she having a relationship with Polly as well? There were so many questions going through my head as I was watching the film.

Harry Benshoff in his article, “The Monster and the Homosexual” mentioned that “the queer, unlike the rather polite categories of gay and lesbian, revels in the discourse of the loathsome, the outcast, the idiomatically proscribed position of same-sex desire”. In the film, May has always been regarded as an outcast, as an “Other” – because of her lazy eye. She became isolated from society and considered herself as someone who is incapable of making friends. Because of this, she decided to find ways to “normalize” herself and make herself acceptable to the people around her. Eventually, she corrected her lazy eye by first wearing glasses, then transitioning to wearing contacts. However, because of her obsession with Adam and having been rejected by him, her queer tendencies are activated once again and this results in her becoming monstrous. This is supported by Benshoff when he stated that the queer is the “taboo-breaker, the monstrous, the uncanny”. Queerness can also be seen in Polly and May’s relationship because goes against the “accepted” heterosexual relationship we see in Hollywood films.

Overall, May was an interesting film for me. It had amusing moments, there was some romance on the side, but the bulk of what makes it a horror film is its gore and disturbing elements. May could be likened to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein where a young scientist brings a creature to life through experimentation. What really disturbed me about May was the fact that she made her own “friend” through the body parts she got from the people she met. I couldn’t imagine that happening in real life because it was so revolting and unreal. What could drive a person to even chop another person’s leg or arm? After watching the film, I realized that it is more than just a slasher horror film – delving deeper into the narrative, we see why May was driven to do what she did – because all she wanted was to be accepted by someone and after losing Suzie, the only way she could find another friend was to “make one” just as her mother told her when she gifted her Suzie. All May wanted to do was to not be “Othered”, to not be rejected by other people because all her life, that’s what she felt. The scene at the end made me sad because in her desperation to make her friend complete, she had to sacrifice her own eye as well. In contrast to how Frankenstein was created, May created her friend with a sense of feeling, a sense of attachment to it. It’s as if this was what she wanted her whole life and in wanting to put an end to her misery, she decided to give a part of herself to her new “friend”, even if it will cause her suffering and pain.

Sources:

Harry M. Benshoff, “The Monster and the Homosexual.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).
Paul O’Flinn, “Production and Reproduction: The Case of Frankenstein.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).

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