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How Does the New It Movie Deal With Stephen King’s Orgy Scene and Beverly's character?

How Does the New It Movie Deal With Stephen King’s Orgy Scene?

By E. Alex Jung via www.vulture.com

Since its publication in September of 1986, It has enjoyed a long shelf life, first as a book that spent 14 weeks at the top of the New York Times best-seller list and then worming into nightmares as a TV mini-series in 1990 starring Tim Curry as the titular demonic clown/embodiment of children’s deepest fears. The monster, which a group of kids simply name “It,” manifests as something different for each person based on their specific fears — burning houses, lepers, a dead sibling — and, perhaps because of this, the story has maintained a compelling hold on our collective psyches for more than 30 years. This week, It hits theaters for the first time as a feature film, with a script that was originally set to be directed by Cary Fukunaga, before New Line decided to pivot to Andy Muschietti. (Fukunaga retains a writing credit on a reworked script).

But one controversial scene from King’s novel has dogged the book and subsequent adaptations. After defeating It, the kids get lost in the sewer tunnels on the way out; this is attributed in part to the fact that they’re losing their “connection” to one another. The solution is to bind them together, which Beverly — the only girl in the story’s main group of protagonists, called “the Losers” — says can only happen if each of the boys has sex with her. Where they’re timid and unsure, she’s confident and maternal. (King writes the first boy Eddie comes to her “the way he would have come to his mother.”) The sex is a “consensual” gang bang, with each of the boys losing his virginity, and thus entering manhood, through Beverly.

The ’80s was a bonkers time, but the orgy scene in particular has aged poorly; critics and readers looking back at it have called it everything from “disturbing” to “sick” to “insane.” A Reddit reader from last year simply asked, “WTF?” and generated over 500 comments. For almost ten exhaustive pages, King describes each of the boys having sex with Beverly and their orgasms as a version of “flying.” (You also get the sense that King is a bit of a size queen.) Beverly’s desires are positioned as a way for her to overcome her own fears around sex, but mostly the narrative centers on how the boys literally enter adulthood through Beverly’s vagina. Kingreleased a statement a few years ago through his fan site Stephenking.com, where he wrote, “I wasn’t really thinking of the sexual aspect of it… Intuitively, the Losers knew they had to be together again. The sexual act connected childhood and adulthood.” Perhaps most horrifying to modern sensibilities is that there is no talk of birth control, condoms, or a realization that a circle jerk would have sufficed.

When the new adaptation was announced, many wondered whether it would feature the scene, or some version of it (though the 1990 version eschewed it entirely). As fans often like to say: It’s canon. So does the new version feature a bunch of kids engaging in an orgy? The tl;dr version: No. But while it evades the obvious graphic horror and legal problems of minors simulating group sex, the new film retains a lot of the original scene’s problems — namely, its regressive gender politics and sexualization of its adolescent-girl lead.

The 2017 film flattens and reduces Beverly as a character in retrograde ways. It plays up the love triangle between Beverly (Sophia Lillis), Bill (the protagonist played by Jaeden Lieberher, who loses his little brother Georgie at the start of the film), and the chubby kid, Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), who pines for Bev and writes her a precocious love haiku. The climax of the film — when the Losers reconnect to defeat It after they initially disband — is prompted by It capturing Beverly and taking her to its lair. From there, it’s a classic tale of a damsel in distress: When Bev’s friends come upon her, she’s suspended in midair, like a pendant lamp. The boys eventually get her down, but she’s zoned out, her eyes clouded over. And just as in Sleeping Beauty,Ben kisses her and she awakens. She exists first and foremost as an object of their desire.

It’s an odd decision, in part because this is a more classically sexist narrative than what Fukunaga and Chase Palmer wrote in their original screenplay (which was leaked online after Fukunaga and the studio parted due to “creative differences”). In fact, some of the major differences between the old and new scripts involve Beverly in this way; the new script sexualizes her several times, like when she flirts with a middle-aged cashier at a pharmacy to help the boys steal some supplies. (In the Fukunaga script, the hypochondriac kid Eddie, played by Jack Dylan Grazer, fakes a medical emergency). In Fukunaga and Palmer’s version, Beverly flirts with zero old dudes and needs no saving. She goes with the boys to Pennywise’s lair, launches herself into a waterfall and goes headlong into the fight.

