Monday, June 23, 2014

A Lesson from "Carrie"

Last week I saw "Carrie the Musical" with a friend. Yes, this is a musical based off of the Stephen King novel (spoilers!) about the high school girl who is tormented by her classmates and ends up killing them all at the prom with her mind powers. Hopefully that did not just ruin the book/movie/musical for anyone. I will admit that I have never read the book or seen the movie and thus did not know the whole story. I knew Carrie was a loner and assumed she was picked on and I knew that she killed people at her prom. However, I always thought the blood she was covered in was the blood of her victims after she had stabbed them all the death. The whole telekinesis thing was news to me! Her psycho religious mother was also something I did not know about. When the mother was singing about how a woman's period is her "curse" because she is impure, my jaw actually dropped and I said, "The fuck?" loud enough for my friend to just nod her head.

All in all the show was decent. My friend and I thought it was worth the $20 tickets and this was also my first time experiencing Chicago's renowned Victory Garden's Theatre, which was also worth the price of admission (Sandra Oh was in the theatre across the lobby starring in "Death and the Maiden"). The singing was great, the staging was well-done and I wouldn't deter people from going. My only qualms about the show would be a) the zealot mother and b) the slightly skewed anti-bullying message.

First, the mother. In every writing class I have ever taken I have learned that all characters need to be three-dimensional. Even your villain/antagonist has to have some reason for becoming the bad guy. Think back to some of the classic villains we all know - Scar, Maleficent, Voldemort, etc. All of these villains are mean and terrible people (and lions), but you see where there evil comes from: jealousy, revenge, blindly believing they are in the right. Although we may not sympathize with the bad guy, we at least see a more humanizing emotion in them rather than just "I'm gonna kill you!!" Carrie's mother did not possess any sort of humanizing trait. She came off as a crazy zealot who, when Carrie gets her period, says, "I hoped this day would never come," meaning she hoped her daughter would never hit puberty and turn into a woman. What? Did you think she was going to die before she was 13? Also, as far as the musical goes, it is not exactly clear how Carrie came to be. Clearly the mother "sinned" and had sex in order to have Carrie. The mother sings about Carrie's father and how she was "young and lustful" but she never says that she didn't want to sleep with Carrie's father or that he raped her. The whole time that she was singing about what a travesty a woman's period is all I kept thinking was, "You clearly menstruated, too, if you had a child! You clearly had sex! Stop being a hypocrite!" I think it's also safe to say that I was taking to mother's view on "the sins of being a woman" a little too much to heart.

Now for the bullying. We all know that bullying is bad and that we should all just be nice to one another. The Golden Rule: Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You (funny story -- until I was 21 I thought it was "Do Unto Others as They Do Unto You" -- slight difference in interpretation). Carrie does show us the error in bullying others, but the message I got was, "Don't bully because then you'll die." Also, there was one male character in the play who was clearly gay, but not out. He did not act flamboyant or anything, but he would comment on how his male friends looked good in a tux or jokingly say that he should ask one of them to prom, and all of his male buddies would give him questioning looks and there would be awkward silence. The first time this happened in the show it was humourous. By the fifth time my friend and I thought, "So you're saying don't bully people because they're different and yet you won't stop making jokes at the gay guy's expense?" Bit of a mixed anti-bullying signal.

The next day, I was thinking about Carrie as I went for a run. I was practicing for a 5K Colour in Motion Run on Sunday. I would be doing the run with my friend, an actual runner who will be doing the Chicago Marathon this fall. I wouldn't call my runs "training", but I was trying to build up my stamina so that I had some hope of not holding her back too much during the 5K. All my life I have hated running not because I find it hard, but because I hate the way I look while I run. Throughout most of my childhood I have battled low self-esteem. I have always blamed the South and my beach-community home for this low opinion of myself because nearly all the girls in my school were size 2-4 and wore bikinis whereas I have always been in the double digits and felt more confident in tankinis or, even better, with a t-shirt over my bathing suit. Only in recent years have I stopped calling myself "fat" and it wasn't until college that I actually began to look at myself and go, "Okay, I don't look too bad." (And last year I bought my first bikini! Say whattt?)

As I was running I was thinking about Carrie and the bullying she endured. I wondered why, when the girls laughed at Carrie in the locker room, I had empathized with her. I have never been the victim of bullying. In grade school I always felt felt and like kids would make fun of me, but no one did. One boy in middle school called me a sheep once (because I was round and had yellow-white hair), but even at the time I remember thinking that he was just trying to get a rise out of me and that calling me a sheep was pretty dumb (hippo would have been much more insulting -- or whale!).

I turned a corner on the beach and continued jogging along the lake shore. Ahead of me, seven teenagers were gathered in the middle of the sidewalk. A few of them turned and saw me coming and motioned to their friends. Immediately I felt my adolescent insecurity well-up. "They're going to make fun of me," I thought, "mock the non-skinny girl at her feeble running attempt." Naturally, I was right. Just as I passed the group of teens I saw two girls smirk at the boys and start an exaggerated lopping run behind me. I thought about Carrie and fantasized throwing the group into the lake with my mind powers. Almost as a gut reaction I spun around, flicked the girls off, and said, "Fuck you." The girls' jaws dropped and they stopped dead in their tracks. I continued my jog and noticed a group of adults looking at me in awe -- most likely the parents of the teens wondering why this random person just flicked off their children.

Feeling like the "weirdo" can make you do strange things. You can suddenly go mind-power crazy at your senior prom or you can shout profanity at a group of children who may or may not have been poking fun at you. Having that immediate "fuck you" reaction towards some dumbass teenagers certainly took me by surprise and I wondered if I would feel this self-conscious during the 5K on Sunday.

It turns out the sudden self-esteem drop was just that -- sudden. I jogged the 5K by myself (my friend is also about a foot taller than me so a light run for her is like a jogging giraffe), but instead of my typical anxieties while running ("Oh god, I am going so slow. Does this even count as a jog? How ridiculous do I look? Why are my thighs so big??) I actually enjoyed myself. I kept up a steady jog for at least 4 of the 5 kilometers and finished the race in 33 minutes -- 5 minutes faster than all of my practice runs! I felt accomplished, fit, colourful (you know, because they throw coloured powder at you during the run), and relieved. I had just run with about 1,000 people and did not let my insecurities get to me. Had I let my usual self conscious feelings take over I probably would have walked the entire 5 kilometers. If only Carrie could have been so lucky!
Before and After the 5K Colour in Motion Run.