Anyone who has read a Stephen King novel can attest to the fact that they are, in a word, weird, but in a wonderful way. From supernatural horrors to grotesque realities, King captures every nightmare you never knew you had. For this reason, I was incredibly apprehensive about reading his novel, “It”. However, the novel was being turned into a movie and I was very excited for the chance to see it with my dad and sister, both of whom are huge fans of King. It is 1000 pages of crude humor, childhood friendships, love, maturity, and, most of all, fear.
King perfectly balances horror and humor to maintain a terrifying, yet relatable, tale. I was able to fall in love with the character development of each member of the Losers Club, and to hurt and feel for them. It was for this reason that I was extremely disappointed when the movie adaption of “It” employed the stereotypical damsel in distress storyline for Beverly Marsh, the only girl in the Losers Club.
As a teenage girl in the 21st century my personality has been developed through the Hermione Granger’s of literature. My role models were the brave and intelligent females that refused to bend to their male counterparts. However, as I have grown, I have learned to also appreciate the female characters that were less intelligent and less brave, but still refused to give up in a world dominated by men. In the novel, Beverly Marsh is first introduced as an adult that is in an abusive relationship. However, by the end of her section she has thrown a vanity table at her abuser and fought her way out of the home. I remember feeling breathless and exhilarated by the turn of events during this scene. Spurred on by the memory of her duty to rid the world of a terrible evil, Beverly is not held back by the will of some man.
Even as a child, Beverly Marsh’s character does not shy away from the danger she faces. Although her friend group is composed of ten-year-old boys who want to respect and protect her, she refuses their offers of safety. Multiple passages in the book describe the boys entering a dangerous situation and asking Beverly to stay away; however, she pushes past them and proves that she is an equal in bravery and strength.
This literary portrayal of Beverly is entirely different from that put forth in the movie. Although Sophia Lillis does an incredible job of acting embarrassed of her prepubescent beauty that attracts older men, her character lacks the strength found in the novel. When the overused trope of the group falling apart at the hands of evil is employed, only a kidnapped female can bring them back together. I remember feeling incredibly angry, and even slighted, when the second I realized that the plot was going to change and Beverly was becoming a victim.
I immediately began to complain and critique the movie, only to be shushed by the rest of my family. However, I still feel just as frustrated over this storyline since it labels the once empowering, if not damaged, Beverly Marsh as a replaceable character, who is only important because Bill and Ben think she is pretty. Her disappearance has the power to bring the boys back together– but in making this choice, the directors took away her power as an individual with a personality and skill set central to the plot. By refusing Beverly her role as an important hero, young girls watching the film are taught that during tough situations they should wait around for a boy to save the day.
Representation in media is crucial for the development of self-esteem in young individuals. Art, literature, and music have become more inclusive of strong characters that are either females, minorities, or both. However, Hollywood still struggles immensely to find actors or storylines that provide representation for all types of people. King’s novel was published in the 1980’s and yet, he still discussed the mistreatment of women, gay people, and minorities. If King could show to his readers that abuse and prejudice were equal to being controlled by a killer clown, why can’t modern day Hollywood give Beverly Marsh the character development she deserves?
Although the movie adaption of “It”certainly undermines the concept of feminism in how it portrays Beverly Marsh, the movie itself is still wonderful. It is my hope that the sequel, the adult segment of It, will bring forth a Beverly Marsh that reflects the strength that was stolen from her in the first movie.