Carrie by Stephen King

My curiosity was piqued by the recent hype surrounding the news of Hollywood’s remake of the 1976 Carrie horror movie. I have been flooded by Facebook shares of the amazing advertising stunt done for this 2013 remake, that deserves a place in the Just For Laugh Gags arsenal of classic pranks. If you haven’t already seen it, here’s the video:

This pretty awesome advertising stunt was enough to make me read the novel, out of curiosity – I just had to know how the plot went. Carrie is Stephen King’s fourth novel. It started as a short story, one that King wrote because he was accused; King recalled, “Some woman said, ‘You write all those macho things, but you can’t write about women.’ I said, ‘I’m not scared of women. I could write about them if I wanted to.'” You can read an online copy of the book here.

The novel starts with the incident of Carrie’s first period in the school showers and it is one to remember. It certainly stains the book with a bold statement of what it is like to be female. King’s attempted portrayal of a woman’s innermost thoughts, while far from being perfect, certainly deserves some credit, especially since it comes from a man.

Carrie’s reaction to her own period represents a curiosity towards this topic which, at the time when the novel was written, was a taboo one. Her horror, while, to some extent, unrealistic and ridiculous (I mean, who doesn’t know about having periods) mirrors a very much male ununderstanding towards the whole idea of female periods. But while we’ve learnt to slap on sanitary pads or insert tampons way before we get our own periods (thanks to those awkward sex-ed classes), Carrie’s reaction certainly puts thing in perspective.

First off, it’s not normal to bleed. Bleeding normally stems from injuries (internal or external) and that amount of blood that comes from our nether parts each month would normally be taken as a serious, fatal injury. But we still take our period in stride – it’s easy to forget that that red, troublesome substance is our blood, and it’s our biological egg discharging itself. 

Would you like your eggs served on an overnight sanitary pad, or ultrathin one?

Would you like your eggs served on an overnight sanitary pad, or ultrathin one?

Carrie’s unrealistic reaction, while representative of male, morbid curiosity about our periods, also puts our very own periods into perspective. It’s our fucking eggs that’re bleeding out, girls.

King also, in his book, explores rather accurately the clique psyche of females. The bullying that Carrie faces in school is representative of female brutality that is typical of high school females, even though such portrayal is often blown out of proportion by media (movies like Mean Girls). The mechanism of the bullying that goes on in schools (by girls) is accurately explored; it feeds off the mindless insults and a collective gossip pool that causes the bullying to have an impregnable facade of strength and infallibility. Carrie’s pain, as a girl who is faced with such bullying, is realistically conveyed to us, as well as her simple desire to fit in. Her joys at dressing up and being asked to prom, where she gains a potential semblance of social life, is all very real, and natural considerations for any girl (even one who has a crazy psycho mom).

King reveals his take on the female group psyche through Sue, who feels genuine remorse at her actions. It is normal for one to feel a sick sense of remorse and regret at such mindless cruelty (as Tommy Ross did) when a period of time has lapsed and when we look back in retrospect, but King brings this forward (albeit unrealistically) and plays out his disgust through Sue’s regret and sympathetic gestures, even though her altruism would be hard to come by in real life.

Also of minor interest is King’s somewhat stereotypical creation of Chris. An uptown girl with a rich father, she pines for the affections of Billy, who makes her feel dirty and who subjugates her. King’s creation of such a weak, seemingly 2-D female character is stereotypical. Nevertheless, he gives the reader convincing intimacy with Chris, making the reader feel like he is peering into the secrets of such a seemingly inapt relationship to discover the magic that works behind it. And we find ourselves, while reading the story, drawn to this unconventional relationship and believing in it – emotions of fear that Chris will be harmed by Billy are real.

Ultimately, King does fall into the category of “a man writing about women”. But he is certainly not afraid to explore his female characters and provide persuasive portrayals of them, albeit ones that are infused with male judgments passed on the female psyche. While feminists criticise this to be inadequate and of little value, they are accurate representations that do not discriminate. After all, he makes us hate Margaret White, whose manic view of women is presented as ludicrous. He certainly does not agree with the old crackpot: “And God made Eve from the rib of Adam. And Eve was weak and loosed the raven on the world. And the raven was called sin. Say it, the raven was called sin. And the first sin was intercourse.”

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