The following post contains spoilers for the new IT movie, so avoid if you’d rather not see any!
Lauren and I recently went to see IT part two, which overall I really enjoyed – the casting was stellar, the acting was 1000% better than the adults (bar Tim Curry) in the made for tv original and I’d definitely watch it again. There was, however, one part that genuinely disturbed me and it came right out of the gate as opening sequence of the film.
There is a violent, lengthy homophobic attack that kickstarts the events of the movie after Pennywise wakes again after 27 years hungry for human flesh. Lauren warned me – she’s read the book and her aunt went to see the film last week and let us know that it’s quite brutal – so I wasn’t caught off guard by it, but I worry that others may have been.
Portraying homophobia on screen is a double-edged sword. On one hand, this is what life is like for a truly horrendous amount of LGBT+ folks and we shouldn’t sanitise that or shy away from it – especially in a movie the intent of which is to horrify – but there’s also the part of me realising I was in a fortunate position here. I was expecting it and I have never been through this kind of attack, I hope I never will be. The only thing letting me know anything might happen otherwise was the word ‘discrimination’ in the list of reasons for the age certificate of the film. Had I not been warned, or had it hit a little too close to home, would I then have been able to sit there in the dark for hours and enjoy the rest of the film? I’m objective enough to be able to think back and write a blog post about it. I’m one of the lucky ones. If you know of anyone who might find this scene upsetting, I’d warn them ahead of viewing. Spoilers be damned, it doesn’t spoil that much beyond the first ten minutes and it might mean they’ll be able to enjoy the movie without the aftershocks of witnessing violent homophobia on the big screen.
The film also deals with a character who struggles with remaining closeted – for whom being outed is a fear worthy of Pennywise’s notice – and the shifting of the timeline so that it sits more closely with now means this character grew up right in the middle of the HIV/AIDS crisis. There’s a throwaway line about it in part one that sticks out to me now with much more clarity. This is the world they grew up in, no wonder they’ve internalised some nasty stuff. I appreciated this storyline. It’s realistic, it’s sympathetic and because it shows how it is still possible to grow up afraid of yourself and who you are and small-town mentality is something I am very familiar with. There used to be a man in the town where I grew up who would stand in the middle of the town square with a sign about how gays were going to hell. He used to print them out at the library where I worked. I didn’t come out until I was at university and no longer ran the risk of seeing him in my place of work. I haven’t seen him there in a while, and I’ll be honest, I don’t care why.
Overall if the point of this inclusion was to frighten and unnerve, it worked. There was a clown eating people and the part of the movie that made me feel the most unsettled, the only part where I felt the need to look away, was by far that opening sequence. Horror is a genre which exposes our fears, that defies all attempts at censorship as a general rule. King included this kind of brutal homophobia because it appalled him – the man who writes to terrify and disgust, who has made his living on it. For a movie of this size to include it at all is worthy of note – looks like China won’t be getting this installment of the horror franchise unless they edit and dub the hell out of it and remove like 20 minutes of screen time – and it makes a powerful statement. Everyday life for so many LGBT+ people is as dangerous and terrifying as life in Derry, it’s a horror story worthy of King’s books, and that has nothing to do with supernatural, clown-faced, man-eating entities. It’s just people, and that’s the scariest part.
Have you seen IT Part Two? What were your thoughts on the scene in question? Feel free to drop a comment and we can chat!