It’s more often than you think.
(Though probably not quite as often as I’ve just implied.)
But more on that in a minute.
First I want to clarify some things. In my entry on Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, I rambled a little about the idea of a template ship. Basically what I mean by that is that the shipping appeal lies more in what’s on the paper – the high concept, if you will – rather than any specific interactions between the characters, the chemistry between the actors, their specific dynamic (vs. a “type” of dynamic), etc. I wanted to describe that idea so that I could differentiate between a ship like Ferris and Jeanie (a carefree, popular and favored brother and his uptight, resentful sister who tries to thwart him) – which is really more of an example of a type of brother/sister relationship that lends itself easily to incest shipping – and a ship like John and Samantha from Doom, the perfection of which is a mix of their actual interactions in the movie, the actors, the chemistry between the actors, the plot of the movie (including how it ends), etc.
For the purposes of this blog (and the companion tumblr), I want to make another distinction: there are ships that I like, and ships that are interesting but that, as they are, I wouldn’t exactly say that I ship them.
As I briefly described in my index and my about section, fictional brother/sister relationships that are canon or canonically suggestive are always of interest to this blog, but the overwhelming majority of those relationships are portrayed as doomed/ill-fated, toxic, self-destructive, unhealthy, and/or actually abusive. (My frustration with that is a topic for another day.)
In other cases, one is tempted to imagine an AU not only in which they end up together (and alive), but in which the relationship is a healthy and positive one. For example the movie Deadfall; Daenerys and Viserys Targaryen from Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire; or various iterations of Juan and Lucrezia Borgia.
(And can I just point out that while actor Harry Lloyd did wonders for Viserys’ character, there are some sentiments/memories reflected upon by Dany in the books that are not expressed on the show that also illuminate his character in a slightly friendlier light when given proper attention.)
And in other cases, the occurrence of incest is interesting, but the brother/sister pairing itself has no appeal whatsoever.
The full spectrum of these cases will be mentioned on this blog, and it’s important to me that you know that just because I mention a brother/sister relationship, that doesn’t mean that I am hoping they will end up together (the incest pairing isn’t always my OTP, even when I ship it hard), or even that I am like the idea of them together incestuously at all, especially as they are.
I wanted to get all of that out of the way because when I talk about these movies, I want you to realize that I’m bringing them to your attention because they might be of interest, and not because omg I ship it and look at the fanvids I made this Taylor Swift song is so them.
House at the End of the Street came out last year. I liked it a lot, and it’s sort of twisty. So I’m just going to get the spoiler warning out of the way right now and then lay out the whole plot. Do not read the rest of this if you don’t want to be spoiled. And really, I’d recommend watching the movie unspoiled. Some people to seemed to think it was stupid but I really enjoyed it and I thought it was very well acted and well made. (Of course, I do like horror, and I like the stars, and movies about small towns, and movies about sisters.)
It’s ostensibly about Elissa Cassidy (Jennifer Lawrence) who has moved to a small, woodsy country town with her mother (Elisabeth Shue). Their new house is next to the Jacobson house where a 13 year-old girl, Carrie Anne, murdered her parents and then drowned in the creek four years earlier. It’s an urban myth that Carrie Anne still roams the woods, though it’s no myth that the house is not empty – Carrie Anne’s older brother, Ryan (Max Thieriot), who had been living with his aunt since he was 7, lives there and keeps to himself.
The rest of the town, except for the sheriff (Gil Bellows) and a few friends of Elissa’s, ostracizes Ryan as some sort of freak and are just general a$$holes.
Ryan ends up driving Elissa home when he passes by her walking home in the rain. They connect, and after she brings him a CD the next day, their friendship begins.
It’s not long before it’s revealed that Carrie Anne is still alive (surprise…not) and Ryan has her locked up in the basement. At the beginning we see the sequence with the murder, and it’s clear that Carrie Anne is troubled mentally in some way. I wondered if she was supposed to be possessed (especially with her incredibly blue eyes that the camera focused on), but I was reasonably sure this movie didn’t have any supernatural elements. When we see her for the second time, Ryan is bringing down a tray of food. She jumps at him, flips the tray, and bites him. He sedates her with an injection (it’s never revealed what he uses or where it came from), and then he strokes her arm tenderly while she calms down, asking why she does this, doesn’t he take care of her? Then he asks her not to hurt Elissa.
