December 23, 2016 (Friday)

by Yule Heibel on December 22, 2017

A markedly different morning, very hot light from a bright shining sun already high in a burned-off, dry blue sky.

Last night we watched another Minette Walters TV adaptation. Like the others we’ve seen, this (the third one) was also creepy and filled with sexually very dark material. It was called The Scold’s Bridle, and involved child rape and intergenerational family dysfunction.

Oh joy.

It was a bit too much for me.

And so I woke up in the middle of the night, then couldn’t get back to sleep, turning over in my mind Walters’s disturbing subject matter. There’s a grandmother who is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, wearing the “bridle.” There’s a daughter, adult, who – if I got it right, because, as she appears well into the disturbing story, I had already begun to divide my attention, mentally checking out from time to time – has been living in London as both a drug addict as well as a prostitute. At any rate, she’s living a very problematic relationship to sex. She, too, has a daughter, aged seventeen, who also has sexual behavior problems, and who had been gang-raped by the friends of a guy she thought she was dating. She’s now pregnant, we eventually learn.

Turns out the grandmother was “given,” as a very young teen, to her uncle. He in turn impregnated her, so the grandmother’s uncle was the father of the prostitute-in-London daughter, who in turn has a daughter (of unknown provenance?) who is also on her way to …well, sexual dissolution. But the kicker really comes again at the end when the mystery has been solved, the murder cleared up, everyone re-installed in their place, more or less according to their station, and the granddaughter saved, as it were, and possibly redeemed. It turns out – as we see in a flashback dream-esque sequence of a young girl, aged ten, in flouncy white Edwardian dress romping across the estate lawns before going back inside the house to encounter her fate – that the grandmother was introduced, as it were, to the familial perversion, the awful regime, by being raped by her own father first, who put the “scold’s bridle” on her to shut her up and to heighten his “pleasure.” This, we gather, is why her daughter saw her killing the father once he was an old, infirm man, and why she (the raped grandmother) hated her own mother, who was complicit in the crime / rape. It reminded me, disturbingly, of the narcissistic mother complex. And it occurred to me that without a strong, even moralistic, and certainly authoritative (not authoritarian) father, the fate of daughters of these kinds of mothers is towards “slag-dom” (I realize that slag is a fraught word: I mean it in the sense of the daughters taking on an identity that is the worst of its kind as thought up by men). If there is nothing holy in you, nothing good, why not go all the way then? It’s an extreme form of underachievement, I suppose. Anyway, a very disturbing movie, even if in the telling it sounds like complete over-the-top melodrama.

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