Communicator (communicator) wrote,
Communicator
communicator

A more measured criticism of Drag Me To Hell

nihilistic_kid picks Drag Me To Hell apart in a more comprehensive way here. He's obviously managing to see it more clearly than I can because he's not emotionally overloaded by the issues in the way I am.

He correctly says the film appears to be racist towards gypsies/Roma/travellers. I do think this is true. Generally when I am watching a film I'm expecting apparent racism to be exploded - for instance if all the black people in a film seem to be venal and stupid I expect the film to overthrow that in the end, revealing that something else entirely is the case. I was expecting that to happen in this film. It didn't.

nihilistic_kid also points out - and this is another area where I tend to emotionally overload quite rapidly - that the other social group which is 'punished' in this film are social climbers - that is the lower class girl is punished for wanting nice things, wanting a middle class job and a middle class boyfriend. Again, I thought this would revert itself. At first she does various ruthless things, and betrays her own principles, to try to escape the torment. At the end she refuses to do that. She refuses to hurt anyone, and she refuses to give up. I thought this would be redemptive. But no - she can do nothing to save herself. And yet the 'sin' she has committed is no worse than wanting to have the nice things that everyone else around her is born into.

And isn't this exactly the ground on which poor people are criticised by privileged people. For venality, greed, envy, desire for more than they are born to. A person who already has money can say 'Oh, I never think about money' while tucking in to lovely food in a lovely house. A person with lots can look down at a person with little, and call the poor person greedy.

This seems a good time to raise a common trope of horror films - that the malignant and evil power is generally associated with a group who in real life are powerless, and have had suffering imposed on them. Often children are the source of evil, but in real life they are thousands of times more likely to have evil done to them by adults than vice versa. In US films the horror often emerges from Native American graves ('Indian burial ground').

A charitable view would be that the horror is an embodiment of the suppressed but unappeasable guilt of the victors, the perpetrators of genocide. Or in the case of this film, a vague uneasy guilt of mainstream society at how the traveller community is generally treated.

A less charitable - and I think more accurate - view is that attributing hidden power and malevolence to the oppressed group is psychologically comforting to the powerful people in society.

Or as nihilistic_kid puts it:

(this film is) trafficking in the sort of stereotypes and libels that continue to inform the persecution of the Roma worldwide.. a Romany woman finds herself unable to pay the mortgage. Of course, she has the power to drag people to hell, but she can't seem to scrape a few extra bucks together?... If Roma (or Indians, or the less intimidating sort of Will Smithian black folk, or woppy old ladies or whomever they give powers to in movies these days) had magical powers, they really wouldn't have problems. You know who'd have the problems? White fucking people would have the problems.
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