Elissa and Ryan’s relationship progresses rapidly. Her mother is against it – she knows that Elissa is the type of person who tries to fix broken people – and forbids them to be alone together, but Elissa gets around the restrictions.
Ryan slowly lets out the details of his history in a piecemeal way. We see a picture of him happy with his family when he was 7. Elissa remarks on Carrie Anne’s bright blue eyes. He tells us that Carrie Anne was “the heart of the family”. We learn that he and Carrie Anne were on the swings when she flew off and hit her head. There was brain damage, and she became violent, and would scream all the time and break things. This was when he was sent to live at his aunt’s.
Carrie Anne manages to escape twice – once when he forgets to lock the door, and another time when she very cleverly gets a hold of the key. Ryan is able to catch her before she hurts anyone both times, but the second time he accidentally suffocates her (or possibly breaks her neck), while trying to restrain her and keep her silent. He is devastated. So devastated that he doesn’t even thank the waitress who gave him free pie.
Elissa invites him to come see her sing with her new band (the songs were pretty marvelous, but Jennifer Lawrence didn’t do any of the singing herself), and a bunch of jerks attack Ryan outside the high school for no reason. He fights back in self-defense, pretty brutally snapping the leg of the ringleader. Then he runs off. Some of the others who had attacked him then go set his house on fire, but Elissa is there to put out the fire. She notices some boxes in the garbage, including a box of tampons. Dude, RECYCLE!!!
Of course, this leads to her exploring the house, as she, in her nosiness, is wont to do. She hears a noise, but even when she figures out that it’s the dryer, she still somehow notices the trapdoor under the rug, and follows it down, and then through the hallway, and even uses the key to open up the locked door. I mean, seriously! I guess since the place would have been a heap of ashes if it weren’t for her, she feels like it’s her right.
Well, to perhaps even more our surprise than Elissa’s, Carrie Anne is in the room.
She jumps at Elissa, but Ryan is there to stop her. He sedates her and sends Elissa upstairs, reassuring Carrie Anne that Elissa will help them, that she won’t tell (“not like the others”???), and they won’t take Carrie Anne away from him.
The camera pans over and we see the Penn State sweatshirt that the waitress at the diner who gave him free pie was wearing hanging over a chair in the corner.
We see her eyes, and this new Carrie Anne/former waitress has one brown one and one bright, bright blue one. For a moment I again wondered if there was something supernatural at work here, and this girl was turning into the real Carrie Anne or being possessed by her or something. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Elissa, upstairs, looks again at the boxes in the trash, and one of them is for blue contacts.
She looks over at the fridge, where there are several crude crayon drawings of child Carrie Anne and child Ryan on the swings, and holding hands. Even though there are only two pictures, it really gives off the impression that they had been codependent and that he is obsessed with her.
Elissa finds the waitress’ wallet, and Ryan is pretty quick to pick up on the fact that she’s now suspicious of him. He knocks her out and drags her down to “Carrie Anne’s” holding cell.
We find out that Carrie Anne actually died in the accident. There was never any brain damaged Carrie Anne. The parents buried her in the woods.
“I need Carrie Anne,” he states plainly to Elissa. “I can’t have you and Carrie Anne. But if you’re Carrie Anne…” He has an epiphany. So Ryan kills the waitress, and plans on making Elissa his new Carrie Anne.
The last third of the movie is a big struggle. The sheriff shows up, and Ryan kills him. Elissa escapes, and there is some cat and mouse. Her mother shows up, and Ryan stabs her. There’s some play with the sheriff’s gun. Eventually the ladies get the upper hand and knock him out.
