Carrie Recaps: Part Seven

by thethreepennyguignol

Sorry I missed a week there – I’ve been busy with some other very exciting projects, including launching my new film site, No But Listen, which I would love for you to go check out (hey, here’s even an article about Stephen King!). But without further ado, now that we’re only a day away from Halloween and hyped with Stranger Things fever, let’s take a look at Stephen King’s seminal classic, Carrie.

We left off last time with Sue Snell asking her boyfriend, Tommy, to take Carrie White to the prom; he’s incredulous in the face of her suggestion and demands to know why.

“‘Well, I’m just telling you,’ Sue said defensively. ‘She won’t be able to say no.'”

This whole scene, and especially this line, is really just a neat look at the way politics of high school work, and specifically how Sue percieves them to work: she’s certain that the social capital Carrie would gain through her magnanimous act would render it literally impossible to turn down. Sue gives a speech about the torment that girls inflict on other girls that men just couldn’t understand, and Tommy asks once more why she thinks this will fix things:

” Lots of kids say they feel sorry for Carrie White-mostly girls, and that’s a laugh-but I bet none of them understand what it’s like to be Carrie White, every second of every day. And they don’t really care.'”

I like this segment a lot, and not just because it’s a chance to spend time with my newest imaginary crush Sue Snell, but because it’s the start of a series of King investigations into the evil that children (here, teenagers, but still) are capable of.

Tommy tells Sue that he loves her, and she doesn’t say it back, and then we cut to Tommy asking Carrie out to prom. And we get a whole, full, chunky paragraph of King assuring us that she’s actually not that unattractive after all. Look, I get that we’re meant to be seeing through the eyes of a teenage boy, but this is still just a hell of an uncomfortable section, because it feels like it’s King trying to lean through the page and convince us that it’s fine for Tommy to treat her like a human because she’s actually not hideous. And, of course, never miss a chance to talk about those titties: “A baggy sweater concealed her breasts except for token nubs”. This is just…nah. Ew.

Carrie seems surprised, but after questioning Tommy about his motivations, she agrees, and King has to remind us once more that she’s actually hot, guys, it’s alright, seriously:

“‘No,’ she said, and in her sudden pensiveness she could have been mistaken for beautiful.”

Look, I get it, we relate a woman’s worth to her attractiveness and so forth, but this is just ugh, even if you’re taking it from the point of view of a teenage boy, it still feels, ironically, ugly that the book spends so much time connecting her attractiveness – or percieved lack thereof – to the way people treat her, and seem to imply some level of culpability for this on her part (remember all those comparisons to an animal in the first chapter?).

We then dive into another lengthy excerpt fro The Shadow Exploded, the non-fiction retrospective on the Carrie incident and it’s cultural impact. It argues that Tommy is akin to Lee Harvey Oswald, as the “trigger man” for the incident, and then decides to make a case for the fact that ” it is hardly typical of high-school-age adolescents to feel that they have to ‘atone’ for anything” after mentioning Sue’s attempts to make up for her part in the shower incident. Look, I’m not saying teens are the most empathetic people, but I don’t think even the most bull-headed psychologist would make a case for the fact that they are literally incapable of guilt. This is just dumb and reads like a major attempt to cast doubt on Sue’s motivations in a way that perhaps King was not satisfied he’d done so far in the narration.

This section also runs through some theories about the White incident and what led up to it (such as that Tommy and Chris Hargensen worked together to humiliate Carrie) and that’s a neat little idea since we’re seeing this story from the inside out and the new perspective is welcome. But it’s overlong and drags, and spends a lot of time talking about how bloody great everyone thought Tommy was when he’s really quite a bland character – he’s got no real edge, especially when seperated from the far more interesting Sue.

We’re back to Carrie, who is lying in bed and thinking about the dress she’s going to make herself to wear to prom – as well as how she’s going to convince her mother to let her go. It’s here we see her really beginning to lean in to her powers, considering destroying a dress store when she thinks about the women who attend it. We also get this odd, inexplicable line: “now, seemingly unbidden – like the knowledge of menstruation – a score of memories had come”, because, you know, you don’t just get filled up with memories of menstruation when you get your period because…you don’t…have memories…of your period…if you just…you see what I’m saying? Perhaps he’s trying to invoke the endlessness of the (cis) female experience or perhaps just more explicitly tie the invocation of her powers with her period but it’s clunky as hell.

And the chapter closes out with a long section as Carrie accesses the memories of her fighting off her mother’s earlier attempts to mutilate her when Carrie was a young girl, with Carrie seriously injuring her mother in response: as much as the passage before it was clunky, this is some strong shit, and it’s sharp, savage way to close out another patchy chapter. Until next time!

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