Saturday, July 6, 2013

"They're All Going to Laugh At You": Why the Carrie Remake is Destined to Fail (For All the Wrong Reasons)

So, I was browsing my facebook as I do and after about a hundred memes featuring broken, abused teens and the million upvoted comments of them to "get the fuck over it" or "get a life" or, most commonly, "go crawl in a hole and die," I happened to see an ad for the Carrie remake due this October. And then a few things started to click for me.

For the uninitiated, Carrie was a film by Brian de Palma based on the debut novel of Stephen King. It centered around a bullied, abused, meek teenage girl named Carrie who began to develop telekinetic powers which manifested more and more as the movie developed and the bullying got worse and worse, hitting their peak after an awful prank at the senior prom. In the end, Carrie loses her grip, loses herself to her own power, and the repressed young girl becomes completely unhinged--and her entire town pays for it.

I began to realize immediately why this just won't work anymore, and it has little to nothing to do with how Carrie turns out as a film. It won't matter because when De Palma made Carrie, when Stephen King published the novel, the title character was an outcast that any teenager could identify with. They immediately latched onto and understood her struggle, even the unpopular ones. Many teens wrote to King having been bullies themselves, who saw the other perspective and realized the harm they were inflicting on people. One would think, one would hope, that these themes would be universal.

I mean, do kids still have these problems? Absolutely. But: will kids admit to them? Not in a million years.

One look at facebook and something has clearly changed, at least in the teenage market that a movie like Carrie would have to try and capture first. And that is that nobody identifies with the bullied girl anymore. There has been such a resurgance in bullying and teen suicide that nobody has any idea what the hell to do about it (so they settle for the fan favorite "do nothing at all"). We may post about it, we may "share" an occasional cause, but the truth is that as a culture we've pretty much begun to embrace bullying. It's a big problem, I even wrote a whole book about it, but now is neither the time nor place to plug.

No, what remains is the problem, and the root of the problem is this: when the 70's version of Carrie came out, everyone watching the film could identify with that girl's struggles, and everyone could feel her pain. In even such a stylized, gory film, there was an overabundance of empathy. Everyone watching latched on to Carrie White and hoped against hope that she would be able to turn things around for herself. And now, when kids go to see the remake they will be identifying with everyone AROUND Carrie. Chris Hargensen, Billy Nolan and their posse are the identification point of the modern teenage audience and it is a cold, hard truth.

I'd like to think not, but this a time when two to three hundred kids will all tell gang up on one classmate via facebook to tell them to kill themselves, just to see if they can pull it off. Hell, look around you. Look at how many human rights are being questioned every day now, it's not just teenagers, bullying is becoming a natural go-to state.

So the truth remains that when kids crowd into the theaters (if they're even interested enough in the movie at all) to see the new version of Carrie, no longer will they be thinking "why doesn't she do something about this?" but: "why don't they just kill the bitch?" It's blunt and uncomfortable to think about, but it is the truth. I can promise you that it is.

I guess all I can do is hope the movie is good and ask people to judge it on its own merit, who knows, maybe it won't even be good. At this point, that might be the most merciful death it could hope for. Because the kids watching, they're all going to laugh at it.

Since Carrie came out, that last shock--that ending sting that invented the jump scare--has cemented a legacy spanning over thirty years. With so many reprintings of the novel, a "sequel" to the movie and a TV miniseries, it is still the image of blood-soaked Carrie from De Palma's film that stands out in the collective mind. And part of that was due to that last jolt, talked about for so many years, the possibility that Carrie could jump up, and get you at any moment. Now, it is the actual ending of the film that holds the most truth: the last moments in which Sue Snell wakes up and realizes that Carrie's hand, reaching out of her own grave to grab at her, was only a dream. And that Carrie White is dead and gone.