The Fukunaga script does have elements of physical horror that hew more closely to the book. But the focus is different: Beverly’s It manifests as blood — buckets of blood that spew from the sink — and Fukunaga makes it clear that the blood is a metaphor for her own fears around growing up and becoming a “woman,” something she fears would make her more of a sexual object to men, including her father. The new version, on the other hand, removes the physical horror, but leaves in the male gaze: Her father leers at her, calling her his “little girl” and attempting to harm her physically, but there is no blatant indication of sexual abuse. And while the bathroom blood remains, it’s not visually connected to her period or to her fear of her dad, making it seem displaced and random.

The Fukunaga version also wisely sidestepped the orgy scene, but still contains a moment where the kids are lost in the sewer, starting to panic. Beverly reins them all in in a way that’s appropriately childlike and innocent.

BEVERLY

Guys, stop it. Focus.

Everyone turns to Bev. Their muse. Their light.

SHE TAKES EDDIE’S FACE IN HER HANDS

SHE TAKES STAN’S FACE IN HER HANDS

SHE TAKES RICHIE’S FACE IN HER HANDS

SHE TAKES MIKE’S FACE IN HER HANDS

SHE TAKES BEN’S FACE IN HER HANDS

SHE TAKES WILL’S FACE IN HER HANDS

While the new adaptation of It doesn’t go as far as 1980s Stephen King did, it’s simultaneously both more PC and more conservative than Fukunaga’s script, cutting out the messy parts of Beverly’s life and character to turn her into a trope — a girl who flirts and needs to be saved — rather than metaphorizing her fears. One scene that unites all versions, though, is when the kids each cut their palms and hold hands in a final blood oath. Of course, in the new version, Beverly and Bill have to have their Hollywood kiss, and they do so with her leaving a bloody handprint on his cheek. But it’s weird and gross and funny — and, unlike King’s orgy, seems exactly like something a kid would do.

ANOTHER RECOMMENDED ARTICLE ABOUT THIS TOPIC:

The New It Is a Compelling Coming-of-Age Story—for the Boys, at Least - Strong as it is, the film makes some puzzling changes to Beverly Marsh’s story

FIVE THINGS FUTURE DC FILMS SHOULD BORROW FROM WONDER WOMAN

Five things future DC films should borrow from Wonder Woman

by Kwame Opam@kwameopam  via theverge.com

Wonder Woman had an arduous task to pull off on its way to the box office. As the fourth entry in the DC Extended Universe film franchise, it needed to succeed where Man of SteelBatman v Superman, and Suicide Squad each failed by being dour, poorly made, and overly violent. It also needed to be the first blockbuster starring a female superhero to land at the box office, proving decades of skepticism wrong in the process. It’s an unenviable position to be in, but the film was a success despite its underdog status, making its record-breaking $100.5 million debut in North America and critical acclaim that much more astounding. Wonder Woman was a trailblazer for female heroes in comics, and now she’s a trailblazer at the movies.

Wonder Woman’s theatrical success is no accident. Unlike its cinematic cousins, Wonder Woman is cleaner, more fun, and more sure of itself in ways that we should demand from our superhero movies. Marvel and DC, it’s time to take notes.

IT HAS CLEAR STORY

BvSand Suicide Squadhave a whole host of problems shared between them, but the most egregious issues relate to their muddled, often nonsensical narratives. Superheroes don’t exist in worlds that look a whole lot like our own, what with the flying people and aliens with eye lasers, but their stories should adhere to some kind of internal logic that keeps viewers invested beyond the spectacle. So it’s frustrating when these tentpoles revolve around stories that, say, pit Batman against Superman because Lex Luthor happens to hate Superman because of undercooked father issues that have nothing to do with Batman. Or when the shrewd, ruthless Amanda Waller thinks a guy who’s really good with guns and a woman in clown makeup can take on a being who can survive a nuclear blast.

