Saturday, October 22, 2011

Yeah, right... A Movie Review

Before  I start, I must admit that I have yet to actually watch this movie. I've read the entire plot synopsis, though, and I feel I have enough to go on to hate it's stinking guts. And it's not because of Renee Zellweger, either. Although she is part of the problem.

So, the story is as follows: social worker named Emily is alerted to the case of a girl named Lilith who is showing problems in school and certain behaviors that indicate possible abuse. So far, so good. Grounded in reality. I follow. Based on poor school performance and the appearance of a strained relationship, Emily proposes removing the girl from the home. Wow, miss Emily is one gung-ho social worker. I pray no one would separate a family for poor grades and a strained relationship, or all teens will be taken out of their homes. Then Lilith's parents try to roast her in the oven. Huh, guess Emily was on the right track after all... Lilith is sent to a children's home (not a foster home??? Weird) but Emily gets permission to take the child into her own home. Aaaaaand break reality. Seriously, wtf. Can you say conflict of interest?? Does she do this with all her cases, or what? I mean, would any child welfare department ever approve this "sure, give the caseworker dibs on the kid" arrangement?? Lilith starts using kooky head games to kill off all sorts of people, mostly Emily's bff's. Emily goes to see the parents and they tell her that Lilith is a demon masquerading as a little girl and the only way to kill her is in her sleep. Emily slips Lilith sleeping pills and tries to burn down the house with her in it. Lilith escapes (surprise!) and Emily and Lilith end up in the car together driving... somewhere. Emily tries to scare Lilith by driving too fast, Lilith tries to control Emily with a scary memory of driving in the rain, Emily regains control and drives the car into a body of water. Emily tries to trap Lilith in the car and escape. Lilith goes full demon mode and tries to drown Emily, eventually letting go of Emily's leg and allowing her to escape. Fin.

Here's my problem with this little movie. First of all, there's the huge deviations from reality in terms of orphan care. These kids are not just sent home with the first employee who claims them. It's not like when you work at Denny's and the hostess gets to raid the lost and found box at the end of the week. You can't say "I work here, so I get to take this kid home." That would constitute a massive conflict of interest. Most people don't know a lot about the foster system, and the last thing we need is to give them the message that it's run all loosey-goosey like a clearing house for used short people.

Second, there's this reinforcing of the "orphans are garbage" mindset. Do people really believe that orphaned children are demons that murder people? No, of course not. And if they do, they should seek help. Yet many people have this vague feeling that orphans are orphaned because there was something "wrong" with them. Maybe they were difficult, or medically fragile, or the offspring of bad parents, a situation that seems to imply that they must have inherited something bad themselves. They are viewed as a liability, rather than a child, and are thought of as being a great risk to those who would try to help them.

When did we develop this desire for horror movies that portray the children as the evil ones, anyway? Are we that desensitized to true evil that we have to take the only innocence we have left and make it bad for entertainment? Perhaps when we started chipping away at the image of our children as innocent, we opened them up to more abuse than ever. This idea that kids can be inherently bad allows people to feel justified in a whole host of horrible actions against them.

In the meantime, I can't stand these movies that demonize orphans because they are adding to the problem. By padding the myth that orphans have something "wrong with them" we make it harder to create safe and loving environments for them. By constantly seeing them killed off in their film representations, we divorce their youth from their adulthood, reinforcing this idea that orphan care isn't a big deal because they'll age out of the system and then disappear.

It seems the only time we see orphans in media is one of three ways 1) helpless infant as a plot device, 2) evil child who tries to destroy the ones who try to help him/her, or 3) Cinderella story who is worthy because he/she achieved something spectacular.  You're either helpless, bad, or worthy of love based only on your grand achievements. What sort of message are we sending these kids? "We expect you to bring us only harm, but if you cure cancer I suppose you could be loved and accepted. Now, what was your name again, little baby?"

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