In the most recent installment of the Gender and Pop Culture Speaker Series sponsored by the English Department and the Women’s And Gender Studies, GU senior, Sarah Kersey, presented her essay on the 2017 film IT.

Kersey discussed the Freudian and feminist themes that are present in the movie. Kersey’s presentation, titled “What Are You A-Freud Of? A Freudian Analysis of IT (2017)” was split into two parts. First she read her paper in its entirety and presented images from the film that illustrated her argument, and the remainder of the hour was set aside for question and answer. 

In her “Freudian psychoanalytic feminist reading,” Kersey discussed her feminist interpretation of the film, which she gathered by analyzing the writing and visual elements and connected them to multiple Freudian theories.

Much of the presentation was spent connecting the ways Pennywise, the evil clown of the film, reflected Freud’s theory of the psyche and its three components: the “id,” “ego” and “superego." Kersey argued that Pennywise represented an inability to grow out of the id, the disorganized part of the personality structure that contains a human's basic, instinctual drives. This is why it acted on its own desires — the clown terrorized the children of the film as it took pleasure in preying on their fear. According to Kersey, Pennywise wanted to kill the children of the movie and keep them in their id state, unable to grow into adulthood.

Kersey stressed that this is shown through the fear of maturing and entering puberty that these characters reflected in their many encounters with Pennywise. Kersey argued that these moments in the film presented a lot of strong imagery that supported this, including the sexual imagery presented in multiple scenes such as the final encounter with the clown. This all culminated in Kersey’s connection of maturity to the characters’ ability to grow out of the id and grow the ego and superego.

On top of all of these psychoanalytic claims that Kersey made, she also argued that the only female protagonist, Beverly, reflected a feminist interpretation of the film. Kersey pointed out that the film became conflicted on this theme throughout the movie as it continuously shifted between giving Beverly a sense of agency and making her unable to choose for herself. Her argument lied in, once again, the scenes in which Pennywise terrorized Beverly and the final scene when she kisses one of the male characters and finally defeats Pennywise.

These were the main three points that Kersey made in her presentation, but she also brought in other theories that Freud made such as many of his psychosexual theories and the theory of the uncanny.

Lindsey Anderson, one of the students who was at the speaker series, stated that she attended the event as she “had been to a few of the past Gender and Pop Culture presentations,” and wanted to support other students in the English department. Not having seen the film before, Lindsey was very interested in watching it in the future after listening to Kersey’s presentation.

Kersey herself stated that she was initially interested in writing this essay and hosting this presentation because of classes she has taken in both the English and women’s and gender studies departments. This paper originally came from her critical theory class that she took her freshman year of college and from an English class on gender and sexuality in horror films that she also took that first year of school. Being a huge fan of horror films also influenced this decision.

Andrew Sepulveda is a contributor. 

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