Of Teenage Spirit

Deadgirl (2008) is a movie about teenage boy problems with a twist,” is the nice way of putting it. It actually is a twisted take on teenage problems which is reflective, still, of the reality in question. The premise of the movie is that Rickie and JT are supposedly doomed to be people who “don’t matter” in society. The basement of the asylum (where Deadgirl is imprisoned) gave them a world of their own. The tension however is whether or not it would be “the best they could ever have”. Admittedly, I found it so hard to enjoy because although the characters are easy to understand, they are so hard to identify with. When I thought about it, what makes them difficult to relate to is because they represent (and unleash) the impulses that we repress. Perhaps this is the most fascinating thing about the movie.

JT and Rickie, along with their other friend, Wheeler, thrives in the same social standing. By social standing, I don’t mean the same classification as determined by income; rather the one that teenage kids would tend to use as basis for classifying themselves. It’s more ambiguous but it’s based not only on the role that they play in school, but also on the kind and amount of attention given to a person. JT, Rickie, and Wheeler are among the lowest ones – no one pays attention to them, presumably.

I, however, think that they exaggerate the “reality” that they do not fit in among the people in their age group. People, especially teenagers, have that tendency to think that they are too unique or too special or too different to fit in and that no one will understand them, whereas it could also be a problem of them not opening up to other people. Bearing that line of thinking, they then make a problem of how they want to belong or to be “normal” which we can get a sense of in the movie, especially with JT and Rickie. This attitude of over-emphasizing how unique or different we are is something that we understand, however unlike JT and Rickie,  we would normally repress it in socializing.

Their discovery of Deadgirl, however, became the turning point of their lives. The basement of the asylum became their escape from the “reality” that they are not among the rest of their peers. It became a world of their own where they could live out pleasures that they could not enjoy in the “real world”: sex, dominance, control. JT enjoyed that world and wanted to stay in it. He was more expressive of his desires and saw that in this new world of theirs with no one to implement the laws of society, he does not need to repress anything – not to Deadgirl whom he did not see as a person. Some may say that JT embodied an animalistic side of man governed mainly by desire and self-preservation. In psychoanalytic theory, it is like the id has taken over. This character is something we also typically repress.

Rickie, on the other hand, was opposed to JT’s idea yet he was more passive about trying to stop JT. He takes a moral stance but fails to translate it into action. His passivity is different from that of Wheeler’s who just went with the flow with JT. Rickie just stopped moving, which did not do much to benefit anybody. Rickie’s character exemplifies the fearful side who refuses to take action because of the fear of taking responsibility for the consequences of his actions. It is the perfect foil to JT’s character and is also something that we also typically repress.

The combination of JT and Rickie makes a perfect set up for a teen horror movie. JT can serve as the monster character (more than the Deadgirl) for embodying the unrestrained male impulses. Rickie, although against JT in principle, through his inaction, serves only to highlight the monstrosity of JT’s character. Rickie is not necessarily the victim per se nor does he have a hand in JT’s actions, but he has the power to defeat the monster but is rendered useless thus highlighting the power of the monster (much like the Lee character in The Innkeepers or the strongman character in most slasher films).

This is why I say that it is a twisted take on teenage problems. It makes use of real attitudes, dispositions, and behaviors that people tend to repress or overcome (especially as they are growing up) and unleash them into a scenario that invokes horror. Enjoying this kind of movie does not automatically mean that you encourage or identify with the characters, as a horror film perhaps it can be enjoyed as it is reflective of real anomalies and that makes it scary.

 

Reference:

Andrew Tudor, “Why Horror? The Peculiar Pleasures of a Popular Genre.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).

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