Those of you who have read volume 2 will know how important and unimportant Tom Bombadil is to talk about. This video may even confirm things for you.
Promising Young Woman is the first film we watched in 2021. It was a great kickoff to what we hope are many more great films, but we have notes for reviewers. Spoilers ahead.
I start first with this excerpt from Vulture’s review of it:
“But Cassie’s romance also sets Promising Young Woman up for a big finish that has to contend with the complicated question it’s been skirting all along — one of reconciliation versus retribution, and whether there’s any benefit to holding fast to rage forever, no matter how warranted. It’s a question that’s impossible to answer broadly, but the specific conclusion for which the movie opts is both profoundly upsetting and apparently intended to provoke applause. Fennell’s film is a vibrant, stylistically precise piece of work, but the sentiments it conveys don’t feel examined. It’s an acceleration off a cliff when what you’d really like to see is some kind of road forward, no matter how rough.”
I will admit that Cassie’s death turned the “dark comedy” into an unexpected, horrific allegory of some sort. But it was not undermined by this. In fact, I argue it was what had been promised throughout the whole film. I did see a “road forward,” actually, by Cassie’s forgiveness of Alfred Molina’s lawyer character. She granted him a way to set his wrongs right and he immediately asked for her forgiveness. You don’t see that a lot in stories like these. It was the kind of forgiveness I had hoped BoJack would be allowed in the Netflix series BoJack Horseman, but that show’s end left me a bit unsatisfied in terms of seeing justice or forgiveness for him. Not that Promising Young Woman is at all comforting, but it offers something a bit stronger.
– It is of course true that some do not heal from trauma. And do recognize the kind of trauma I mean–the trauma of losing a best friend. This film is not just about Cassie seeking revenge. It is about her dealing with her grief.
– Cassie is missing her other half, represented by half the friendship locket. She will never be whole again until her own body, wearing Nina’s half, is found.
– Cassie is sometimes framed as a saint-like figure in the film, righteous in her crusade. We see her as if she has a halo here, for example:
But these are red herrings. They distract from the Christ-like poses elsewhere that were at first lost on me:
– All of the sugar-coated colors and the amusing soundtrack are distractions from the ultimate sacrifice she is willing to make.
– Her love for her friend perhaps turns her into her friend, thus why she wears Nina’s half of the locket when she is murdered. Perhaps similar to a theme in Alias Grace, the dead possesses her to enact revenge. Cassie is a willing vessel for that revenge because she misses her friend so much and it is all she has left of her.
– Allison Willmore’s Vulture review says Cassie’s death/willingness to die is like “an acceleration off a cliff when what you’d really like to see is some kind of road forward, no matter how rough.” This made me wonder if Thelma & Louise had similar critiques back in the day when they drove off a literal cliff instead of continuing to live in the male dominated world that would never be home to them. What Thelma & Louise did to the buddy road film, Promising Young Woman might do to the dark comedy–or whatever genre it is that I haven’t pinned down yet. Throughout the whole film I thought there was going to be more gore and horror. Like this video essay breaks down, I also see Cassie as a single combination of the Whore and Madonna:
UPDATED AFTER PUBLICATION——————————————————
Pre-internet, decapitalisation has a radical history. The poet e.e cummings, invariably stylised his name (as well as “I”) in lower case order to allow the reader a more fluid reading process and show his disavowal of hierarchy. The feminist theorist bell hooks decapitalises her name (itself borrowed from her grandmother) in order to decentre herself so that her readers focus on her ideas instead.
This upturning of grammatical norms is a means of questioning the status quo. “There is a prescriptivist attitude to capitalisation you learn in English classes,” says deandre miles-hercules, a PhD researcher in sociolinguistics at the University California Santa Barbara. “We can use language to reflect on and push back against systems and create new stylistic practises that bring attention to the systems by which we mean to deconstruct racism and sexism […] When [hooks] writes ‘imperialist’, ‘capitalist’, ‘white supremacist’, ‘patriarchy’ she is linking all these things together in a way that is fundamentally inseparable and rejecting conventional forms of writing that are embedded in that system.”
Interpreted literally, capitalisation might also be used to interrogate ideas of capital and capitalism. “Why do I capitalise ‘Black’, for example?” asks miles-hercules. “It is related to the fact that Blackness in its inception as a racialising category was actually about capital, turning people who came to be known as black into literal capital – property – in order to generate profit.”
While miles-hercules believes that artists tend to be at the forefront of cultural trends, they feel somewhat sceptical about the co-option of lowercasing by the mainstream: “There is a way in which these writing systems and orthography have taken on trendy or artsy connotations, without particular attention to its history. As soon as you might see someone using unconventional capitalisation on their single you see it on commercials for Target. It has become a way for brands to be relevant and connected to their audiences. It appeals to folks for the sake of profit rather than being actually disruptive.”
Through its neat plays on old storylines—the OA regains her sight, rather than losing it; Homer is the blind prophet’s lover, not her creator—The OA toys with our expectations and with a rich and old narrative tradition. But it’s the OA’s ordeal that elevates these references into something deeply thoughtful. Her secret is that she and several other people (including her beloved Homer) were kept locked up in a psychopath’s basement, hewn out of bare rock.
As with its treatment of Homer, The OA both reverses and strangely expands upon parts of Plato’s allegory. Much like Plato’s captives, the prisoners understand part of the mysteries confronting them. They can see shapes of ideas. How can they get out? Why are they here? Why does this nutty scientist care about their brains in particular? They see the answers to such questions like half-formed shadows playing against a wall. But as the show unspools, we realize that the captives can only find the truth by turning inward.