I’m a pretty big Stephen King fan, and always get excited when one of my favourite works of his gets adapted for the screen. Hulu’s 11.22.63 was particularly well done in 2016, but I have to say that I think 2017’s It: Chapter One is one of the best King adaptations to date. It is now, after my third viewing, that I have come to realize that one of the reasons IT worked so well is because of an amazingly strong character in Beverly Marsh.
Beverly was played by a 15-year-old Sophia Lillis, who did a pretty bang up job in the role. For someone so young and with so little acting credits behind her name, I have to start this article by commending her performance. As much as I’m going to gush about her character and the way she was written, it would have all been for naught if Sophia was unable to deliver.
The Darkness of Derry
I’m not talking about lactose here, but instead Derry, Maine, the fictitious town where the events of It take place. Derry is a pretty unfriendly town to say the least, with most of the adults around town being quite distant and unwelcoming to strangers. This is presumably due to IT’s influence, but there are hints that Derry’s darkness has alternative roots as well. I think it’s important to understand the town, and how the corruption and darkness affects the story in so many ways.
What you may not know if you are not a King fan, is that many of King’s works share the same “universe” with events and characters from some books being referenced in later works. In 11/22/63 (2011), the main character Jake visits the town of Derry shortly after the events of It. I bring this up not just because I loved 11.22.63 so much, but because like us, Jake is an outsider, a visitor to Derry.
I won’t spoil why Jake visited the town, but I will say that while he was there, he heard whispers of a child killer in town. What’s interesting is that they were nothing but whispers with all of the townspeople being very guarded. He notices that something is just off about this town! and remember that this is after the children have already “defeated” Pennywise, at first noticing the little things like how the librarian does not return his smile, and eventually seeing a man beating a bag with a stick, a bag that Jake is pretty damned sure contains a dog. Fuck Derry.
Eventually, Jake comes across two kids practicing the lindy hop. These two kids turn out to be our very own Beverly Marsh and Richie Tozier, and unlike every single other encounter with a town resident, these two open up to Jake and are very friendly. It’s almost like these kids are anathema to the town’s dark power.
They weren’t all that worried when the murders were going on.Richie Tozier to Jake Epping about the adults of Derry
So why does all of this matter? Because Derry, and by extension IT, prey on the darkness and fear of the town residents. Let’s look at each of the Losers and talk about their fears.
William (Bill) Denbrough
Bill is the leader of the Losers Club with a stutter, who lost his younger brother George to IT. Bill is probably the easiest character to understand. His greatest fear is guilt, the thought that his brother’s death was his fault. However, If you’ve only seen the movie, then this misplaced guilt might be a little confusing as Bill didn’t do anything wrong. I think that we would all feel a little guilty if we were in his shoes, but to have the guilt consume you so much that Pennywise transforms into George just to lay the blame of his death at Bills feet?
What was only vaguely hinted at in the movie, is that Bill’s parents blame him for George’s death. Just imagine that! You lose your brother, and your parents not only blame you for it, but constantly remind you that it’s your fault. Fuck Derry.
In the movie, Ben is the chubby researcher of the group!the position reserved by Mike in the novel – the researcher part, not the chubby part, and is the new kid in town. Ben’s greatest fear is harder to nail down, but he’s terrified of bullies and seems to have a genuine fear of “becoming part of Derry’s history”, referring to all of the missing people throughout Derry’s past.
At one point, Ben is being attacked by the Bowers gang when a car passes by. Ben shouts, begs, screams at them for help, but the car just continues to drive on. Fuck Derry.
Raised by his uncle, Mike inherits his father’s fondness of history and exploration (and is the only Loser who does not eventually leave Derry). So what is Mike’s greatest fear? Burning alive in a fire, like his parents did.
Unlike the other Losers, Mike did not attend the same school. Henry Bowers in particular hates Mike for no real reason other than because he’s a bully, and Mike, as a lonely black kid in a racist town, makes for an easy target. Fuck Derry.
Edward “Eddie” Kaspbrak
Eddie is a hypochondriac, scared of the world and avoiding most situations for fear of getting sick or injured. This is why Pennywise manifests itself as the leper. However, most of Eddie’s fears and problems are instilled in him by his extremely protective and overbearing mother, Sonia.
Sonia uses his fear as a way to manipulate him and prevent him from ever leaving her. Fuck Derry.
Richie!you know, that kid from Stranger Things has it tough in the film as his greatest fear is clowns. Ouch, a bad fear to have in this universe. However, Richie is also scared of going missing like so many others have, which is why Pennywise uses the missing posters with Richie’s face on them.
What’s interesting is that it’s not so much the “missing” part that scares him, but instead it’s the fear that if he were to go missing, the town simply wouldn’t care and he would be forgotten. Fuck Derry.
