Thursday, January 7, 2010

Black Snake Moan, or How Far Is Too Far?

I just finished watching the movie Black Snake Moan. If you're not familiar with the plot, here's the quick summary: Christina Ricci is a damaged young woman, who was sexually abused when she was young. When her boyfriend leaves for the army, she becomes untethered, gets in a bad situation, and winds up beaten and left on the side of the road. Samuel L. Jackson's character finds her, brings her into his home to heal her injuries, then discovers her history of sleeping around. Since his wife has just left him, he decides the only rational thing to do is to literally chain Ricci to the radiator and begin the task of "getting the devil out" of her by showing her that there are ways to connect to people other than sexually.

There are interesting things that go on in the story. Ricci and Jackson are both going through the same situation, just opposite sides of it. Jackson's wife was unfaithful and as soon as Ricci's boyfriend left town, she was unfaithful. Yet, instead of taking out his anger on Ricci, Jackson's character decides to save her. In redeeming her, he ultimately saves himself. The chain goes from a symbol of imprisonment to one of safety, of connection.

The thing to remember is that the movie is meant to be more allegory - yeah, there's a chain, but it's not really about it being a chain, but about connection. Still, there's that moment when she finally regains her senses after coming out of her drug haze that's decidedly uncomfortable. She realizes she's been chained and, naturally, doesn't like it. "I have to get home now," she says. He tells her she's not going anywhere. Now, seriously, I don't care who you are or where you're from, the idea of being chained up by a prisoner is just not one that evokes warm, fuzzy feelings.

By the end of the movie, the main characters have evolved, and the fact that he held her against her will slips away. I just don't know if that sits right with me, even though I think there is much in the movie that was really good story telling. I haven't fully decided whether or not the chain went a step too far. Which isn't to say I'm squeamish. But, we all have certain things that bother us more than others. Gore? Nah, I don't mind. Body count? Eh, I'm okay. But being chained to a radiator? That touches a nerve.

What stories/novels/movies have you come across that went too far for you? Are there any you can think of that stand on the line, but don't quite cross it?

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