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September 15, 2017

The Inheritance of Fear: How 'It' (2017) Tackles Child Abuse, Bullying

The latest adaptation of Stephen King's novel "It" takes a look the idea of personal fear being "inherited" in the context of child abuse and bullying.

by Ayunda Nurvitasari
balon merah untuk anak, Magdalene

On a rainy day, a little boy in his yellow coat runs after his paper boat on the side of the street all by himself.  Something bad is bound to happen – we can sense this already – still, when a horrific thing does happen to him, we are struck in awe.

Not having read Stephen King’s original novel, nor watched the 90s miniseries, freshly released It, directed by Andrés Muschietti, still exceeded any of my initial expectation from a horror movie. It doubles and even quadruples the terrors by letting us witness the fright through the lens of vulnerable bullied kids facing myriad forms of monstrosity.

We follow the life of a group of teenagers from the “Losers Club”: William “Bill” Denbourgh, Beverly Marsh, Eddie Kaspbrak, Richie Tozier, Stanly Uris, Ben Handsom, and Mike Hanlon. They stick together and watch each other’s’ back because they share similar struggle: they are all regularly bullied at school.

Their experience as bullies’ targets vary from slut shaming, physical violence, to racist taunts. Scenes of their daily struggle against the packs of bullies are enough to tell us that these teens’ lives are a living hell. But is that all? No.

The plot thickens with the emergence of “it”, a shapeshifting clown who calls himself Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård).

It starts when Bill decides how he and his peers will spend their summer holiday: looking for his missing little brother, Georgie, the little boy in the opening sequence. Apparently, many kids have gone missing too in their cursed little town called Derry, so they decide to investigate into the case.

But how bad could a clown be? Well, for one, Pennywise is literally your living nightmare. He embodies your personal fear – and here comes one of the movies taught wisdoms: fear is inherited. In the case of the kids, their fears are imposed by their parents, whether it’s germophobia, or accute anxiety caused by sexually abusive parent. The bullied are not the only ones with backstories, the movie takes us to the home of pack leader Henry and lets us see for ourselves why he becomes the nasty boy that he is.

Another interesting premise of this story is the fact that the teens’ terrifying visions – be it a ghost, a clown or pouring blood coming out of a sink – can be seen by other friends, but not by their parents. It is a commentary on how adults often dismiss their children’s fear or rarely take them seriously.

The film centers on these teenagers trying to solve their own problems, struggling to deal with their fears without the help from the adults. I believe this is something that is relatable to many, as it is to me.

Understanding that being “alone” is the problem, “friendship” seems to be the answer being proposed and It  is a well-executed concept to articulate its importance.

Pennywise the clown is simply a bully, and the only way to answer to his “You should be afraid” is by saying “No, we're actually not”.

Title: It
Director: Andrés Muschietti
Based on: It by Stephen King
Release date: September 8th, 2017
Running time: 135 minutes
Genre: Thriller, horror
Casts: Jaeden Lieberher, Bill Skarsgård, Sophia Lillis
*Illustration retrieved from Alpha Coders

Ayunda is interested in the intersection of pop culture, media, and gender issues. She earned her master's degree at Cultural Studies department, University of Indonesia. She is into Lana Del Rey, speculative fiction, and BoJack Horseman. Her own social media sites, however, are quite uneventful, but feel free to say hi: facebooktwitter.