And now we get to the point of this article. Above, I outline the basic fears of each of the main Losers, and how the town feeds into these fears. I didn’t go into depth for each of the characters mainly because I didn’t need to. Their fears and connections are evident. Beverly, however, is a different story.
Beverly’s greatest fear is her sexuality, something that she is constantly conflicted by. On one hand, she appears to enjoy the attention she gets from boys like Bill, but the overall darkness of Derry makes her constantly afraid of maturing as a woman.
When first introduced to Beverly, she is hiding in the girls bathroom on the last day of school. Some mean girls! so not fetch enter and slut-shame a virgin Beverly by soaking her in garbage juice. Beverly doesn’t shout or cry, but instead raises her bag over her head in an attempt to shield herself from the worst of it.
“I want to run towards something, not away.”Beverly Marsh, It: Chapter One (2017)
Throughout the entire movie, the filmmakers go out of their way to show us how other characters look at Beverly. They way the pharmacist stares at her, the way her own father leers at her (more on this later), and even the way the boys are completely mesmerized by her, all tell the same story – that Beverly is attractive, and therefore her sexuality is a threat. Yet at the same time, she is still a vulnerable girl growing into a woman, being constantly watched and judged by a terrible town.
Beverly was also sexually assaulted by Henry and the Bowers Gang when she was coming home from school one day. One of Henry’s friends caressed her and the other held a knife near her neck. Henry then held her close, kissing her face while playing with her hair. A terrified Beverly looks out and sees an elderly neighbor raking his lawn. The neighbor, however, does not help and instead just walks back into his house. FUCK DERRY.
Luckily, her father comes home from work making the Bowers gang run away. Later, 1985, Beverly tells the Losers that this was the only time she was ever happy to see her father.
It is because of reasons like this that being a part of the Losers Club is so important; the group gives her the feeling of freedom and safety she yearns for. The boys are certainly taken with her, but still treat her with respect, and welcome her as one of their own. When with the Losers, Beverly no longer thinks about the town’s expectations of her as a woman, and sheds the role of fearful daughter under the careful watch of her father. She can just be herself.
Blood has a huge and recurring role in Beverly’s life. This is an obvious reference towards Beverly becoming a woman, and symbolizes her fear of her sexuality. But the “bloody bathroom” scene means so much more for two main reasons.
Beverly’s father’s inability to perceive the blood is pretty significant. It could just be because he is an adult, and Pennywise prefers to target children (the fear is more delicious, akin to “salting the meat”), but since Pennywise does have an effect on the adults of the town as well, I think that the more relevant plot point is how he was sexually assaulting his own daughter.
Ben Hanscom writes a simple, yet eloquent poem for Beverly, likening her hair to that of a winter fire, January embers. Her father, however, nuzzles and sniffs her hair.
Your hair burns winter fireBen Hanscom
My heart burns there too.
After the super inappropriate hair whiffing, he then forces Beverly to promise that she will stay his “little girl” forever. Beverly was already living in fear before Pennywise resurfaced, and the cinematography reinforces this. The camera films Mr. Marsh from below, using the same angle that Pennywise is filmed from. It is at this point that Alvin chases Beverly, and pins her to the ground with the intent to rape her.
Now, it’s important to note that the implication here is that Alvin was under the influence if IT, but you also have to remember that Pennywise uses the targets greatest fear against them. So regardless if Mr. Marsh would have acted upon his urges without IT’s influence, the point is that Beverly genuinely lived in fear of the possibility. Fuck. Derry.
The second note of importance regarding the infamous bloody bathroom, is how the boys reacted. After showing the other Losers the blood-soaked bathroom, the boys do not hesitate to help, grabbing buckets of soap and water and getting to work scrubbing. Unlike most boys of their age (and some men), they are not grossed out or scared by a woman’s blood, and solidify their friendship with Beverly in a 2-minute cleaning montage.
Blood comes back with significant importance again, but this time it is Beverly’s literal blood taking center stage. At the end of the film, after the defeat of Pennywise, the Losers all agree that IT might return again someday. In preparation of such a day, the Losers create a blood pact! The book accomplishes this connection – especially in relation to becoming a woman – in a very different way. Google “Infamous IT scene” if you want more details. King did a lot of drugs in the day. , making a cut on each of their hands, and then joining hands in soldarity as one.
So why single out Beverly during this blood pact? Because it is important to remind you that blood represents Beverly’s burgeoning sexuality, and the following moments further this idea.
Shortly after the pact is made, Beverly and Bill get some time alone, and share their first kiss, with Beverly leaving some of her blood on Bill’s face – which he is not grossed out by.
So what did you think about the movie? Leave your thoughts in the comments!