“I want you, I do. But I need Carrie Anne. I’m sorry I can’t keep you, Elissa,” he reiterates at one point. At the end, Elissa and her mother understandably move away. The last scene is Ryan in the loony bin. We find out that after Carrie Anne died, his parents forced him to be Carrie Anne. He never went to his aunt’s when he was 7. (He had been saying that he moved back after she had a stroke. Was there never any aunt? Seems like these facts could easily be checked by anyone who was interested, so it seems like a very flimsy story.) He was the one who killed his parents four years ago. In the extended DVD version, we also find out that the sheriff had been hanging out doing drugs with the parents when Carrie Anne died. He knew what they did to Ryan (which Ryan believed was partly a punishment for being partially responsible for her death), and was blackmailed into keeping it a secret.
Obviously, Ryan’s obsession with Carrie Anne is pretty fascinating. I think the fact that he makes the girls wear the blue contacts is especially interesting. He really wants these girls to be Carrie Anne, he isn’t just soothing his conscience by pretending the girls he has kidnapped are really supposed to be in his care.
The waitress was extremely pretty, but he actually made out with Elissa. And he says, “I can’t have you and Carrie Anne.” I don’t think he’s talking about the fact that Elissa is now a problem that has to be eliminated, or even about the fact that keeping a girl trapped in your basement doesn’t allow much time for dating. I think he’s actually unable to properly process having both a girlfriend and Carrie Anne. It’s like he can only love one. Either he has just Carrie Anne, or the girlfriend and Carrie Anne are the same. It’s all his mind can handle. That’s pretty incestuous, if you ask me. (Also pretty *bleep*ing crazy.)
I like the movie for a lot of other reasons. Ryan’s craziness is interesting. How aware is he of what he’s doing? How much does he actually believe that that’s Carrie Anne? Does he drift in and out of clarity?
I also like the play on our expectations. They make Ryan extremely sympathetic – not only because he’s a victim of this mysterious but awful prejudice of the town and Elissa’s mother – but he’s also so soulful. Damaged, broken. (Max Thieriot is awesome in this role.) He shows Elissa the face in his tree, he tells her that he likes the write at dawn because it feels like no one has taken the good thoughts yet. He’s very likeable and he and Elissa – you really want to root for them. [I had a vague idea that there was something verging on incestuous in this movie, so I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop where he was concerned. (Plus, if you take how much time is left in the movie into consideration, it was pretty clear around the middle when Carrie Anne died that there was something huge coming.)]
I think some people who watched the movie were annoyed – you spend all this time hating the townies for being so cruel to him for no reason, and Elissa’s mom for thinking he’s sketch when he’s just a victim who hasn’t done anything wrong and just oozes this cuddly sadness – only for him to turn out to be bad after all. But I think that kind of subversion of our expectations is absolutely delightful. (The town and Elissa’s mom were all very much in the wrong, however things may have turned out.)
Even though you’ve read all this, I would still recommend the movie. Maybe wait a few years, so you can forget most of what I told you, though. I just love Jennifer and Max in this. And I think the directing and cinematography are first rate.
I suppose it could be said that I sort of ship Ryan and Carrie Anne…? I wonder what it would have been like if she had lived. Would he have still gone crazy? Would he have been so obsessed with her? His parents were obviously crazy as well. Did the 6+ years he spent being forced to pretend he was Carrie Anne feed his obsession with her and also cause him to snap? Maybe Carrie Anne would have been crazy as well. They could have been psychos together. Shipping aside, you can see why I brought the movie to your attention.
I thought it was funny that Max Thieriot played Ryan in this, because he has been in a lot of movies where he has sisters. In fact, he’s my golden incest prince.
I never bothered shipping his character too much with his older sister (played by the lovely Brittany Snow) in The Pacifier, but obviously I’m incapable of saying that I don’t ship it at all. I enjoy that movie quite a bit. If the brother/sister relationship had been a bit more gratifying, I might have even been able to say that I love it in a goofy kind of way. But we’ve already established that I enjoy silly movies targeted at families, regardless of how “good” they are.
