The Archetype of Teenage Revenge

The Archetype of Teenage Revenge

When Brian De Palma’s ‘Carrie’ was released in early November 1976, I was too young to see it, not to mention too broke in the first place to go to many movies. Yet, over the years, Carrie White came to stand as the exemplification of adolescent rage against one’s peers, society, and being relentlessly misunderstood, isolated, and unappreciated. As Carrie worked its way into our collective psyche, there was a point when you need not have actually seen the movie in order to know who Carrie was and what she did the night of her high school prom. Equally important, you need not have been raised as Carrie was raised, by an abandoned Bible-thumping zealot parent suffering from a profound fear of sex and sexuality, in order to know her loneliness, the kind of loneliness that can only come from feeling surrounded by bullying teenagers. The story of Carrie was cathartic, it was familiar, and it was an archetype that dwells in us all. Nearly four decades later, as I watched this movie last night (while others were out seeing the 2013 remake), I could still feel the dark joy of exacting revenge on everyone whoever made me feel less than, hurt, worthless, ugly and undesirable. At this point, of course, my perspective on Carrie’s story has changed, informed by age and experience, including more appreciation for my self-worth. Nevertheless, no matter how secure and accomplished I may feel, Sissy Spacek’s unforgettable portrayal of Stephen King’s anti-heroine still makes me want to take Carrie’s side and I still take pleasure from watching her set that gym on fire. And, of, those split-screen shots of mayhem and pandemonium!


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