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Gerald’s Game – A Story Of Resilience In The Face Of Metaphorical And Emotional Bondage

In the current times of social distancing and isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic, one finds recourse in Netflix and other digital forms of entertainment. Trying to kill two birds with one stone, I was looking for a movie to review and came across ‘Gerald’s Game’, based on the book by Stephen King. This movie had instantly called out to me because the book had made a huge impression many years ago when I was going through a Stephen King phase and consuming as many of his novels as I could. It is a story of resilience where a woman had to rescue herself from a dangerous situation of metaphorical and emotional bondage as well as the physical and sexual kind.

Given that March is Women’s Month and a lot of the conversation globally has been around women’s issues, including the mass strike in Mexico by women on the 9th of March to protest against sexual and gender-based violence, I thought reviewing this movie would be apt.

The movie is about a married couple who decide to have a quiet weekend at their country home to rekindle their romance and bring the spark back into their marriage. They decide to try out some kinky sexual acts, and the husband handcuffs his wife to the bed. Apparently, he was finding it difficult to have an erection and had started taking Viagra. He could only get aroused by the idea of handcuffing his wife to the bedposts and having rough sex. Unfortunately for him and for her, shortly after she is handcuffed and expresses her disinterest in continuing with this sexual game because it makes her uncomfortable, the husband has a heart attack and dies.

The woman lies handcuffed to the bed with no easy access to the key or a mobile phone. The house is situated in a remote area, and no one is scheduled to be around for the weekend. In addition, there is a hungry stray dog wandering around who walks into the house and keeps feeding himself off her husband’s dead body. During this traumatic time, the woman is forced to acknowledge her deep subconscious fears which had been buried over the years and confront them headlong.

She had been abused by her father at the age of twelve – when on a family holiday, he made her sit on his lap whilst he masturbated. Like most abusers, he made her think it was her fault and her responsibility to stay silent and not share the incident with her mother. She had promised to never speak of the incident ever in her life, and now, handcuffed to the bed, she was forced to remember the sequence of events which was crystal clear in her mind.

This is not at all unlike what most women and girls face when dealing with sexual abuse and violence. They are made to believe it is their fault. They are wearing the wrong clothes, like this girl in the movie who was told by her mother that her dress was too short, or that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The perpetrator, on the other hand, manages to explain away his behaviour in most cases. There is a scene from her childhood, immediately after the incident, which she recalls, where she says her father could look her in the eye whilst telling her lies to explain his behaviour but he found it difficult to face her when admitting he might have made a mistake. However he convinces her to stay silent in the interest of the family and her siblings including a baby that was on its way.

Then she considers her relationship with her husband, who over the years, had diminished her by discounting her, not treating her as an equal, never sharing in domestic responsibilities and acting as though his career were of supreme importance, whilst she supported him without any question. She put his needs before her own till she lost sight of who she really was, and she became totally dependent on him. She reaches the conclusion that her relationship with her father was one of silence and the one with her husband was one of seeking comfort.

Several times there was reference to a joke her husband made about “What is a woman anyway?” to which his answer was, “A life support system for a c*nt”. This gave viewers an insight as to how her husband may have treated her – reducing her to a body, a thing, not his equal, but just someone to fulfil his needs.

Throughout the movie, she tries to stay sane, figuring out ways to stay alive and free herself of the handcuffs, as the dangerous stray dog continues to feed on her husband’s body and she fears that he will next feed on her. In addition, in the two nights that she spends in the house, she also sees what she thinks is a ghost but later turns out to be a serial killer and a necrophiliac who was raiding crypts and graves in the vicinity and visits the bedroom and looks at her from the shadows.

The movie, like the book, is dark and gripping, but is a reflection of the many realities women and girls face. The abuse by people who are meant to protect you from monsters who in turn become monsters – like her father, the debilitating treatment by her husband who was willing to even rape her to satisfy his sexual urges the dog who represents the evil waiting to prey on the vulnerable and defenceless, and the necrophiliac who was a silent bystander and could have freed her but didn’t.

During these uncertain times when we are taking a pause to socially distance ourselves, let us reflect on another pandemic that plagues us: sexual and gender-based violence. This pandemic disproportionately affects around one in three women globally.

Unlike the coronavirus, we don’t have governments and institutions issuing warnings and educational material, insisting people take precautions and advising them of remedial measures. We still have a large number of people who are totally unaware or claim to be unaware of this pandemic and are silent bystanders.

If only we would pay more attention and provide more resources to address the pandemic of sexual and gender-based violence, the world would be a much safer place for women and girls and the rest of society.

Cover Image: NYTimes

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