Carrie: Don’t Ask, Don’t Snell

Oh the majority. There’s a reason why the majority should not have the power to vote on the civil rights of others. The majority has a crappy track record. The majority thought slavery was a super idea and this one time, at band camp, the majority thought that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote. Who has the audacity to both nail groovy Jesus to a cross AND burn witches at the stake in his name? That goobly gobbly gelatinous blob the majority that’s who! Benefits of joining this club include never having to feel shame or remorse and never having to feel personally accountable for your actions. Jump on in, the water is oblivious! How’s that whole “people are basically good.” thing working out for you Anne Frank? My mistake, the majority didn’t snag you, you died of Typhus. Even the best concentration camps can do little to curtail a typhus outbreak.

The majority of the students at Carrie White’s school think she’s creepy. Strawberry blonde is just a polite way to say “borderline ginger” and ick, she’s all insecure and shy. Don’t you just hate people who don’t reek of their own self-satisfaction? Her house is a joke, her mom is a loon and her dad, somehow unclear about the sanctity of straight marriage, abandoned her ass years ago. She’s vulnerable, she bleeds and she’s all alone. What choice does the majority have but to take advantage of the situation and rip her to shreds? Remember, if you want to be all safe and snug in the majority you better be able to identify who’s NOT in the majority. Just look around for somebody who’s having a harder time in this world than you are and proceed to make their life worse.

Speaking of majorities, let’s say you gimme some of that old time religion (it’s good enough for me!) Please don’t be offended my devout friends, I know not all believers are hypocrites who wear the mask of God to do the devil’s work. Personally, I bring a basketful of faith with me to every funeral I attend. (Lye has many wonderful uses too but it’s not recommended that you throw into someone’s face.)

In Carrie White’s world we’re not talking about religion but the abuse of religion, the way religion is used as a tool to keep certain people underfoot. Momma White has a clear “don’t ask don’t tell” policy about telekinetic powers and the idea that Carrie is a sinner due to her sexuality is constant. Thanks to mom’s favorite book Carrie spends a lot of time in a closet. Yep, it may be more than strong female characters and campy dirty pillow talk that keeps the gays coming back to this STEPHEN KING story.

See what’s happening here? Maybe I shouldn’t have watched CARRIE right after I read about yet another bullied gay teen committing suicide. It keeps bleeding into my piece! On second thought, I doubt my timing was a random accident either. After reading about yet another bullied teen committing suicide some spark must have ignited in the back of my head that said, “Time to watch CARRIE!” BRIAN DePALMA’s eternal asshole roast always makes me feel so much better.

Not only does the majority of the cast deservingly die horrible deaths in CARRIE but it’s also just such a brilliantly crafted film. I swear the score alone makes me levitate. Is there even a weak link moment in CARRIE? I used to think it was the fast forward tuxedo purchase scene but I’ve come to appreciate that bit as a needed bubble of relief between the torturous Christ crawl beginning and the cathartic flaming blast of divine retribution close. When did this movie stop being a horror movie to me and start being my very own gospel? If Carrie White burns in hell then hell is located in my heart.

Back to teens gay or otherwise being bullied to commit suicide. Oh wait, I’m sorry one recent kid who killed himself was only 11 so he was not really a teen at all. Let’s just say kids, kids in our schools that go to our churches and live under our roofs killing themselves because we fail to instill within them the basic self love not to. Kids killing themselves because they live in a world where it’s acceptable to believe that some people have more worth than others, a world that tells them that outnumbering is the same as being right and that morality is measured by the pound.

Sorry, sometimes I forget my second class citizen status and I get all, what’s the word? Uppity. It’s only that I can see the graffiti on the wall from here. Eventually one of these bullied kids is not going to be satisfied politely offing themselves in a corner and are going to spin their torrent of rage outwardly. Then when enough of the “worthwhile” kids are lying in their own blood we’ll start that conversation again about the effects of violence in movies and video games. Frankly I’m sick and tired of my favorite genre being in the hot seat because a majority of people spoon-feed hate to their offspring for breakfast every morning. Hey, I don’t mind jumping off the sidewalk for your twin pod cloud car baby carriage but if we’re going to dumb down our entire culture for the sake of “the children” can I at least have some insurance that your lil’ entitlement dolls aren’t just more bigots in training?

NOTE: I have many friends with kids and I’m consistently impressed with the progressive values that they consciously instill in them. If you are a responsible parent, I’m not talking about you. In fact, I thank you and recognize you as THE MOST important factor in the solution to this fucked-up epidemic.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah CARRIE. Am I the only one (God forbid) that watches CARRIE as revenge porn? Scratch that, “revenge” is such an ugly word. I should say “retaliation” porn. “Retaliation” sounds more like designer perfume. Why does this movie that I found so frightening in my youth now only feel empowering? Even the film’s hand from the grave ending, which once upon a time nearly made me piss my pajamas, I now read as a triumphant promise that Carrie’s fury will remain long after her death. By film’s end Sue Snell, the lone survivor has amassed far more than the gruesome memories of prom night; she is now and forever acquainted with the depths of Carrie’s previously unacknowledged torment. (According to CARRIE 2: THE RAGE, Snell took that knowledge and put it to good use becoming a high school guidance counselor.) Sue Snell and her problematic empathy, whatever did Tommy Ross see in her?

