Saturday, January 1, 2011

Rosemary the Abused

One of the greatest regrets in my life was selling my copy of Rosemary's Baby. Sure, I had gotten it out of the 5 dollar bin at Walmart and sure I had made 300 dollars selling all my DVDs on did Rosemary really deserve that kind of treatment? Hadn't she been put through enough without some poor college student selling one of the greatest films of all time for $3.98?

The truth is, I never really missed or valued Rosemary until she was out of my life. According to my calculations this makes me more than half the man that Guy Woodhouse was (and I'm a woman!). It wasn't until I was alone one rainy and gloomy afternoon that I began thinking about how strange and twisted Rosemary's life really was. I would go about the daily routines of my life and then suddenly stop and ponder what it would really be like to be neighbors with the Castevetes.

Would I feel the same way I do when I watch the film? A little scared but ultimately smitten?

All these endless questions and thoughts were suddenly put to ease once I discovered that Rosemary's Baby became available to watch instantly. My reunion was a pleasant one but I quickly became aware just how violent Rosemary's Baby and Rosemary's life truly was. Violent you say? But Andre, there's no blood in Rosemary's Baby except for the graphic aftermath of Terry's suicide!! Well my friends, that's where you are wrong.

You see, Rosemary's Baby among other things is a terrifying portrayal of a woman who has lost control of her own life.

Call it emotional abuse if you want, or a case of the 60s, or a case of a super dick head husband---poor Rosemary's life was a walking sham. In this viewing I felt so much for Rosemary that there were moments were I forgot to breathe. Dramatic I know, but the truth is I had never been so horrified during a viewing of what I previously diagnosed as an eerie, haunting tale of satanism.

On this viewing I became very aware of how diminished Rosemary was as a person. She begins as a woman not in control of her own life, and she ends as one too. We often talk about horror movies with gut punches at the end but what about Rosemary? Her entire situation gets no better or worse by the film's end. We literally sit and watch her come full circle to where she was at the film's beginning. A wife, who does exactly what her husband, and the people around her want her to do. She never gains independence or free thought. She never is able to escape because the emotional ties that have been placed on her tighten with her every step.

Even in our first few moments with Rosemary and Guy--the relationship does not seem very rosey. During their first meal together on the bare floor of their new apartment, Rosemary suggests that they "make love". It's a scene that I used to find spontaneous and nice. Now however I was blown away by how unromantic the whole thing was. The two undress awkwardly and silently, practically a few feet apart.

They may as well be undressing for doctor's appointments as the romance factor seemed to fly out the window long ago. In fact, we never really see Guy and Rosemary engage in any kind of romance at all. The only real sex she has is with the devil for Christ's sake.

Her relationship with Guy speaks volumes of sadness. On the outside she may appear cute and smitten with her actor husband--but is she really? Think about how ungrateful Guy is, ignoring her kind remarks of understanding when he loses a part to what I assume is a far superior actor. Remind yourself of the awful way he reacts to Rosemary's new haircut.

The guy is a louse, but we knew this already.

What we may not have known is how little control Rosemary truly has. Throughout the entire movie I counted about 3 decisions she made on her own. She also may have picked out the home furnishings but we can never be sure. Sadly all of her own decisions sour almost as quickly as they begin.

And keep in mind it's not just Guy telling Rosemary what to do. She takes orders from the Castevets, her doctor, her friends, the people she meets on the street. She can't even decide for herself that something is wrong when the doctor refuses to explain her pain. Rosemary is the epitome of an abused woman.

She has no drive to make her own decisions, she takes what she is given and she never argues. Her friends are shut out of her life and she becomes a slave to her husbands well being instead of hers. She tries of course to stand her ground

and almost gets there but then is rudely interrupted by the absence of pain. In that moment, all of the bad things that happened previous to this have conveniently been wiped clear from her mind.

She no longer cares that Guy had sex with her while she was passed out, and that he treated her like absolute shit. This is a pattern that continues throughout the duration of the movie. And it's hard to watch after awhile.

