Sunday, November 22, 2009

Film Review: Mysterious Skin

Mysterious Skin was an intense film. It chronicles the lives of two young men Neil McCormick and Brian Lackey and how they deal with the sexual abuse they experienced when they were younger. Both boys are a part of the local little league team. Neil explains that he was sent to the team so that his mother can sleep with her boyfriend without having to worry about hiring a babysitter for Neil. Brian is the worst player on the team but both boys are noticed by the team's coach. Neil explains his infatuation with large, strong men from an early age and even describes the first time he ejaculated semen after watching his mother give oral sex to a man on Neil's swing set. Here we see that Neil's homosexuality had manifested at an early age. The baseball coach began to show a more personal interest in Neil and took Neil to his home to play video games, eat snacks, and eventually began to take pictures of Neil. During one visit the coach lays Neil down and kisses him. After this memory we see Brian trick-or-treating with his sister on Halloween. Brian is bullied by some children outside, loses his glasses, and runs away aimlessly into an empty field where he is confronted by someone who knows his name. Brian remembers being laid down with another boy in the field and then the rest of it just fades to black; Here Brian begins to believe he was abducted by aliens. He uses the story of the aliens to explain his random nosebleeds when he thinks about those gaps in time.
Throughout the course of the film we see Neil become a prostitute who has a thing for older, more rugged men (like his baseball coach). However, Brian becomes an introvert who exerts almost no sexual characteristics and is described by Neil's friend Eric as “asexual.” We follow Neil as he seeks companionship in random older men and eventually leaves the small town he lives in for New York City to follow his friend Wendy. Brian explains how he has lapses in his memory surrounding the day he was taken home by his coach and a fellow little leaguer, and following the events on Halloween. Brian believes he was abducted by aliens and in searching for answers comes to remember that Neil was the boy with him in the field that day. After Neil is brutally beaten and raped by a customer in New York City he returns home to a visit from Brian. Neil takes Brian to the old home of their Coach and they break in. The young men sit in the living room while Neil fills in the gaps in Brian's memory of the day that Neil and the Coach took Brian home from a game. Neil explains what the Coach had the boys do to each other and to him, and so Brian finally has the gaps in his memory filled. The film ends with Neil comforting Brian, whose nose is bleeding.
This movie is riddled with underlying themes of growing up male and masculinity. We see how differently the sexual abuse affected both boys. Neil interpreted his Coach's attention and infatuation with him as love, and since Neil did not have an actual male figure in his life the Coach was the closest thing he could get. Up until the end of the film we see that Neil does not have feelings of hatred for his Coach because he explains to Brian that he was his “favorite” and that he treated Neil as “his prize.” During the course of the film Brian sought the help of a young woman who believed she was abducted by aliens, and she develops a romantic interest in Brian which culminates in her trying to sleep with Brian. Brian reacts violently and immediately invokes the memories of the night lying in the field with the Coach's hands running over his face.
We see Neil adopt an infatuation in men that resemble the “Marlboro Man” and have rugged looks and basically portray the stereotypical male in America. Savin-Williams in Men's Lives claims that young boys who show signs of homosexuality are typically “repelled by their (men's) behavior, their standard of dress and cleanliness, and their barbarian nature” yet this is exactly what Neil sought in his sexual partners and the johns he worked (91). The entire film is a testament to the role men play in young boys lives. While the Coach molested and raped the young boys, he was still a father figure to young Neil, and he completely devastated Brian and led him to develop an introverted personality. Brian's biological father never showed a real interest and even told him that he was disappointed in him for not being at least “decent” on the little league team, even though Brian was only 8 years old. We see that Brian does not have any important males in his life as his father divorced his mother and moved out of the home and Brian still lives with his mother as he attends community college. The only male he encounters after his father and the Coach is Eric, Neil's gay friend. This could be a subconscious rejection of masculinity as defined by traditional gender roles and characteristics that his father and the Coach personified. This film shows us how masculinity has betrayed these two boys yet the effects of it have continued to haunt their lives. Mysterious Skin also shows us that rape and molestation is not a problem only affecting women but has affected young boys across the country, and the effects it can have on these children vary greatly and do not know gender. This film was an amazing portrayal of rape and its effects on young boys but its very realistic portrayals of prostitution and rape can make it a hard watch for people who may know someone or have experienced sexual violence in their lives.

1 comment:

Merritt Johnson said...

I've never heard of this movie but it seems very good/interesting by reading you blog. I hate movies when kids are sexually abused as it makes me so sad. Good blog, how old is this movie?