(MINOR SPOILERS: YOU KNOW THE DRILL)
|“I used to daydream about being old enough to go on dates. I had this image of myself, holding hands with a really cute guy. Driving along some pretty road, listening to the radio. Having some sort of freedom, I guess.”|
Around the twitterverse and blogosphere, there has been a slight backlash calling IT FOLLOWS a run-of-the-mill "slut shaming" horror film that demonizes anyone that chooses to have sex. Horror has a pretty terrible track record in terms of the way it approaches female sexuality and sex positivity (how many times have we heard "the slut dies first?"), but IT FOLLOWS should not be reduced to falling into this category. Jay is a college student, but there are plenty of references to her past sexual history during her high school years. In one instance, she dismisses having sex with a previous partner because "it's not a big deal." She's right. It's NOT a big deal that someone had sex in high school. For a line like this to happen in a film, a medium that has an entire subgenre dedicated to young men trying to lose it before high school graduation, this "minor moment" is extremely important. While Jay is being terrorized for having sex, the film never puts her in the position of being at blame or deserving of her terror. We root for this girl, we want her to overcome this monster, and by us knowing she can save herself by "passing it on," we almost want her to run around and screw everyone on the planet just to stay alive. The film makes the audience genuinely crave a sex scene not for titillating arousal, but for survival. Sexuality is an evolving and detrimentally important aspect of human nature, despite the fact it's almost always a misconception presented to teenagers that it's one of the most "special and sacred things two people can do." It can be special and sacred, yes, but it doesn't have to be...and we're not bad people for having sex simply because it feels awesome.
Now, it's already been discussed how Jay is never presented as the villain in this film, and that's precisely why it needs to be debated. If anything, Jay is a much crueler character than Hugh because while drugging her and tying her to a chair is a problem, he at least warned her what was coming. Hugh prepared her and did the responsible "contact your sexual partners" sort of informing and Jay did not. Jay willingly gave the "it" to three dudes on a boat to give herself some time. While this can be excused as desperation, it is very reminiscent of the way drug addicts "get their fix." In this instance, the "fix" that Jay is seeking is the comfort knowing she has a small amount of time to not look over her shoulders. This sweet, albeit temporary relief is something she craves and does not consider the long term effects of her actions on others. Now, she does pass the "it" to two other friends (Greg and Paul) but because these friends offer themselves to her, we therefore see her as an innocent party. It was consensual, they knew what they were getting themselves into, and we can't view her as the villain.
Jay is, at heart, a kind and empathetic soul. She cares about her friends and her family, but she doesn't take the selfless role we want from her, she instead acts just as terribly as Hugh, if not worse. Does being burdened with an awful sexually contracted legacy mean she should be forced to live on an island? No. Does it mean she should warn people before boning that she has an awful sexually contracted legacy that will follow her partner? Yes. Yes she should.
IT FOLLOWS isn't perfect by any means, and it's actually a bit problematic at times, but it forces us to look at sexuality in horror films from an entirely different perspective. Ultimately, I hope that someone is inspired by IT FOLLOWS and fills in the cracks the film left behind. I am not on team "OMG BEST MOVIE EVER" but I am on team "This is going to scare the squares and make us discuss something we never take the time to talk about."