Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Dangerous Books: The Girl Next Door

It's easy to feel outraged over things that make us uncomfortable. That's why people ban books. Why they protest movies.

With my super-psychic powers, I can see a storm brewing. See, Jack Ketchum wrote a novel a few years back. The Girl Next Door. It's a hard read. The book describes the torture of a teenage girl; I had to put the book down multiple times before I got to the end. And, now it's a movie. It premiered on Oct. 3.

Even the horror reviewers, hard and calloused souls used to reading about all sorts of depravity, are getting the queasy "I can't believe this is happening" feeling I struggled with while reading the novel.

JACK KETCHUM’S THE GIRL NEXT DOOR is the best film I’ve seen that you couldn’t pay me to see again. Well made, flawlessly acted, clearly written. But these are just technicalities critics hide behind because, well, how often does a movie really DEAL with what it’s about? ~Dr. Royce Clemens~

I agree with Clemens when it comes to the book. It was well-written and hit all the nerves it set out to hit. It was also like reading de Sade. Something not to be taken lightly or on an empty stomach.

I can see the feminist groups now, carrying torches and pitchforks on the way to theaters playing the film.

Even the trailer makes me a little twitchy.

Poor Meg, the girl who's tortured, doesn't have a chance. The villain of the story is a housewife who sees in Meg all of her failures. She sets out to "educate" the girl on how to be a woman, which includes having the neighborhood kids tie her up, strip her, cut her with knives, burn her, and mutilate her genitals so she will never know sexual pleasure. Meg never had a chance.

The hero is a 12-year-old boy, the only neighborhood kid who sees how monstrous his buddies and the mother next door have become. Except, in the beginning, he gets caught up in it all, too. He figures out his own moral compass a little too late, and a little late to keep these events from changing him forever.

The thing is, I don't think feminists should protest. They should watch the movie and see what they're up against. Things like this really happen. Ketchum based the novel on a woman who scared him, a woman who really got the kids in her neighborhood to help her torture a young girl living with her.

Think this kind of thing wouldn't happen today? You're wrong. A woman in Naples, Fla. went on trial for piercing her daughter's genitals. Her story: her daughter is rebellious and she wanted to teach the girl a lesson by making sex painful. And, guess who is accused of having sex with the daughter? The woman's boyfriend.

Think the government really cares about us poor little women out there, getting hurt and mutilated? That it will protect us? According to Tracy Clark-Flory (wait for the site pass to process, then click on the Enter Salon link at the top right), the U.S. government doesn't give asylum to women who have suffered genital mutilation, even if they don't want their children to experience the same practice. They will, however, give asylum to women who face forced sterilization, because the loss of the ability to have children is deemed more reprehensible than the loss of a mere limb.

In some ways, it reminds me of the trial of the mother above. See, the jury deliberating over the trial had a hard time punishing the mother. In some ways, they can see where she's coming from, having to deal with a bad, rebellious daughter. And, what harm is it to forcibly pierce your daughter's genitals? It doesn't harm the ability to have kids.

Here's something else that makes me a little queasy: the power of fate. I received my copy of The Girl Next Door on Saturday. I read about the case of the mother while I was reading the book. And, I just found out about the movie coming out yesterday. Unfortunately, the timing was right.

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