In sixth grade, I attended weekly CCD classes at the local Catholic church. Though my dad had long since become jaded by religion, he was glad I could interact with kids outside my tiny school, where I was bullied mercilessly. But when one boy in CCD began calling me Carrie, a reference to Stephen King’s classic novel about an isolated teenage girl with telekenetic powers, I started to worry that everyone everywhere would be taunting me before long. CCD was my escape from school, the single place where no one knew of my lowly social status, but even strangers could see I was different. Like Chloe Moretz’s Carrie White, all I wanted was to blend in and steer clear of trouble, and nobody would let me fly under the radar. I was meant to stand out, but not always in a positive way.
The worst part of getting bullied wasn’t the social shaming, but being considered a potential threat to those around me. Every spring, the school dedicated an entire week to bullying prevention rallies and workshops, and my classmates treated me differently during that time, temporarily afraid their actions could end in carnage. When others would say mean things about me, one or two people would order them to stop, warning, “Do you want to be the next Columbine? Leave Laura alone. She’s a prime candidate for someone bringing a gun to school and shooting everyone in sight.”
The folks who did this thought they were standing up for me and silencing my harassers, but actually made matters worse. I would have taken bullying over the insinuation that harassment could turn me into a twisted, murderous teenager. No one wants to be thought of like that.
I tried to laugh it off when others expressed concern that I would snap, but it was hard to find humor in their implications. Worst of all, everyone knew just how much they were hurting me and refused to give it a rest. I’m not a violent individual, but when one of my male harassers started spreading rumors about my parents freshman year of high school, I lost my mind and cornered him one day. Crystal and I were walking to class and found him totally alone, smirking at me as he approached. Full of uncharacteristic rabid rage, I grabbed him by the shoulders, lifted him up, and threw him into a pole. I was about 104 pounds, so it wasn’t my body strength that got him off the ground. It was my resentment toward him and pure adrenaline.
“Laura, what the fuck?” Crystal said. “Are you out of your mind?”
“He can say whatever he wants about me. But my parents don’t deserve to be laughed at.”
“You can’t shove people into poles. That’s crazy.”
“I don’t care.”
He never bothered me again, nor did he tell anyone about our altercation, perhaps because his ego was too inflated for him to admit he’d been assaulted by a girl. Word still got out, furthering the notion that I was a volatile victim who could crack any moment.
The bullying mostly stopped after my first year of high school, but one day in freshman physics, a dude from the faux punk clique confronted me in the middle of class. He’d made fun of me alongside his guy friends many times before, often joking that I should be beaten and gang raped, because how hilarious would that be?
“Have you ever thought about committing mass violence?” he said.
“Uh, no,” I replied, laughing to release the tension between us. “Why would you ask that?”
“Because you get picked on constantly and I want to know when to run.”
“Well, there’s an easy answer here. If you think I’m being bullied to the point of a psychotic break, why not just stop making fun of me like a decent person?”
Rather than own up to his significant role in the problem, he smiled, shook his head, and walked away. He was back to being a douchebag within days, but could you really expect more from a 14-year-old wannabe punk with a Social Distortion t-shirt and unwarranted chip on his shoulder? That was how it went with anyone who bothered me. They always knew they were going overboard, but didn’t consider the consequences of trying to make someone crumble.
It’s why I had such a rough time with the “Carrie” association. I knew what it was like to be humiliated in front of a crowd and take years of senseless abuse from folks my age. In a lot of ways, I identified with Carrie, a lonely outsider who turns out to be the most powerful person in town, the one who makes history and a name for herself while the others just perish as average teens who would have peaked in high school anyway. She gets revenge on everybody who hurts her, and while we’re supposed to see this as a success story, a cautionary tale about going after people who are different, I couldn’t support her actions. A real hero would rise above the taunting and use her special talents for the good of society, not to kill everyone, and that’s why I never liked being called Carrie.
Yesterday, I saw the new “Carrie” starring Chloe Moretz and Julianne Moore, two of my favorite actresses for different reasons. Chloe Moretz’s wisdom belies her age and Julianne Moore never, ever disappoints. They both delivered in the remake, and I think Moretz depicted a more vulnerable, needier Carrie than Sissy Spacek. That’s not to say the original wasn’t great, but Spacek was in her mid-twenties during the filming of “Carrie.” Moretz is just 16 years old, and her innocence and need for parental love absolutely come through on screen.
“I remember when I first got my period, I remember that first kiss, I remember when I first really liked a guy,” Moretz said in an interview. “Everything was fresher than someone who is 24 or 25.”
The new “Carrie” is somewhat of a contemporary take on the 70s movie, and I say “somewhat” because it still has an old school feel about it. Gym class is still separated by gender and Carrie’s mom successfully keeps her daughter away from modern technology. Using smartphones, the other girls record Carrie’s famous meltdown at the beginning of the film, when she has her first menstrual period and thinks she’s bleeding to death. Her mother is an insane Christian who never told her about the body changes girls experience as teenagers, and now Carrie looks ridiculous in front of everyone. They’re punished for chucking tampons at Carrie and uploading the video online, and while most of them actually feel bad about what they’ve done, the female ringleader, Chris thinks Carrie is at fault for being “too stupid” to not know she was having her period. Meanwhile, popular girl Sue Snell feels guilty about the way they all treated a naive, sheltered classmate and wants to make it up to Carrie by forcing her own boyfriend to accompany her to prom.
I’ve been a Stephen King fan all my life, and I remember reading once that he tossed his first draft of “Carrie” in the trash, believing he couldn’t relate to teenage girls and had no business writing about one. Thankfully his wife discovered the story and convinced him to pursue it further, and nearly 40 years following the book’s release, we have a new version of the movie. I don’t think it needed to be remade, and I wasn’t a fan of the prom scene, but Moretz’s portrayal truly captures Carrie’s innocence. After she destroys the school and much of the town, she rushes home to her mom, a religious nut who intends on killing her. Carrie knows her mom isn’t normal, but that doesn’t take away her own need for love and support in the aftermath of doing a very bad thing. Carrie realizes what she’s done, and even though she’s committed unforgivable acts, she wants to be held and told everything’s going to be OK.
Most of you know how the movie ends — Carrie murders her mom in self-defense, but at the last minute, feels bad about it and hugs her mother as she makes the house collapse on top of them. Even in death, Carrie needs human contact, and she’d rather pass away alongside her twisted single parent who stabbed her in the back than alone.
Without giving too much away, I think Moretz’s Carrie is slightly less evil than that of Spacek. She doesn’t go on to torment Sue Snell from the grave, and she tells Sue to leave the crumbling house before it falls to pieces. Moretz doesn’t go easy on gym teacher Ms. Desjardin though, and that’s something I’ve never liked about the story. Carrie doesn’t have to become a monster, but that’s unfortunately the way things pan out, as she simply doesn’t know any better, that she doesn’t have to be a freak once high school ends.