Friday, March 2, 2012

Raping American Women: Gone

Director Heitor Dhalia's and writer Allison Burnett's Gone  provides a voice for American women who are feeling trapped by liberal political rhetoric telling them about birth control and how they should view sex. The film obviously foresaw what has come to the political discussions this week with talk show political conservative Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a slut because she wants the government to pay for her birth control. The liberal government would have all women believe as Nancy Pelosi preaches, that 98% of all Catholic women use birth control.  What Gone does, is provide--in a secular context (so it doesn't have anything to do with religion)--a voice and description of the harm done to women who do engage in casual sex. By giving a subtext of how women have been politically raped--forced into believing something they intuitively know is harmful for them--Gone finally delivers a real political message: just as "the lady vanishes" in This Means War, so "gone" are the girls that have spoken against casual sex and have tried to protect themselves and others.
Jill Parrish (Amanda Seyfried) was abducted from her bed one night; drugged and her hands bound with gray duct tape, she was thrown into an earthen pit where she found human bones; the abductor, Jim (Socratis Otto), came down to kill her but she was able to use a bone she found and stabbed him in the shoulder and escaped. A year later, she's still edgy about being abducted again; when she comes home and finds her sister Molly (Emily Wickersham) gone, Jill knows Jim has come back for her and she has to find Molly or Jim will kill her; the police never believed that Jill had been abducted because they couldn't find the hole and there was no scientific evidence verifying her story so they believe she's crazy.
Jill in the earth pit holding the bone she will use as Jim (off screen) climbs down to kill her. Please note, just to Jill's left is a dog food bowl and a matching dog water bowl is also off screen. That dog food is what women are "fed" to make them believe that sexual promiscuity is natural and if you are not engaging in sexual activity, something is wrong with you.
There are two reasons to approach this film from a psychoanalytic perspective. The first is, everyone's pointing out that Jill's crazy, she's been in a mental institution and at the end, she says, "It was all in my head." The second reason to approach it this way is because that is how Jill follows Jim's trail: whenever someone in a film or story is tracking down clues that is an invitation from the film makers to track down the clues within the story to find the real message. So what are the clues? The abundance of sexual references made within the film revealing how women are treated sexually today.
Molly studies for an econ test the next day when Jill comes home. The parents of the girls died, which, symbolically, indicates their patriotism and their faith (the founding father and holy mother church). In normal circumstances, this would be a bad thing, but given how the political atmosphere has been charged the last year (and even more so now with the birth control mandates) having a purely secular heroine is actually a benefit because it demonstrates that sexual morality does not hinge upon religious morality, that a woman can know sex is bad for her even if she isn't siting religious reasons for it. Molly used to have a drinking problem. When Jill arrives home before going to work during the night at a diner, Molly realizes that Jill had been at Forrest Park, the place where Jill was found and claimed to have been thrown into the pit (she was looking for evidence to verify her story). Molly says, "How would you like it if I came home drunk?" because Molly correlates Jill trying to find out what happened as a bad thing. Whereas Molly's drinking was a disordering of Molly's appetites that led to her downfall, Jill learned a lesson that is keeping her safe and protecting her.
These are all the references to Amanda's sexuality and sexual encounters she has to put up with in the 24 hours in which the film takes place. The guy she "fights" in her self-defense class pushes her hair back and calls her sweetheart (which is what Jim called her when she was in the pit), when she's at the diner, she's stared at by a customer who ends up being Jim, the cook behind the counter smiles at her, insinuating he wants her to be nice to him, a young teenager asks her if they went to the same school and his friend tells him to give it up while his girlfriend is sitting there. When Jill goes to the police, the lieutenant tells her that an honors student had gone missing but was found with a guy in a hotel room; a female detective tells Jill that Molly might have had two boyfriends instead of just one; Detective Hood (Wes Bentley) says that Jill should move in with him because he likes them a little crazy.
The Lucky Star Diner where Jill works the night shift with her friend, Sharon. Jim, the man who had abducted Jill, has just let the diner (unknown to Jill) and left her a $100 tip and left Sharon a $100 tip as well. Jill gets upset because he had been staring at her, but the guy just on the other side of the counter from Jill and Sharon will smile at her in an inviting way, then one of the customers will try picking up on her even with his girlfriend right there.  That these references take place in Jill's workplace demonstrates what didn't happen in the history of Feminism: as a result of working alongside men in the labor force, women were supposed to have earned more respect, and that's not what has happened, it has just exposed them to more sexual dangers.