This is where I was going to write about The Family Tree, but what I wrote ended up being so long that I turned it into an entry in its own right, located here.
I know there’s some incest in his movie Yellow, but it hasn’t come out yet, sadly.
And that leaves My Soul To Take, which, again, I was going to write about in this entry, but then it got too long, so I made it an entry of its own, which you can find here.
And that is why I call Max Thieriot my golden incest prince. Bless his choices.
Summer’s Moon. Oh man. What the *bleep* do I say about Summer’s Moon?
Like House At The End of the Street, Summer’s Moon is more of a tension horror film than a slasher horror film. There’s a lot more going on here than a homicidal maniac on a killing spree. And as a person who has seen a lot of f—ked up movies (particularly in the pursuit of canon incest storylines), it will mean something when I tell you that this is probably the most messed up movie that I have ever seen.
Summer Matthews (I don’t know how old she is exactly – probably 19 or so), essentially penniless and on her own, is hitchhiking and petty-thieving her way to the town of Massey to find the father she has never met. Unfortunately for her, kidnapping is in the air, and she winds up the plaything of one of the town’s psychos.
So, that’s as spoiler-free a premise as I can describe. The film follows her time in captivity, so it’s very much about the psychological aspect.
Is it any good? TOUGH. QUESTION. It’s a straight-for-DVD Canadian import, so it doesn’t have that glossy touch. It’s competently made, but the acting is truly awful, and the dialogue is mediocre at best. I also think they must have dubbed a lot of lines back in later because the sound of some of the dialogue has a strange, fake quality to it.
I don’t dispute the ending in anyway but it does have certain unsatisfying qualities. All that being said, I rather enjoy it. It’s not my favorite movie, but I can definitely see myself watching it for a third time in a couple of years. I think it’s interesting. And there’s no point in lying: I love how twisted and messed up and just ridiculously crazy it is.If you have actor questions, Summer is played by Ashley Greene. She’s Alice from the Twilight movies. In fact, it is rumored they changed the title from “Summer’s Blood” to “Summer’s Moon” to create a sort of association with New Moon to try and reach out to the Twilight fanbase. It was a bad move, because “Summer’s Blood” as a title makes a billion times more sense. I find her face kind of hard to get a grasp of. She seems to always look different depending on the angle and lighting.
Our male lead is played by the very attractive Peter Mooney. Even though I saw Summer’s Moon before I saw anything else he had been in, it threw me for a loop when I just rewatched it because now I know him from both Starz’s Camelot (he played Kay, Arthur’s foster brother) and Rookie Blue (he’s Nick Collins, the new rookie that joined in season 3). Peter Mooney just has a very pleasant face. He shows up on Rookie Blue, gets right in the middle of my precious OTP (in addition to being a new cast member, which is always a hard adjustment), and all I can say is, “I like this guy” when normally I would be burning him in effigy.
(While I’m on the subject of Camelot: that show was going to be part II out of III of my spring of incest two years ago – part I was The Borgias – but I just left that hanging. I plan on covering Morgan le Fey and King Arthur in their various depictions in one giant post some day. There is canon incest in Camelot for those who want to know that right this second, but I was extremely disappointed because I was expecting there to be canon incest – duh! – and had been hoping they would do it in a more enjoyable way. I have others issues – numerous, numerous issues – with that show that I won’t go into right now.)
Peter is quite good on Rookie Blue and in Camelot. I guess his acting improved dramatically after he finished Summer’s Moon!
So, to summarize the plot: Summer arrives in Massey. She gets busted shoplifting by the sheriff, and makes her getaway with the helpful (and extremely attractive) Tom Hoxey. They go to a bar and flirt a little,
and then she goes home with him for a one night stand. She tries to sneak out the next morning, but Tom has other ideas. She gets knocked unconscious by Tom’s mother, Gaia (to Tom’s displeasure), and wakes up chained in a big box of dirt in Tom’s basement. Tom has a garden down there, and an essential part of his beloved garden is a pretty girl. The first girl he kept down there died of a spider bite. The second girl, Amber, is still alive but extremely unwell. (I’m still not sure exactly what was wrong with her.) Amber is from Massey, and her father, who has been in jail, has just come home and is looking for her, which causes quite a bit of trouble for Tom. Amber dies before too long, when she falls and hits her head while trying to escape. (Tom is very upset when she dies.)
