Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Perks of being a Wallflower

I haven't written a blog in a long time but I just logged in and realized I started writing something and never finished it, so instead of trying to pick up where I left off I thought I would just publish as is.

I haven't been compelled to write about a film since I saw the Science of Sleep, probably because I identify too much with the characters sometimes and it can be jarring.  I remember while reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower that the angst was relatable, and I thought Sam seemed familiar, but the fact that she was in high school and was so beautiful made her seem like someone that maybe I knew, but not me.  But in the film, Emma Watson's portrayal of Sam made her more real to me in that she wasn't the intimidatingly beautiful long legged blonde model from magazines that Charlie couldn't help but adore, but a short-haired elegantly pretty girl.

The film, and the book for that matter, manage to treat a number of issues at once without seeming like a Glee-tastic attempt at displaying diversity.  Sexual assault, "coming out", alcoholism, suicide, domestic violence, bullying, depression and mental illness are all part of the very experience of Perks.  And besides the easy-to-list issues and identities being portrayed, there is a very visceral, at least for me, experience of being fourteen and seeking acceptance in that party world of music, alcohol, drugs and sex.

One moment that stuck with me in the film was when Charlie was making out with Sam and he kind of freezes for a second because the experience triggered a memory of being sexually assualted by his Aunt Helen.  This was such a validating moment in that even the most wonderful and positive people and moments can trigger traumas in life, and if it happened to Charlie, and its happened to me, then we are not alone.  The simple catharsis of seeing someone suffer in ways I have suffered was semi-triggering but mostly healing.  The way in which the film dealt with the heavy topics and issues was refreshing for some reason.  I guess it was done tastefully.  I know at least one man who watched the film with his partner and came out as a survivor after.  I suspect that seeing other films which dealt with sexual assault in exploitative ways did not serve as the catalyst that Perks did.  Perks felt safe, because  Patrick, Sam, and Charlie created a safe, supportive space.  A space I only wish that I had at that age but try to create in the work I do with teens.

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