When Molly's boyfriend Billy (Sebastian Stan) is talking to Jill about Molly's disappearance, Jill tells him what pajamas she was wearing and Billy says he knows Molly only had one pair (because they have been sleeping together). When Jill starts looking for clues, the locksmith she talks to (Ted Rooney) offers her a stick of gum (we might not think this is sexual, but it is enough to Jill that it triggers a flashback). Jill goes to see if Molly has spent the night with Try (Hunter Parrish) from her econ class and finds that he was sleeping with another guy. Two cops (one male, one female) are talking in their squad car about the male cop having sex with his sister-in-law that has continued into his marriage. Jill is trying to avoid detection by the police and she talks to some young girls about Justin Bieber, the singer, taping into their desire for him to keep herself hidden. Jill talks to a "skate rat" who lives with his girlfriend and claims that Jim has "rapie eyes" (a rapist). The janitor from whom Jill rents his car calls her a five-minute girl and refers to her being a prostitute.
When Jill gets home and realizes Molly is missing, she spots one of Molly's earrings on the floor. The erring, a diamond, symbolizes that Molly has heard what Jill couldn't say, i.e., the reason Jill was reluctant to go to dinner and it's when Molly herself has been put in that position that she's able to understand what Jill has gone through (Billy wanting to come over and spend the night even though Molly has a big test the next day). Molly reflecting on these things (her cleaning her teeth while Billy is on the phone means she is cleansing herself of her appetites, including the ones for him) is what puts Molly in Jill's position, bound and gagged.
Jill goes to her friend's Sharon's house (Jennifer Carpenter) and Sharon has two little boys but isn't married; further, Sharon is the type of girl who takes a strange man's phone number (Jim gives it to her). These are all examples of sexuality outside the normal realm (that is, between a husband and wife) the film offers up. The second aspect of the film to consider is the story Jim tells Jill as she's going through the woods to meet him: there was a man who lived in a cave with his daughter in Forrest Park, and she didn't go to school because he taught her all she needed to know and they were very happy together... what does this "story" mean? The father would be a founding father, like Uncle Sam, the legislative body of this country; the little girl symbolizes the future of this country. The two of them "living naturally" translates to them living according to nature, not according to the spirit (please think, for example, of The Tree Of Life) and Jim is arguing that women like Jill should live naturally, not according to the spirit and what they have learned, rather, according to the appetites, like rabbits. This is how Jim wants Jill to be, but she's not, she's fighting it. How can we know this is a reliable translation of the film?
Because of the incident that triggers everything.
Billy, Molly's boyfriend, who thinks that Molly disappeared because Molly has started drinking again. That Billy insists Molly only has one pair of pajamas means that he only sees her in one way: his girlfriend, that's why he wants her to come spend the night with him instead of studying for her econ test the next day, because he doesn't see her as having any being outside of his girlfriend, i.e., his bed partner.  Specifically, the difference between the pajamas Billy is used to seeing Molly wear and the ones she wears when Jim breaks in and takes her is the blue stripes on the ones she wears when she is abducted. The presence of the blue stripes means wisdom, though it's not always in everything Molly does, but Billy, revealingly, usually doesn't think of Molly as having any wisdom.
Prior to Molly asking Jill to come have dinner on Sunday and meet Billy's cousin, Jill doesn't have any flashbacks of when she was abducted. The minute Molly wants Jill to go on a date, Jill has a flashback of being in the pit and having tape over her mouth and her hands bound. Now we are in a position to understand what this is about:  the earthen pit is Jill's vagina, her sexual organs, because that's all that guys see her for, sex, and there is no way for her to get out of that "pit." The sex she doesn't want to engage in is what makes her dirty.  Jill knows that if she gos to dinner with Billy's cousin, he will probably press her for sex and that's why her flashback of being bound and gagged is triggered: she can't say anything because women are expected to perform sex when a man takes them out to a $15  dinner and if she resists she's labeled "crazy."
The first clue Jill gets is a neighbor having heard the car horn honking during the night when Molly was taken. Why a "lock smith" van? Jill has locked away her memories of what happened and she needs the key to open them again and find out. When the film first opens, Jill is in the forest, walking a long a path. The forest has always symbolized a dark spiritual trial and the path she follows is the path of life.