‘WONDER WOMAN’ SATISFIES BECAUSE IT MOSTLY MAKES SENSE

Wonder Woman, on the other hand, is satisfying because it makes sense. Or as much sense as a movie inspired by a pulp story written for children in the 1940s can, anyway. Diana of Themyscira is raised among a race of women warriors bred to keep the world safe from war. War comes to the shores of Themyscira. Diana takes it upon herself to fulfill her duty and save the world. She soon discovers that the world is far more complicated than she ever knew, but she grows enough to believe that the world is still worth saving. That’s as straightforward a story as you can get, and it leaves plenty of room for introspection, nuance, and action that pulls viewers right into Diana’s world.

IT ISN’T OVER-STYLIZED

Much has already been said about the DCEU cinematic aesthetic. Man of Steel and Batman v Superman director Zack Snyder loves spectacle — so much so that some of his scenes in movies like 300 don’t feel so much like moments as splash panels lifted directed from the source comic. Those choices plagued his DCEU movies, while the choices made in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad blended gritty, grimy action with Day-Glo colors, making for a confused visual experience.

Wonder Woman is certainly stylized when it wants to be. The numerous slow-motion shots of the Amazons and Diana herself come right out of the Snyder stylebook. But when the film takes a step back to let them be awesome on-screen, fighting on horseback or taking artillery shells head-on, it’s that much more thrilling.

IT’S FUNNY

This is an area where Wonder Woman is not only leaps and bounds ahead of the DCEU’s previous films, but where it’s also able to give some of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe a run for their money. The film is intermittently hilarious, thanks in large part to the chemistry and comic timing of Gal Gadot and Chris Pine.

GAL GADOT AND CHRIS PINE HAVE GREAT COMIC TIMING

Where a film like Guardians of the Galaxyis able to mine laughs out of the Guardians’ screwy family dynamic, Gadot’s Diana and Pine’s Steve Trevor are two worlds colliding in the funniest possible ways. There are several moments where the movie seems to acknowledge that Diana, warrior princess, coming to man’s world is a patently silly concept, but the movie betrays so much affection for her and the people around her that the silliness brings laughs and real smiles. Especially when it comes to Steve trying — and failing — to gently undermine Diana, and Diana doing whatever she wants to do anyway.

IT’S SURPRISINGLY DIVERSE

The superhero genre has always been deeply white and male, and creators have struggled to change that, even in this franchise era when seemingly any superhero, no matter how obscure, can get a movie. (Remember Jonah Hex?) Wonder Woman, as the character’s first ever solo theatrical movie and the first female superhero movie since 2005’s awful Elektra, was always going to be a standard-bearer for women in the tights-and-capes crowd. But, given that Wonder Woman has become a modern pop-culture symbol for all women, the specter of white feminism meant that it needed to include people of color in a way that other films in its genre didn’t.

Thankfully, the movie manages to pull this off. The Amazons are formidable warrior women with a variety of skin tones, and they’re never sexualized for leering viewers. London (or what we see of it, anyway) is similarly diverse. And Diana’s comrades in arms include two actors of color, Saïd Taghmaoui and Eugene Brave Rock. Is the movie perfect on this front? No. After leaving Themyscira, the movie fails to really center the story of any female character beyond Diana’s own, and Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya) is woefully underutilized. But what’s there works so well that it’s a little hard to find fault in the shortcomings.

IT’S REFRESHINGLY SINCERE

On their way to the front lines, Diana and Steve pass by an ice-cream vendor. He buys her a scoop, and she eats it with such visible delight that she tells the vendor he should be very proud. It’s an affecting moment, because it strikes at two things that make Wonder Woman a great character. First, she’s able to see more clearly than anyone around her that there’s good in the world. Second, she believes that such goodness is worth defending. In just an instant, we get a clear glimpse at what drives her, and that instant is more joyful and sincere than anything the DCEU has offered to fans until now.

‘WONDER WOMAN’ IS SINCERE IN A WAY THE OTHER DCEU FILMS AREN’T

That sincerity is a far cry from the cynicism and existential anguish in all three previous DCEU films. Oh, Diana certainly has to grapple with what it means to be a hero in man’s world. But she knows what she believes, and arrives at a place where she can defend the world she loves, while still knowing there are things to be cynical about. In other words, she’s miles ahead of Batman and Superman in being the kind of hero that children have idolized for nearly a century.