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Daniel Hugh Kelly
Mary Kay Letourneau is a teacher, who is married and has children. She then has an affair with one of her students who is underaged. When she gets pregnant, she is charged with statutory rape. After pleading with the judge to give her a chance, she was instructed not to see the boy again, but when she not only disregards the instructions, she gets pregnant again. She is sent to prison. Written by
I guess we're all capable of interpreting a movie in whatever light we are predisposed to. Keeping that in mind, I must disagree with those who believed that this film approved of Mary Kay Letourneau. I thought the movie, although told from Mary Kay's point of view, was careful to show how distorted her point of view really was.
For the most part, based on news stories I have seen, the film stayed pretty close to the facts as presented by the investigators and the parties involved. But the film did have a spin--Letourneau was portrayed as an irresponsible, almost infantilized woman, who looked to men to define and complete her. From the first, her relationship with her husband was shown to be indifferent, even hostile--so he could not provide her with the validation she needed. Rapid flashbacks were used to show how her relationship with her father was unrealistic (bordering on hero worship). To my knowledge, the film did not show several defining events in her life with father that might have shed even more light on her pathology. But, although the movie implied that these dysfunctional relationships contributed to her behavior, I do not think it tried to pretend that she was mentally healthy or morally right. In fact, I think Penelope Ann Miller struck just the right note--a mixture of manipulative dependency and eerie, willful, innocence.
I think the important point of this movie was that although what this woman did was reprehensible, that does not mean we cannot be sympathetic to her. But I certainly do not think this story was meant to be some simplistic tale of star-crossed lovers. The filmmakers juxtaposed various techniques--such as bright and dark lighting, realistic and silk-screened sequences, and jarring jump-cuts--in order to cast doubt on the perceptions and motives of all of the people involved, including Vili. It is not clear to what extent Mary Kay used her helplessness almost aggressively to ensnare Vili, nor to what extent Vili was taken in by her--or if he even manipulated her in his own right. It is a very complex situation. True, Vili was a child, but I was not 13 so long ago that I have forgotten that children that age can consider themselves quite grown up and fancy themselves in love with adults. It is the adult's responsibility not to capitalize on adolescent emotions--but if the adult is an arrested adolescent him- or herself, we have a big problem. I think that, more-so than pedophilia, was Letourneau's pathology. (Of course, if you want to get technical, adults attracted to adolescents are not pedophiles, but ephebophiles. The definition of ephebophilia actually fits Mary Kay much better.)
The question that kept popping into my mind was: how would I view this situation differently if the gender roles were reversed? I had a hard time imagining that eventuality, however, because the power dynamic between men and girls is usually so different. I could not envision a grown man appealing to a young girl by being so emotionally helpless. I am not expert, however. Personally, I was disgusted by Letourneau's behavior, and am highly doubtful that her relationship with Vili will work out. But I think the film did a good job of presenting the situation in such a way that the viewer could draw his or her own conclusions.
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