It Follows | The Trauma of Growing Up

It Follows | The Trauma of Growing Up


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more, and you’ll also get a free $5 credit! David Robert Mitchell’s film “It Follows”
generated a lot of discussion when it came out. Most commonly it’s been seen as a metaphor
for sexually transmitted diseases, or for sexual assault; a demon that’s passed between
people through sex makes that an obvious interpretation, and while I do think those interpretations
are valid, utlimately I think its thematic roots are much more mundane and commonplace. Mitchell provides a lot of subtext, pieces
of information that aren’t directly given to us, but that add a lot of clarity to the
film. The major theme the film explores is the end
of adolescence. The story is set in Detroit, Michigan during
an Indian Summer, which is a period of unseasonably warm weather that occurs in the fall. Something relatively common in the American
Midwest, it’s not unusual to flip between shorts and a T-shirt one day to pants and
a jacket the next. But symbolically I believe it represents that
core theme of adolescence. Summer representing youth, with Fall representing
the coming decay that eventually leads to Winter, or old age and death. In essence, an Indian summer is youth still
clinging on, trying to keep death at bay. Jay is a student in college, but unlike much
of her graduating class, she elected to stay behind. “Sucks sticking around when everyone is gone,
huh?” “It gets a bit lonely.” Further detailed in the script in some deleted
dialogue from the finished film, we find out that Jay had the opportunity to leave for
college with her father covering the expenses, but that she just doesn’t see the point. Opting instead to stay home, only going to
school out of obligation to be able to stay. She’s not quite ready to grow up. She used to dream of the freedom she would
have when she got older, but now that freedom has become a form of paralysis. “It’s funny, I used to daydream about being
old enough to go on dates, drive around with friends in their cars, holding hands with
a really cute guy, listening to the radio, driving along some pretty road up north maybe? When the trees start to change colors. It was never about going anywhere really,
just having some sort of freedom I guess. But now that we’re old enough, where the hell
do we go?” This confrontation of adolescence and adulthood
can force people into a stasis. Holding onto our past for as long as we still
can; before old age comes to claim us, when we can no longer dress ourselves or maintain
control of our bodily functions, and our body itself begins to decay. The slow march of time is coming for all of
us, there’s no hiding from it, there’s no stopping it, you can only postpone it for
a little while longer. “Just pass it along, if it kills you it’ll
come after me, do you understand?” For some, the fear is too strong and they
give in. Others turn to self-harm as a way of coping. Echoed in this shot of Jay, stacking blades
of grass that look like scars, and a small glimpse at a bandage on Jeff’s wrist. And for Jay maybe it’s just returning to a
familiar comfort, like getting ice cream, or going on the swings at the park. These scenes are set immediately after a close
encounter with the demon, and I struggle to believe that that was a coincidence. All throughout the film there are clues to
this theme, from the game of Old Maid that the characters play, or the presence of older
technology throughout the film that suggests difficulty letting go of the past; because
as is made clear, growing up isn’t exactly what most of us expect. Those cute boys can break your heart, that
small town will feel lonely but the world outside can seem too big and terrifying, and
every day you’re just getting one step closer to death. The city of Detroit comes to represent this
notion of decay, as the further we get away from the suburban paradise of Jay’s hometown,
the more decrepit the world becomes. “When I was a little girl, my parents wouldn’t
allow me to go south of 8 mile. And I didn’t even know what that meant until
I got a little older, and I started realizing that that’s where the city started and the
suburbs ended. And I used to think about how shitty and weird
that was, I mean, I had to ask permission to go to the state fair with my best friend
and her parents, only because it was a few blocks past the border.” “My mom said the same thing.” As much as our parents might try and protect
us, the world is going to hurt us. And these fears, anxieties, and traumas accumulate
and become ghosts that haunt us. They can take the shape of ex-boyfriends and
girlfriends, or maybe your anxieties about the future and who you may become; old and