(I’m laughing right now.)
The box of dirt thing could be worse. It’s like being kept in a litter box. Not as nice as being chained in a bathtub or to a toilet, but it could be worse. I doubt Tom gives them tampons like Ryan does. These are things I think about.
Tom, while going through her bag (aka smelling her clothes) finds her journal and reads it. After that, he unchains her to her bewilderment, carries her upstairs, bathes her, lets her have a nap in his bed (although I’m not really sure why she was tired since sleeping was basically all she had to do), gives her new clothes, stops keeping her in the dirt box and gives her a mattress instead, invites her to eat at the table with him and his mother, and lets her be out and about in the house as long as he’s home. She’s expected to “help out” around the house and becomes a sort of Cinderella, though honestly Gaia is much nicer to her (now) than Cinderella’s evil stepmother. And they have sex. (Obviously she isn’t consenting because she’s kidnapped and terrified – but she is trying to convince him that she’s in love with him, so he thinks he has her consent – so for clarity’s sake I’ll add that he doesn’t physically force himself on her. As to whether Tom is actually so far gone that he actually thinks she’s in love with him – yeah, he really is that crazy. He’s surprisingly lucid at times – when he’s trying to protect himself from the inquiries of Amber’s father, for example, or the very first time Summer smiles at him and he knows she’s up to something – but for the most part he believes the delusions.)
Tom’s father, Gant, has been on the road for months on business, but Gaia has told him something and called him home, to Tom’s unease. Summer can tell from the way Tom is behaving that she probably has reason to be afraid of Gant. One of Tom’s acquaintances in town knows he was the last person to see Amber, and so he ends up kidnapping her. But Summer surmises that Tom has kidnapped her as a distraction for his father, to keep him away from Summer.
(We’ve seen Gant kill a woman and go after others in earlier scenes.) The woman manages to stab Tom in the leg before being subdued. Tom and Summer are hanging out on the porch (which just goes to show how much he has foolishly come to trust her) when Amber’s father comes driving up. Summer knocks Tom over and makes a run for it. Amber’s father is worried about Amber, so Summer has to spend several seconds screaming at him that his daughter isn’t inside before he gets back behind the wheel. Enough time for Tom to get his shotgun. He shoots Amber’s father through the window. Summer gets out of the car and tries to run but he shoots at her feet and Gaia comes pulling up the driveway, so she returns to the house. (There aren’t any neighbors nearby. The house is remote.)
We know he has a sexualized relationship with his mother. When he was having sex with Summer the first time, Gaia put her head to the door pruriently. And later when she tells him to get rid of his girls because it’s causing too much trouble, he’s violent with her, throwing her down on the table. But then when she gets up they make out.
It’s really gross.
(I won’t say that I never ship mother/son incest, but I’m extremely picky and even when I do kind of ship it, it still squicks me out. I did like Gillian/Jimmy on Boardwalk Empire, but I think I prefer a sort of snarky elitist Oedipal unconsummated thing, like Michael/Lucille on Arrested Development, or Sterling/Mallory on Archer. Tom/Gaia is just nasty.)
I’m not sure how old Tom is – he seems to have some sort of appliance repair business, so I’m guessing he’s at least 19. He’s had kidnapped girls for 6 years, mid 20’s is a better bet. I can see why he wouldn’t leave his mother given their weird relationship, and because she’s lonely since his father is not around very much. But my impression from his later interactions with his father is that he also feels it’s expected by his father for him to remain at home as an obedient son.
Although Gaia is thrilled by the idea of her husband returning, Tom never gives us the impression that he wants to see his father.
