Thursday, January 28, 2010

meditation on THE LOVELY BONES

C.S. Lewis wrote a misogynistic story where a male student brings his wife or girlfriend to a tutorial session. It's obvious C.S. Lewis hated the intrusion of a female presence in his male dominated world. He is suddenly transported into her mind to a landscape where the top of trees are green blobs. Like children would draw in kindergarten. It practically stifles the poor professor until he snaps back to reality.

That's what I thought of while watching The Lovely Bones, a movie which fascinated me. Yet, it also creeped me out and I'm not certain I can recommend this.

I haven't read the book, but if it's anything like the movie, The Lovely Bones is the most unsatisfying look at a serial killer who gets away with his crimes against children. Yeah, I'm dropping spoilers like mad!

The undercurrent of this movie is obviously exploiting our current fascination with 'God's blonde'.

'God's Blonde' is my term for children who fit that picture perfect image of the Brady Bunch ideal. The concept behind 'God's blonde' began when I visited a mental hospital with a friend who was doing collections. While he was engaged in his work, I looked around the office. Behind me were hundreds of photos of people, including children, who were found dead.

Nobody had been able to identify them. I was amazed this many people were currently missing, and yet somehow the fact that hundreds were dead and missing, with no one claiming them, somehow eluded the news media.

This showed me how selective the news media is when it comes to missing children. Hundreds of children are either missing, or found dead, every year, but we only allow ourselves to notice this in small doses. Then, the media will drop someone like Caley Anthony on us.

You can bet that whoever the current missing child of the year is will be a white blonde female.

All the African American, Hispanic and Asian children are left to fend on their own. But time stands still for 'God's blonde'!

No disrespect to the Anthony family. This is more of a criticism of the media for overlooking a very serious problem we're having with child abduction, murder, and, its kissing cousin: child molestation.

We don't exactly see how the child murderer in The Lovely Bones does his despicable deed, which is a good thing. Susie Salmon, the main character is raped and killed, as are most of the other victims.

Once she is killed, we're in special effects land. All the victims of the killer/rapist unite to tell Susie, "Get over it! Step into the light, already!"

She does not want to.

Susie observes her parents reactions to her death. She wants to go back, or try to have her body discovered so the killer can get caught.

Neither happens.

This is the most fantastic realistic piece of fatalism and defeatism I have seen in years. Period. One must usually watch subtitled foreign movies to see work this depressing. Yet, I'm thinking about the Mary Poppins song, "A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down."

Is The Lovely Bones some kind of medicine? If it is, the special effects are the heaping tablespoons of sugar to make this poison--or, medicine, sorry--go down.

The predator is never caught. Like reality, he evades punishment until he dies in an act of neglect.

The parents eventually 'get over it'.

Susie 'gets over it' as well.

I guess the moral of the story is the sooner we just ignore tragedy, and stop with all this accountability nonsense, the better off we are. When it comes to crimes against children, closure and the legal system are on two different paths.

The thing is: that is reality.

Most child molesters/murderers will never get caught.

A very unsatisfying thought for reality, or a film laden with fantasy images.

When I saw this movie last night, it was difficult not to think about the situation that existed at my former school, Trinity Christian Academy, when Bob Gray, the founder of the school, was arrested for multiple counts of child molestation. Of course, his trial was delayed until he died, thereby giving his fans and followers an excuse to say, "He never had his day in court! Let it go."

When all the children of the killer meet Susie, an image began forming in my head of all the victims in the Trinity case (or, for that matter, all victims of child abuse), meeting each other, as children, in some kind of netherworld. Mainly for support, since they can't actually do anything in 'real life'.

This prompted the thought in my head: "Well, Bob Gray was only arrested for multiple child molestation, not murder!"

Okey-dokey! I could not believe that ridiculous thought popped up in my head.

I found myself having a grim laugh in the theater over that insane quote you just read.

That said, in the grand tradition of making lemonade out of lemons, there are probably many friends and family members of child sex predators probably saying, or thinking, the same thing. Just trying to give the best spin to the most deplorable situations.

I'm not saying that all who molest children will necessarily murder them, even though I'm shaking my head as I write this sentence. Just like children who abuse animals will most likely grow up to abuse humans, I doubt very many child murderers simply stopped at killing their prey.

Do your own research, but my gut instinct, based on reading articles and viewing reports, tends to believe that most child murderers did molest their victims before snuffing the life out of them.

Just like torturing animals leads to violence against people, I think an argument can be made that child molestation may be the next step to murdering children to keep them silent.

Matt Baker, a Southern Baptist minister, was recently found guilty of murdering his wife.

True, she was an adult. Remember, this crime occurred after years of reports that he molested minors. You can read more detail in the links below. His case does seem to illustrate that every crime against a child that goes unpunished ultimately emboldens the abuser to up the ante.

It shouldn't come as any surprise if it's discovered an adult who molests children might actually kill somebody to cover it up.

One thing I did like about the movie was its beginning. We're in a food court and the narrator is telling us she is being stalked by a man. We see a man who looks like a stereotypical stalker. However, we're told that is not the man.

When we meet the serial killer, he's someone who could be right at home at Disneyland or Bob Jones University. Short hair. Moustache. Nothing really radical about his dress. He could be a teacher! A master at blending in to the moral standards of society.

Outside of that, I don't know if this is a movie I'd recommend for anyone who has lost a child to violent crime. Or, to an abuse victim.

I'll probably see this movie again. It did touch some deep psychological cord and that's actually the problem.

It is so grim, yet sugarcoated with amazing special effects. I don't think I'd recommend bringing anyone who experienced such trauma to The Lovely Bones unless your goal is to plunge them into cruel depression and thoughts of suicide.

Once you get the awe of the otherworld out of the way, The Lovely Bones is a story of parents whose child is molested and killed. They never experience closure. And the predator dies in an accident. By a stupid fall! Not because he was executed, or because Mark Wahlburg's character beat him over the head with a baseball bat. Wouldn't that have been a more satisfying ending?

It did remind me partly of the Bob Gray saga. Gray never was brought to trial. He also died in a fall. And people were left feeling depressed and trying to pick up the pieces.


Roger Ebert review: After the rape and murder, the really cool part starts.

Stop Baptist Predators articles about Matt Baker:

It shouldn't take a murder.
Complicity of Baptist Leaders.
Baptists threw kids a rattlesnake.

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