grey and falling apart, or what someone else may become like the little boy next door who’s
already showing a sexual fascination with Jay. “Do you remember the time that we found those
old porno magazines in the alley behind Barry’s pizza?” “Yeah.” “We were such stupid kids.” “Ridiculous.” I think kids are inherently curious about
sexuality, partly because kids tend to flock to anything that they’re not supposed to be
seeing, but it’s also just a natural part of growing up. Of course, that curiosity eventually turns
into something more, and after going through something traumatic involving sex, it’s hard
to see those innocent kids in the same way. These ghosts can also take the form of parents
or grandparents, as we see when It attacks Greg, when It appears as an old man standing
on the roof, or the final scene at the pool. “Jay, what do you see?” “I don’t want to tell you.” We see pictures of Jay with her father, but
never actually see him in the film. We don’t know exactly what happened to him,
we just know that he’s not around anymore. And whether by their own choices or not, a
parent’s absence in a child’s life feels like abandonment. Which is further exacerbated for Jay after
her night with Jeff, where he uses her for sex to pass along the curse. “It was consensual?” “Yeah.” While Jay may have consented to the sex itself,
she was emotionally manipulated into that decision, because he lied about who he was,
and was just using her as a means to an end, and once he got what he wanted, he was gone. Only reappearing in the film when confronted
by Jay, where he deflects blame because “Jay, I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to hurt you okay? Someone did this to me too.” Someone pretending to be someone they’re not,
saying and doing whatever they have to to get into bed with someone, making excuses
for their behavior because they’ve been hurt too, these are not unfamiliar concepts to
most people. And sometimes it can hurt you enough that
you do the same thing to someone else, and in your attempt to make the pain go away you,
you end up just inflicting it on others. “You could pass it on? You did once.” “I shouldn’t have.” That’s the cost of intimacy. When you become intimate with someone, you
inherit all of their trauma, whether it was caused by parents or past relationships, it
will now follow you too. You can try and fight it, but deep-seated
trauma or anxiety can’t be killed, the best thing you can do is make peace with it, to
know that it’s out there and that it’s not going away, but not to let it consume your
life. By sharing these demons with those that you
can trust, and by leaning on friends in times of need even when they don’t understand exactly
what it is that you’re going through. So on the surface it may seem like an obvious
allegory for STD’s, or for sexual assault, and I think it absolutely can be interpreted
that way, but I think it’s also about the many ways that life and love can hurt us. Whether that’s an absent father, or an alcoholic
and distant mother, or someone turning out differently than we expected. How these people and these places will inevitably
lead to suffering, and all the while we’re heading towards certain death, but ultimately
how we can get through the worst of it, by finding those that we can rely on and sharing
in that burden together. Thank you to Privacy for sponoring this video. These days most of us do a significant amount
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17 thoughts on “It Follows | The Trauma of Growing Up

  1. Thanks so much for watching! Obviously this is all just my interpretation, and you can agree or disagree, but I felt like there was a lot going on in the film that I hadn't seen others discussing, and this is one of my favorite movies of all time so I really wanted to add my own thoughts into the mix. Hope you all enjoy!

  2. I've only seen this once but you pointed out so many things I never noticed before. Especially with Jay's father being the thing at the pool.

  3. I'm so happy there are still new takes to be analysed and dissected with It Follows, my favourite American horror in recent memory (and Hereditary of course)

  4. Beautiful analysis
    Like a good film, its themes are all wrapped up together – sexuality, loss of innocence, growing up

  5. This kind of thing hits me really hard, going through the same thing myself. It's nice to see a film that illustrates it so well.

  6. That last shot is always so spooky. You never know if the person behind them is the demon following them, or just some random guy.

  7. A shotout TO THE AWESOME SOUNDTRACK BY DISASTERPIECE
    i love his work.
    my fav are Jay,the main theme,detroid.
    i highly sugest to listen to his other chiptune album rise of the obsidian.

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