The radical game-changer that is Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’

OK, you know that I know that you know I love Stephen King. I’m obsessed. The Stand and The Dark Tower series are two of my favorite books of all time. I own more than 30 of his books. My roller derby name is Rose Madder. I want to go to Bangor, Maine and just creepily stand outside his amazing house.

I’m also really excited about the upcoming remake of Carrie on the big screen. I normally don’t trust Stephen King film and television adaptations – I watched one episode of Under the Dome on CBS, saw that they decided to insert a stupid new plot point in the first 10 seconds, and soon after tuned out. To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of the original Carrie movie, wrapped up, as it is, in some glorious 70’s film-making.

However, I’m curious to see how the Carrie remake, coming out today, turns out. Ever since reading King’s autobiography, On Writing, where I learned how Carrie completely changed the game for King’s career, I’ve been fascinated by the story. It’s relatively simple, and yet so iconic in American culture. King’s particular brand of horror would be vastly influential on American writers and filmmakers for decades to come, and it’s interesting seeing where it all began.

In that vein, Tom Hawking over at Flavorwire has an interesting piece this week on how radical Carrie truly is as a horror story, one that features a teenage girl as both the protagonist and antagonist who’s power lies in puberty, her sexuality and that bloody monthly visitor all women endure, menstruation. What male writer uses a story like that to kickstart his career? Only one of the greatest.

This is not only unusual territory for a male novelist writing his first book, but also a brave topic, given that its true subject is something our society likes to ignore discreetly, or regards with a sort of distanced trepidation: adolescent sexuality, and specifically female sexuality, andspecifically menstruation, the last great taboo in pretty much every patriarchal culture on the planet (i.e., just about all of them)

The book also serves as a neat inversion of horror various tropes: instead of a bunch of hapless attractive females fleeing from a predatory male, it’s Carrie wreaking revenge on the boys who have humiliated her. She fills the roles of both protagonist and traditional antagonist, and the neat trick is that instead of sympathizing with the characters fleeing the killer, you end up sympathizing with the killer. But it’s not even that neat, because Carrie doesn’t just kill her tormentors — she ends up killing basically everyone. It’s as subversive as it is bleak: you sympathize with Carrie’s empowerment even as you confront its terrifying consequences.

Now, on this same topic, check out this video a fellow King-lover posted on my Facebook wall last week. What would YOU do if you encountered a modern Carrie in a coffee shop?


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