Gant eventually makes it back. He’s extremely excited to meet Summer, and we find out the same time she does that he is her father!!!! (Although it’s telegraphed pretty hard up until this point.) What Tom had found in her journal was a picture of Gant – the only thing she had to go by when looking for him. Tom clearly didn’t want Gant to know about Amber, but Gaia told him right away, probably hoping it would bring him back home – which it did.
Gant wants to induct Summer into the family through a rite of blood, so he grabs a knife and takes Summer down to the basement to hurt the woman Tom kidnapped for him. It’s ambiguous whether Summer is forced to participate or not (the scene cuts off), but she has blood on her when they come back up. Gant says, “She’s one of us. She didn’t faint or nothing.” But Summer’s shaking, clearly traumatized. Tom tried to stop Gant from forcing her to watch/participate (he backed down when Gant flexed his considerable authoritative muscle), and he’s mindful now of how upset she is. He takes her upstairs to help her wash up, and so they can have a moment alone. He promises her that she’ll never have to do that again with Gant. At this point it has already been established that if it weren’t for the injury to his leg, Tom would have taken Summer and left already.
Gant has other plans – he wants to leave again and he wants to take Summer with him. Tom tells him that he can’t take her. He says that he’ll kill Gant if he has to, but when Gant teases him with a knife, he doesn’t go for it. Gant throws him out of the room and tells him that he’ll deal with him later, but Tom comes back with a shotgun. Unfortunately, he hesitates, and Gant is able to take the shotgun from him and shoot him, killing him. He eventually shoots Gaia as well. (She was devoted to him, but probably had a bigger mouth on her than he cared for. She was also very jealous.)
Gant runs his hand up Summer’s thigh, and the implication is that he has or will abuse her sexually in addition to the other horrors he’ll visit upon her. Summer is obedient, but she is only playing the role of the dutiful daughter/apprentice/”girl” half-heartedly (unlike with Tom).
He approaches a woman at a picnic table, with a mind, one assumes, on killing her. He has left Summer alone and is not paying close attention to her. She gets some sort of metal implement out of the car and comes up behind him and kills him with it. Fin.
I’m having a lot of trouble finding a way to be articulate about what I have to say about this movie.
I want to just say first that while I don’t want to make light of any of the horrific things that happened to her, this movie is just so ridiculous that I find it hard to take it too seriously. You know how a soap just keeps adding more and more twists on top of each other? Like I’m pregnant with my alien doctor boyfriend’s evil twin brother’s science experiment alien child. That’s sort of how I feel about the messed-up-ed-ness of this movie.
So, obviously, in terms of the incest, there are a couple of interesting things. We have their initial encounter. They were mutually attracted to one another and they hit it right off. She falls right into bed with him even though there’s no hurry – she’s going to be looking for her father in that town for a while. And when he invites her back to his place, she asks if he thinks she’s that easy, and he says that he’s never had to work this hard before. (That’s probably the best written line in the whole movie. It says so much in so few words.) That tells us that it’s probably not her personal policy just go home with some guy she just met. And she had hitched a ride earlier that day with a guy who tried to get her to give in a sexual favor in return for the ride – so this is all directly following an experience of sexual harassment.
On Tom’s end, it’s interesting that he decides to keep Summer even though he already has Amber in the basement. (He indicates that he didn’t take Amber until the other girl had been dead for a while.) And we know that he went on several dates with Amber, which means his every date doesn’t end with a kidnapping. Clearly he was particularly drawn to Amber.
We already know that Tom has something incestuous with his mom going on. (It’s unclear exactly how much has actually happened between them or what they think about their unusual relationship. Gaia seems to consider herself faithful to Gant and her protests about the girls Tom kidnaps aren’t jealousy-based.) But I still think it’s interesting (that word again, my favorite word) that it’s after he learns that she’s his sister that he starts treating her like a human being again and not a plant – including restarting their sexual relationship. (Right after Summer has been kidnapped, Tom says that he never hurts the girls he keeps in his garden. With Summer, the only real time we see him touch her before he learns she is his sister is to feed her, though he does kiss her during that part. My point is I don’t think he raped the others.) It’s like the complete opposite of what one would expect: “Oh, you’re my sister? We should be having more sex.”
