Carrie White: Horror’s Most Relatable Anti-Heroine
Sometimes it’s weird to imagine that we almost didn’t know her. She was almost thrown out with the trash, before the wife of Stephen King retrieved the incomplete manuscript and convinced him to finish it. His first published novel lead to the first of many movie adaptations of his work, but Carrie doesn’t always immediately pop into the minds of fans when they think of him. Perhaps it’s because when we think of horror, we tend to think about monsters, psychotic killers, and demonic spirits. We think about the things that make us scream, not the people who make us laugh and cry. Maybe that’s why she’s often overlooked. We feel for her, we believe in her, and we cheer for her. The audience never sees her as a monster. When it comes to Carrie White, we see ourselves.
It’s no wonder that Carrie keeps resurfacing again and again, having had three movie adaptations, one sequel, a musical, and several parodies. Carrie White is someone the audience can’t help but feel empathy for. She’s a social outcast at her high school and is constantly bullied by her peers. As if that weren’t enough, she’s forced to live with her obsessively religious mother, Margaret White, who constantly abuses and controls Carrie when she wrongly believes that she has sinned. Her life is heartbreaking. One can’t help but relate Carrie to their own experiences. Her story hurts to watch, and yet, the audience keeps willingly bringing her back into their lives.
The Advantage of Background Information
The reason for this is not because people enjoy watching characters suffer time after time again, but it’s because Carrie achieves the one thing that most social outcasts and abused children never get: bloody vengeance. In what is perhaps her most humiliating moment, she uses her telekinetic powers to slaughter her entire class at the prom. She’s had a bucket of pig’s blood dropped on her, and as punishment she unleashes bloody havoc on the entire student body, whom she blames for the prank set up by bully Kris Hargensen and her boyfriend Billy Nolan.
If something like this were to happen in the real world, we would be on the same side as the townsfolk in Carrie, who label her a monster and mourn the loss of her peers. However, we’ve been given the full picture. We see the way she sobbed in the shower after believing she was dying once her period started. We see the way she looked down at her feet when talking to her principal and her teachers. Most importantly, we see the glimmer of hope in her eyes when Tommy Ross takes her to prom, and just how naïve she becomes when she has faith that night will change her life for the better. We want her to have a happy ending, and our dreams are just as crushed as her when the blood pours down on her from up above. We’re humiliated with her, and we’re angry for her. Then we see it happen: her revenge. At this moment, the audience can’t help but feel joy combined with shock as she unleashes her power on everyone.
Seeing the Nerd Get Revenge
When the third film arrived in 2013, a lot of people couldn’t help but ask, “Why keep bringing it back?” Yet, the question we should really ask is “Why not?” It’s not just the most relatable story. It’s the most powerful story; a nerd-gets-revenge story unlike any other. The thing is, the world hasn’t changed much since 1976. People still get bullied. People are still abused. People still wish they had some way of getting even with those that have hurt them. It makes sense that there are many forms of media that continue to focus on these themes, including multiple episodes of television shows like Criminal Minds and the 2010 film The Final. Yet, Carrie has always been the most shocking portrayal of these themes. It’s a horror story that’s not simply about things that scare us to death. It touches on realistic issues, and it gives viewers a strange sense of hope in the most brutal of ways. There’s more and more people growing up in the world that need an outlet like this, which is why Carrie has been given not one, but two chances at a comeback.
Is Carrie White a murderer? Yes. Did she mean to do what she did? Hell yes. Is she a monster? Definitely not.
There’s a reason why she stands strong against many other iconic anti-heroes throughout the horror genre; Jason Voorhees and Hannibal Lecter among them. While the typical horror anti-hero is given a backstory that explains their unfortunate origins, they are often portrayed as vicious antagonists that the audience loves to hate. Carrie, on the other hand, is placed front and center for us. We see her pain firsthand and feel her emotions as she unleashes his telekinetic powers on her peers. With other horror films, we tend to feel more empathy for the victims despite the backstories of their killers.
Helping Us Understand Ourselves
Carrie is the story about a girl who felt that using her supernatural powers to do what she did was the only answer in that moment. That’s why the audience doesn’t hate her. She’s been a poster child for bully victims in cinema for four decades (2016 marks the 40th anniversary of the original film). When something this good keeps thrilling audiences, why look anywhere else?
The story is one that causes everyone to look at themselves and look at others. While the climax is frightening, Carrie’s actions teach the audience lessons about pain and longing. We see the kinds of effects that bullying and abuse can have on a person, and what that might lead them to do. We all know what being a victim is like, so we understand why she does what she does.
Many horror fans tend to disregard her when they think of the scariest characters, but she has a legacy nonetheless. It’s that she’s only human that makes her story truly stick with those that experience at least one form of it. Whether a person saw the original back in the late seventies or just saw the 2013 remake, Carrie White is a character that grips on to your heart and doesn’t let go, no matter how terrified of her you might become.
In the end, it doesn’t matter how popular she stands among the other horror classics. What does matter is that she reminds us so much of ourselves.
What do you think? Leave a comment.