BY RILEY GUERRERO '20
The newest “IT” movie, based on the novel by Stephen King, has recently begun filming. The film is set to come out in 2017, and though the initial reaction of any fan is to reject unnecessary changes by corporate media, we must consider, especially with this particular story, what should be changed for the newest iteration in theaters.
“IT,” though an impressive and intense tour-de-force, is disturbing for reasons other than the titular killer tormenting children in small-town Maine. The book is overtly sexual, a fact that is not unique or alarming in itself, but a fact that becomes questionable when the group of 12-year-old characters is at the center of it all. The blend of carnage and carnal passion in “IT” is one of its most nuanced and compelling characteristics.
Even with the trend of displaying children sexually, an initial work that goes so far as to have an orgy involving preteens would be new, shocking and controversial, even in today’s horror-movie industry. King himself wrote in a statement that “Times have changed since I wrote that scene and there is now more sensitivity to those issues.” Although in the book that particular scene is cast as a “union” or “pact” between the children, defining aspects of that interpretation would be lost in the film without the omniscient, muted narration of the books.
The portrayal of Beverly Marsh in “IT” is also a point the movies must address. In the books, her father abuses her as a child, and she later marries an equally abusive husband who treats her as a sex object. Yet the book is blind to its own bias, portraying her as an even more literal sex object for the six 12-year-old boys of the “Losers’ Club,” of which she’s the sole girl. Her abuse, like the abuse of so many fictional women written by male authors, is cast to the forefront of the novel, as is her attractiveness and the sexual pleasure derived by her abusers.
The novel is also problematic in regards to its treatment of minorities. The story cold-opens with the vicious beating of an otherwise plot-irrelevant young gay couple, an act viewed more neutrally than negatively by the narrative. As an adult, the sole Jewish character is too “weak” to face Pennywise again and commits suicide, disadvantaging his friends against It. Last but not least, the only African-American — and only poor — character is hospitalized before the final battle. This leaves the final five saviors of the town of Derry (and as they discover, the world) all white, all rich and, almost, all men, helped by a mysterious power ironically also called “the White.”
Though the novel is a product of its time and designed to be, well, horrifying, the movie faces a divisive challenge: staying true to the aim of the original work while adapting from a form of media that offers less explicit abuse, torture and sensuality to one where sight and sound are inescapable.
Like so many before me, I have uttered the time-honored phrase, “I liked the books better” admittedly more than necessary. However, for this adaptation, I truly hope that the movies take a different direction. The new film doesn’t need to extend to “IT”s distinct aesthetic, not necessarily even to its morality, but hopefully would change enough to avoid typecasting Bev as the all-too-common highly sexualized girl, dramatized and thrust into the limelight, with white men as her — and the world’s— lone saviors.
Though erasing the violence and developing sexuality of the “Losers” in “IT” (as done by the 1990’s series) directly contradicts the theme of the narrative, a movie where an abused woman is not hypersexualized by the filmmaker would be groundbreaking for the horror-movie industry, and keep the films close to the books’ intention, if not direct translation.