We never really get to see Summer’s reaction to learning that Tom is her brother. After that revelation, there’s too much else going on to gauge what’s going on in her head with respect to that one thing. I do feel like learning that Tom was her brother would have an affect on how she felt about him. It had a dramatic effect on him – though not so much that he let her go.
I like that Summer isn’t made out to be some saint. She’s shoplifting at that mart. She takes some cash from Tom’s house before he wakes up and stops her from leaving. In the flashback with her mother when she’s yelling about her mother keeping her from her father and deciding to run off and find him, she calls her some very ugly names and threatens her with a knife and a gun, even though the only thing they’re fighting about is her mother’s decision to keep her father out of her life. And while I would hardly call Summer complicit in the murder of the woman that Tom kidnaps as an offering for his father, she does have several chances to untie her and she doesn’t take them. That other lady was tough, and the two of them probably could have taken out Tom and Gaia if they did it right. At one point Gaia isn’t even home! I know Summer was scared, but I think she was also thinking she had a better chance of getting out by playing along with Tom.Tom had told her that she wanted that woman there as much as he did.And when Summer realizes that Gant having that woman to play with his going to prolong her own survival, you can see that the idea infects her a little. She’s willing to sacrifice this other woman to improve her own chances. (Tom actually blames Summer for Amber’s death – and Summer had indeed coaxed Amber to get up and try and escape and that was when she fell and killed herself. But I don’t really blame Summer for that. Though it’s possible that we’re supposed to, a little. And Summer trips the other kidnapped woman with her chain, stopping her escape. Though I’m pretty sure it was an accident.)
I think the term “Stockholm Syndrome” is thrown about a little too much. I’m not saying it’s not a real thing, or that traumatic bonding isn’t a real thing. But I also don’t think every time someone sympathizers with their captor, joins their captor’s “cause”, or even falls in love with their captor – is a case of psychosis. Obviously, in real life, it’s dangerous territory. In fiction, one can be more confident of whether it’s Stockholm Syndrome or not because the writer gets to choose. (It’s a pet peeve of mine – overusage of the term Stockholm Syndrome/overdiagnosis of it in commentaries on fiction.)
In Summer’s case, I think there was a lot of psychological stuff at work, but I don’t think she ever went through Stockholm Syndrome. I think that Summer’s mind was always on escape and that her actions were calculated. But I do think she softened towards Tom once the threat of Gant loomed over them, and even more so once Gant actually showed upon scene. Even though she is a victim of Tom, what Tom has done to her is not nearly as bad as what Gant will do to her. So Tom becomes a protector. In the end he almost kills his father and instead dies protecting her. And seeing as how they were both victims of Gant’s (granted, in different ways), I think she was able to empathize with him on some level. I think that all makes sense even to someone who wasn’t going through it. It’s a rational response to the situation. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, even if he was once my enemy.
Summer is visibly shocked when Tom is shot and she starts crying Though there are several reasons for that 1) being scared out of her f—king mind, 2) the horror of seeing someone else die right in front of her, and most importantly 3) the sudden death of her last real hope. Tom really was her hope. He told her he would get her out of there and protect her from Gant. But…well, he sucked at it. (In his defense he had recently been stabbed in the leg.)
Just like they made Summer somewhat gray, they make Tom gray as well. (A much, much, much, much, much, much blacker gray.)
He’s doesn’t come across as creepy, even when he’s being creepy or violent – he’s sexy, which is a virtue in our society. One can say that it shouldn’t be a mitigating factor, but it is. Not, perhaps, on an intellectual level. But on other levels.
And even though he manhandles Summer a couple of times (pretty much only when she’s trying to escape or when she refused to eat), Tom never hits her. Which I think was probably an important choice by the director/actors, etc. Because the visual of watching a man hit a woman has a very strong impact. And they didn’t give us that visual.