This is the second reason why the film must be explained psychoanalytically: if we take the events out of Jill's mind, they don't make sense. For example, how did Jim get into Jill's house to get Molly? He didn't, the house is a metaphor for Jill's mind, but if we take this literal, it doesn't make sense. Why is Molly put under the house (but then she can't go back the way Jim placed her there, she has to break a board to get out? That doesn't make sense) because she's being put in the same kind of place that Jill was put, and because the porch is the "entrance" to the soul and the mind, Molly being under the porch means "she's beginning to understand and enter into" what Jill went through with Jill's devastating sexual experience.
The police force who refuses to help Jill. The reluctance of the force to even believe Molly is missing reveals the deeper problem that women have to endure: that because some women "behave badly," all women behave badly, and it's no one's fault, far from it, it's everyone's right, but those who do not believe in acting that way are "crazy," i.e., fanatics.
The second subtext of the film is, why does Jill lie so much? If she wants people to believe her, shouldn't she be telling the truth? Jill tells the truth to the police and they don't care; she tells the truth to her neighbor lady who doesn't seem concerned. So when she's having to explain why she needs information, she  puts it in monetary terms because Jill reasons that people will care about property more than they will care about a young woman, and Jill is right, they do.
Jill has blond hair and blue eyes. This references a certain "type" of woman that Alfred Hitchcock was fond of: the angel. Jill's big blue eyes and long flowing blond hair emphasizes purity and innocence, qualities not associated with women anymore. It's from her desire to protect herself and the other women who have been lost in the same "hole" she was that her strength comes.
There is a second aspect to her "lying," and that is, if we are reading the story psychologically, then they aren't lies, they are encoded descriptions of what has really happened to her, just different ways of telling the story, and they all involve theft and damage: in other words, she's telling the truth, but what she says is a story using different symbols to communicate in a way her audience will understand.
The female detective on the left is an interesting character because of her hair. This is the officer who tells Jill that Molly might have two boyfriends. Hair symbolizes thoughts, and her hair is always crazy, almost like a rat's nest, and that's because she's a "modern" woman, wearing men's clothes. If we compare her crazy hair to Jill's that's washed, combed, pulled back and basically disciplined, then we can see, in this female cop's appearance, what being "undisciplined" does to a woman: she becomes like a man. Something that's interesting is when Jim comes to abduct Molly and he takes an old high school picture of her; that's probably when Molly lost her virginity and the time that Molly is remembering as she starts "listening" to what Jill is saying by not saying it and remembering her own bad sexual experiences.
Why does Jill stop taking her medicine?
We see her taking her meds when she's working at the diner, then when she's on the bus, trying to find Molly, she decides not to take the medicine. The medicine symbolizes "what they are feeding her" because her therapist will call and tell Jill a lie to get Jill to come in so they can keep her from looking for Molly. Jill realizes that her understanding of what is happening is superior to the cops and everyone else, she trusts her instincts, she knows that she's not crazy, even though the "powers" that be (the name of the main cop who is tracking her down) don't want Jill to think for herself because there is "no evidence" to prove her story.
Detective Powers.
Why, in the pit, did Jill stab Jim with the bone?
The bone is what Jill finds "within herself" when she's trapped, and that leg bone symbolizes her will. But as Jill points out, the bone has been split in two, so what happened for it to be split in two? If Jill wasn't raped, she was at least in a sexual experience that was not only unwelcomed but psychologically damaging and that damage is what split her will and fragmented her identity. That she is able to use it to stab Jim in the shoulder (as a part of the arm it symbolizes strength, so his strength over her) the very fact that Jill knows she is wounded makes her want to heal and that strengthens her so she can fight the spiritual battles she needs to fight.
At the end when Jill says, "It was all in my head," she's referring to the spiritual battle she has fought to gain back her confidence and heal the wounds she has suffered. She has fought to keep society out of her brain, when they tell her nothing happened, but she knows that it did. All the missing girls that "no one is looking for" are girls like Jill who do not want to have sexual relations regardless of the pressure and propaganda society puts on them. When "slut pride" is being paraded by the Liberals, it's more than refreshing to see a film that understands the damage that can be done by engaging in sexual relations outside of marriage. That the political powers who be want to insist that sex is nothing but a physical activity, and women who do not believe so are being oppressed by religious institutions, is a form of political rape that can't stop soon enough.