Friday, March 22, 2013

Get Away Quickly: Illuminating the Horrible Messages Portrayed in The Others

I should have liked this movie. It had so many positives going for it: lots of fog, a creepy house, rare illnesses, obscure tombstones, an awesome possession scene, and ghosts. Still, I didn’t connect with this film. While watching it this time, I came to the conclusion the problem resides with the characters. Even though the film did many things right, the characters were so despicable, I couldn’t connect and truly enjoy the movie. Then, upon further examination, I realized it wasn’t just the characters. The film itself presented terrible messages, which disturbed me.

The mother, Grace, was abusive. She related to Jack in The Shining in this manner; however, Jack had redeeming qualities, at least in the start. Jack wanted to change, and he loved his family and wanted to be the best father he could. Grace cared more about social standards and herself than her family. Notice how she reacts when the priest “won’t” come visit them. Or consider the conversation she has with her children who claimed they would lie about their religious affiliations if it mean saving their lives. Instead of worrying about their safety or even mental well-being, she criticized them for not sacrificing themselves for their beliefs--they’re like ten! Of course, [spoiler] she also killed them, which really made her the villain, and the story frustrated me because she’s portrayed as somewhat of a heroine. At least Jack was painted as the bad guy in the end of The Shining. I guess these examples illustrate how, in reality, men are easily portrayed as villains when it comes to domestic abuse, yet society has a unfair misconception of women in the same situations.

The daughter wasn’t any more likable than the mother. She harassed her brother, was snarky, and overall, not pleasant. I suppose, if anything, the character was realistic since she inherited her mother’s attributes. The daughter does, at least, have the creepiest incident in the movie--her possession. This even seems suitable as a subliminal punishment or warning to change her ways. From there, even though she never becomes likable, she does change her ways--she starts to dislike the intruders, and eventually, after a few other events, builds up the gumption to escape and goes through her own path of discovery. Her initiative makes her the most interesting character, yet because she was so cranky, I didn’t shed any tears when I found out she was dead.

The brother was a bit relatable because I felt so bad for him, yet he was so young and such a coward, I didn’t find myself really captivated by him either. He seemed like a secondary character the female leads dominated in order to demonstrate their dynamics. There were also the three helpers, who I felt somewhat connected to, but they were secondary characters and were not given full characterization. There was also the father, who remained in a hazy stupor for his stay; I had to wonder if his state of mind was from the war and his death or if his family’s incorrigibility had left him a broken man. I sympathized with his hightailing it.

So, even though this move had a high-level of creepiness, I couldn’t enjoy it because I found myself hoping bad things would happen to the vile characters. However, the ending seemed like the worst-case scenario regarding my disposition. The abusive mother got to stay with and abuse her children for eternity--which is absurd when compared to The Shining where the abuser is removed from the family unit. The children in The Others were left being subjected to abuse for eternity. And the helpers were trapped being servants and doing yard work for eternity. None of the evil was resolved and all the good characters were punished. Well, except the father, who was rewarded for abandoning his family by getting away from the hell they’d created at the house. This movie has some truly disturbing messages.


  1. Great insight on the characters. I agree with you on the aspect that they weren't very likeable. I don't think I ever rooted for them. It would be interesting to see this movie from the flipside and see it from the POV of the living. I wonder if the character's personalities would show with the hauntings?

  2. Are you supposed to root for them, though. Granted, you can't know it the first time you watch it, but they are the ghosts. In ghost literature, they are the obstacle for the living protagonist. By making them the protagonist and, in a sense, the antagonist of the story, wouldn't that collision of roles result it moments you empathize and moment you steer away from the characters?

  3. I hadn't even thought of this. I guess I was hoping that in the end the mother would change and "lighten up" once she realized that her children could play without fear of burns. But I can see you point. It is really depressing that the abusive mother gets to spend the rest of her eternity ruling over her never aging children. While a horrible message, it does give you that one last nasty, creepy, part after revealing the truth of their situation.

  4. Yes, while I love the setting and I did enjoy the story, the characters are horrible. I tried to figure out who the protagonist was and still don't get it. Is it the mother? Horrible. I actually kind of liked the daughter, because I imagined her growing up and kicking the mother's ass. I too was disturbed by the idea of the children being stuck forever in a house with their abuser. Is it supposed to be a happy ending? I find it almost as disturbing as Fenny in Ghost Story being stuck with Gregory for all eternity. If they were trying to horrify us through these characters, they certainly did a good job.

  5. I loved the characters, even though I didn’t *like* them. Grace was cold and harsh and what she did to her children was despicable. But, much of the behavior we see (especially the lesson in religion) is explained by what she did and her sincere belief that God gave her and her children a second chance.

    Anne is a brat. Alive, was at the age when young girls often develop friction with their mothers. Dead, she has a pretty good extra reason her defiance. Anne knows what her mother did, even if she hasn’t fully accepted the outcome. She is the closest of the three to knowing the truth; I think that is why she has the most contact with the living.

    Nicholas either doesn’t have a clue, has completely blocked it out, or it is just beyond his comprehension.

    I loved them because they served the story well. I didn’t like them, but sometimes, I think, likeability is overrated. I wanted to see what happened to them, and I think that’s more important than likability.