And Tom loves Summer. Not at first – not when he kidnaps her. But when he finds out she’s his sister, and reads her journal, and brings her back upstairs. He does start to love her. He doesn’t treat her right – he should have let her run away with Amber’s father. That would have been an act on the road of redemption. But he does love her. I think when he eventually dies trying to save her from Gant, he finally reached the point where he wasn’t just trying to keep her anymore. (Although that’s debatable, I’ll admit.)
And the glimpses that we get of his home life and childhood certainly play a part in explaining who he became. We see Gant trying to groom Summer into being a killer like he is. Surely he tried the same thing on his son – he just got a gardener instead. And I think the way Tom treats his mother and the girls is reflections of the way he has seen his father treat Gaia. He says something about cutting out Summer’s tongue and later we hear Gant say the same thing. And he talks about how his father used to lock him up for days in the basement when he was bad. Even Summer looks sympathetic when she hears that, even though he’s doing the same thing to her. He sees his garden as something beautiful, a sanctuary. The opposite of what his father does.
I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say that a part of me wanted to see Summer and Tom run off and start the life together she talked about. The IMDB messageboard tells me I’m not the only one. I’d caution you to watch the movie before judging us too harshly! And I bet if it wasn’t incest, and if this movie was more popular, there would be quite a mass of us.
But I want to be clear: I am fully aware of how messed up this relationship is and I’m not looking for a way to make excuse Tom of what he has done or call anything that he did to Summer even remotely OK. (As you can see, I’ve included plenty of honest screencaps.) I’m not even sure if I really ship it or not. There are parts of the movie where I’m watching it and I ship it. And other parts where I can’t. When they’re having sex for the second time, for example. I can’t even imagine how horrible it must have been to not just have sex with this guy who has been keeping you chained up in his dank basement, but to have to pretend that you like it, to say that you love him. And for me, the worst part isn’t the fact that he has abducted her – but moments like when he threatened to cut out her tongue, or when he got angry with the woman who had seen him with Amber and he took her out with a chokehold – moments that show he has some violence under his gentle exterior. Or when he’s talking about his garden – showing that he’s not 100% sane.
Again, this is a situation like I talked about at the beginning of this post. What I’m wanting in my heart is an idealized AU. Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to work Summer and Tom’s relationship into something acceptable without it becoming unrecognizable.
I also want to say that I think this movie is actually better than it gets credit for. Because it makes Tom a little gray/sympathetic (certainly in comparison with his father, who is eeeeeeeeeevvvvvvvviiiiiiiiiiiiillllllllll), but it also never lets you forget what he’s done or how messed up his thinking is, and even once he’s mostly a bunny with Summer we still see him be violent towards others, and the movie taunts you with Tom and Summer’s relationship by adding levels of sweetness on top of the incest on top of the rape/kidnapping which is on top of the consensual sex they enjoyed at the beginning. And by having Gant kill Tom, Summer’s true feelings are obscured. We never see what she would have done if she had had to face off against Tom. Or what would have happened between them if they had been successful in their attempt to escape from Gant. It leaves Summer and Tom’s relationship very open-ended, in a way. I think of it sort of like a loophole.
I really do think the psychological aspect of it all is very fascinating. And I really like the way Summer played Tom. She very quickly decided it would be more effective to play along than yell “Let me the go!” all day long. Even though, as we saw in the scene when she hitched, she can be very tough with predators. So often in movies when a girl is kidnapped she’ll just insult her kidnapper until he ends up punching her out. Not Summer. Summer’s smart. I really liked that.
And say what you will about the rest of the movie, but watching Summer kill Gant at the end is DAMN SATISFYING.
“He would have killed you,” she says to the horrified woman. “And me, eventually.”
Summer is really a whole different person in that final scene. She’s like a phantom. Like she has lost everything. The detached way she goes about getting the weapon and killing him is very apparently. Someone on the IMDB board said he thought the “dead look in her eyes” meant she was going to become a killer like her father. I disagree, but I point it out to show that there’s very clearly something different about her at the end. She has been broken. It started with the trauma of the murder of the woman in the basement, but it’s much more severe in the final scene.
I don’t think I have anything else to say.