It's hard to watch Rosemary violently fight off Guy and the Doctor but then see her wake up and feel oddly comforted by Guy's presence. Sure, ultimately she spits in Guy's face, but is that really the end of their relationship? I'm betting not seeing as how quickly her maternal instincts suddenly kick in.

The truth of the matter is, Rosemary's Baby is a deep and depressing film. Brilliant and scary--but ultimately very depressing. I never realized before how shockingly brutal Rosemary's life was. She gets beat down in a different way perhaps, but one look at her pale and miniscule figure is enough to clue you in on the fact that her home life isn't so great.

Oh Rosemary I am so sorry for selling you all those years ago. But something tells me you'll forget it quickly and we can go out for drinks again soon.

I could probably write about Rosemary's Baby for an entire week and never get bored. There's simply too much to discuss. There's the strange way that we never seem to fully hate the Castevets. It's such an odd occurance and one that I never see as defined in other films. It's like we are given a constant look into all their wrongdoings, and I'm prepared to sock Minnie in the face when I see her next---BUT then I see her pink hair and bright blush and I can't help but feel warm inside.

Hmmmm....maybe that's the secret to Rosemary's abysmal life. It's all Minnie's fault isn't it? I should have known.


Pax Romano said...

Thank you for making your first post of the year, a Rosemary-centric one.

I've always felt that Rosemary was the ultimate abused woman. Guy needed to be boiled in oil (I'll bet that when the 70's rolled around, and she was secure in her place in the coven as the mother of "Andy" she probably had Guy Hexed).

And I don't blame Minnie as much as I do, Lara Louise. She's my favorite of the old witches...I love how she talks about how her late husband gave her gin through a straw to quell her menstrual pains. What a gal!

Pearce said...

Fabulous post, and a great way to start the year. I think that's what makes this movie work so damned well - that it puts us so squarely in identification with someone so thoroughly abused and controlled.

I once took Rosemary's Baby to a movie night where we were supposed to bring "paranoia movies". We watched it first, and afterwards everyone was so upset that the other movies were put aside in favour of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Andre Dumas said...

Thanks to the both of ya.

Pax--Lara Louise's face puts me into a tizzy. She is hilarious. You just reminded me that I need to try drinking gin through a straw...
I think we've definitely spoken about how Guy Woodhouse is in your words, a Tom Cruise of the 60s. What a piece of utter trash...! He's not even that good looking.

Pearce--what an excellent idea for a movie night?! Do you remember what the others were that people had selected? I too was surprised at how "down" I felt after watching this. And I had seen it before mind you--but paying more attention this time allowed for some heavy understandings...poor, poor Rosemary : (

Pearce said...

The only other one I remember was the first film of The Manchurian Candidate, which I saw later and loved. People who only know Angela Lansbury from things like Murder She Wrote and Bedknobs & Broomsticks were probably traumatised by seeing her performance in it.

deadlydolls said...

I loooooooove Rosemary's Baby for so many reasons but mainly, for ruth Gordon and Mia Farrow. For me, Farrow gives one of the very best all-time performances in a horror film because like you said, she is SO SO weak and tragic a character. With another actress in the part, you might just roll your eyes and say 'do something!', but for some reason, I just want to throw a coat over her little shoulders and take care of her. Guy is one of the worst husbands in cinema history, and yet Rosie is so very enamored with him from the get-go.

One thing I would ponder though, she does make ONE other decision: the choice to be a mother. In that final moment, she has that knife. The Satanists aren't stopping her. She COULD have ended it. But she decides to be a mom. For better or worse, she finally becomes her own woman.

Andre Dumas said...

That's true true Emily. But it's still a decision that she is originally told she should do.

My favorite telling Rosemary to do something moment is when she wants to keep reading the witches book and Guy tells her to put it down. She is strong at first and then he's like...Rosemary... and she just slams the book shut. Ooooh. Roe.