So where does the horror lie in CARRIE? This ship doesn’t sail by the power of our fears of not fitting in does it? That seems lame. Overzealous religious folks like Carrie’s mom are off-putting but they’re pitiable more than anything else. Maybe CARRIE works because it ignites the collective mob’s cowardly worry that someday they’ll pick the wrong witch to lynch and it is they who will burn. As far as I’m concerned Carrie White should be the patron saint of every bullied teen (or kid) out there. She may have ended up crushed beneath the wheel, but what religious figure worth their Red Sea salt doesn’t? Yes, she brings down a world of destruction but every decent Bible story ends the same way. I believe it’s truly tragic that the wonderful Miss Collins gets shortened at the hip but I can’t blame Carrie for her perceptions being a bit off. Having your dreams met with a bucket of pig’s blood is bound to distort your view.

I don’t (officially) condone violence as the answer to anything and I’m aware of the contradiction of pushing Kumbayah sentiments while watching P.J. SOLES’ eardrum get ruptured by a wayward (and pregnant with Civil Rights movement history) fire hose but sorry, I can’t help but get giddy when oppressors reap what they sow. Thank you Carrie White for getting me through the rough patches (no matter what my age) with your cathartic house cleaning skills. At this point, if you ever pop your hand out of the grave around me, I swear to God, I’m only going to want to shake it.

Tommy Ross, close us out with your awesome (and Carrie White approved) poetry!

“What are you going to leave for us,
you people in your cars,
spewing pollution into the air?
You people with heavy feet
trampling down the wilderness.
You people who peer into the back seats of our cars,
hours after you come out of the back doors of your motels.
Soon, all we will have is each other,
and that could be enough.
If you will let us have room enough,
and air enough, and peace enough
to love each other as you never could.”

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11 years ago

You said a mouthful….This is my fave horror movie of all time.  My favorite part is the slow motion scene when she’s voted in as Queen…..and the whole sequence where Billy and Chris are under the stairs waiting to ruin the moment.  What a blast from the past and a fantastic movie.  Of course, I work with middle school teens every day, so I often flash on Carrie when someone’s crying because they have to eat alone in the cafeteria.

11 years ago

GREAT article! Carrie was one of the first horror films I ever saw back when it would get almost weekly airtime on TNT and TBS. I never found it scary, only thrilling and empowering, well, besides that creepy ass mother and her closet filled with spooky St. Sebastian statues. Yeeeesh!
This is a story that will never die, because it will always be timely. Everyone at one point in their lives has felt disenfranchised in some way.  Carrie is just a moving, deeply powerful film that actually deserves it’s classic status.

Dylan Donnie-Duke
Dylan Donnie-Duke(@dylan-donnie-duke)
11 years ago

One word: Bravo!

Pax Romano
Pax Romano(@pax-romano)
11 years ago


11 years ago

Beautifully put, Unk. As somebody who’s been on both sides of the spectrum of bullying, this film does make me pause when I watch it, it’s that powerful. Whenever I see this (or Angela Bettis’ version for that matter… but only because Bettis makes that film any good), I can’t help but get a sick feeling in my stomach for what Hell I brought upon a few kids back in school, and for what Hell a couple others put upon me. 

For many, they just see this film as a “revenge” story (retribution is a much better description. Kudos!) about a bullied girl. But if they’d read your piece here, they’d see the film in a whole new light.

Again, great article, Unk.

Amanda By Night
Amanda By Night(@amanda-by-night)
11 years ago

I love this movie and agree with not only Unkle Lance, but pretty much everything everyone else is saying. It’s timeless and powerful.

Strangely enough, Carrie came up in my Film and Literature class because we were talking about creating suspense in film and I instantly thought of how DePalma gives you split screens so you can see everything as it unfolds. It really works here because in that scene of chaos at the gym, you are SURROUNDED by the horror of what is happening. And not only that, but innocent people get theirs too. It’s an interesting comment about how rage takes no prisoners. When you get to that point, anything can happen to anyone, and it’s fucking scary.

Another wonderful review!

11 years ago

Amen brother! These bullying stories have had me completely flummoxed and you have eloquently linked the emotional plight of the tortured closeted gay teen with the plight of  Carry “Dirty Pillows” White. I am in awe of your awesomeness….

11 years ago

I can’t fully get behind this film as a vicarious revenge exercise because of what Unk and Amanda have already mentioned – Carrie’s perception warps and she ends up killing a lot of people who either were or could have been her friends.
But that’s nitpicking. This was a brilliant essay. I’m constantly amazed how ignorance continues to not only thrive, but be considered “mainstream” in our society. And you are correct in blaming organized religion.

11 years ago

I read this post right after my daily ‘catching up on the news’ surfing and I can’t agree with it more.  I wish I had the ability to put my thoughts down in the way that you do, Unk.  Well said, well written and well done. 

11 years ago

Unk, you write beautifully.  I love visiting this site EVERYDAY to read the brilliant things you have to say.  I would give anything to be able to express myself in words the way you do!  Keep fighting the good fight, and thank you for being out there!

11 years ago

Another fantastic rant, Unk, one that mirrors my own nearly-inexpressible rage at this rash of perfectly avoidable deaths.
For myself, I always saw “Carrie” as a warning: Push the wrong one too far, and the consequences will be catastrophic. Innocent and guilty alike are consumed in the Armageddon that follows.
I read the book back when I was still in grade school, and could certainly identify with the story. As a queer Latina nerd, I had my fair share of attempted bullying growing up. (I say “attempted” because my momma taught me that most bullies can’t take a real punch, and she was right – I’m a nerd, but I’m a strong nerd.) I was lucky; I was given the tools to weather the petty hatreds of growing up. But I won’t say it was easy, I won’t say I never seriously considered giving up and ending it all. Bad enough that kids should have to be raised to be gladiators of the sandlot just to get a little peace; they should never, ever have to feel that the only way out is death.

11 years ago

The feeling of despair is what’s most alarming from these kids. That truly things can’t possibly ever get better.  Things always get better, even when it seems they won’t.  That’s how I like to focus my attention. If you instill the confidence and support these kids need, the bullies take care of themselves.
And no need to even put that note in there Unk. We knew who you were calling out. As the father of two I’m constantly disgusted at the use of the phrase “for the children.” And even more so when these people assume I should join them in their witch-hunt because I couldn’t possibly want to expose my children to THAT!
Without diversity, the world would be such a boring place.

11 years ago

I thoroughly agree with you Unk. I know the pain of being bullied and I LOVE your rant. Brilliant!

11 years ago

Great read!  Thanks for this.  I am a very happy member of the non-majority and have been my entire life and I too am sick to death of horror and violence in media being blamed for it all.  I’m so happy I’ve found this site..  Keep up the great work!

11 years ago

You hit a nerve on this one dude.   It really sucks that kids can’t see that what makes you different is what empowers you. Why conformity is  so important to teenagers is something I never understood back then, let alone now that I’m an adult.  Children have it in them to do great evil and it’s being enforced by adult institutions.  Grownups who should know better either turn a blind eye or condone this behavior.  It’s just sick.
Seriously, dude. This article and the one you wrote for Zombie’s H2 are your two best posts.

11 years ago

Super super post. I always associate Carrie with Carol Clover’s intro to Men WOmen & Chainsaws, where she uses Carrie to explain how young male audiences can see themselves in the female role of horror movies.  I always just thought of her as the outcast, but broadening it the way you did is quite incredible. Great work.
P.S. I love the tuxedo shopping scene, and may have given Cabin Fever 2 a pass purely because they reference the powder blue ruffles in costume design.

11 years ago

Great post! The cruelty and ignorance of the mob is always something to be on guard against… and be outspoken about.

Ryan Clark
Ryan Clark(@fb1464120013)
10 years ago

This is my favorite movie, and I totally agree with this post! Great stuff.

8 years ago

Awesome post, Unk. This disjunction between being a scared kid and a rooting adult when it comes to Carrie reminds me of a similar experience I’ve had with another movie from the ’70s. The ridiculed outcast is horrifying at first because, as children and possible future outcasts, we view it as boding poorly for our own social successes. If Carrie materialized on the couch next to us at that moment, we would run away terrified, in the same way we might distance ourselves from someone being harassed at school. And, as primal empathizers rather than more mature sympathizers, we’re also a little afraid of our own capacity for rage without realizing that this fear is the first step toward compassion simply by virtue of imagining ourselves in her position.

But then, as adults who have thankfully failed at being normal, who are more proudly outliers, who have experienced rejection and bullying, we can only feel exhilaration as Carrie engages in sweet, cathartic violence against the bloodless but more insidious violence of bullying. Of course, the innocent go with the guilty, but at the same time, when you are being tortured at a young age, you want explosive retaliations, spectacles, not tidy assassinations. It’s a childish fantasy (if more common than people are willing to admit), but even more childish is remaining scared of Carrie into adulthood; this just means you might, out of fear of contamination, reject the next beautiful outcast who crosses your path, and as a result, perpetuate the cycle of bloodless social violence.

I doubt anyone reading your post is one of these last people. What’s scary about Carrie is not the freckled girl with telekinesis, it’s the social dynamic at work, an altogether invisible monster.

8 years ago

Oh, man, am I late to the race! Saw this on a Facebook feed and didn’t bother to check the date.