This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
claire 👁️ diane’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
cw suicide discussion, sui stigma, r*pe mention
strangely, Dream Warriors used to be my least favorite of the first 4 Elm Street movies. but something really changed for me on this last watch.
it could be because i've been really struggling for the past few years with my own mental health and recurrent suicidality that this time i had broken down my walls enough that i started to empathize so deeply with the kids in this movie that i was crying throughout my viewing.
it could be also that i've seen a lot more people close to me brush directly up against suicide. it's seeing it happen as a matter of course in the trans community -- seeing ideation be so common it doesn't feel unusual anymore. it's knowing how hard it is sometimes to help. wanting, so very desperately, for no one to get left behind. and knowing that reality often doesn't allow that to happen. knowing how much suffering there is and how desperately help is needed.
so, it strikes a painful, painful chord: the language used by the clinicians in this film is atrocious and terrifying. and maybe this isn't an accurate picture of what mental health treatment was really like in 1987, but even as a pop cultural understanding of mental health it is a bleak picture,
when Joey dies, Dr. Gordon says something to the effect of: "He disappointed us. He let us down. He let us ALL down." he gave up.
and that was so chilling to me. to blame the victim. i have a lot of anger at how real a lot of this felt to me now: anger at the mistreatment by
parents ("She just wants a little attention." So give it to her, dammit! we all need attention, care, concern, interest, love.),
mental health professionals who blame the kids for their own suffering ("Guilt" Simms says is the cause, "How much longer are you going to go on blaming your dreams for your own weaknesses?"),
the scumbag orderly who tries to offer one of the girls drugs, knowing she's recovering from struggles with addiction. with the implication that she has faced sexual violence in the past, and she's being harassed even where she's supposed to be safe.
Freddy is a victimizer but he's also the specter of suicide. something that attacks you in obscure ways in your head.
hearing Jennifer say she wants to be an actress. and everyone just laughs at her. crushing her dream, day by day. but somehow she keeps it alive.
hearing Taryn imagine her dream power: "In my dreams, I'm beautiful...and bad." knowing that her vision of beauty is entirely her own (mohawked, decked in leather and studs). she isn't a Male Gazed stereotype in her own head. and she brandishes two switchblades. she's TOUGH. she's hard femme.
and hearing Will, with all the earnestness in his heart, proclaim, "I am the Wizard Master!"
watching these kids die on screen is some of the most painful cinema i've ever seen. Freddy uses their own limitations -- the things they aspired so desperately to overcome, the things society has used to put them in a Box -- against them. Jennifer is killed in a TV, Taryn by an overdose, Will by a nightmare wheelchair. they didn't get to be who they were. they died as inconveniences to their states and families.
it was just watching entire lives snuffed out. the way they were mistreated in life -- written off, stereotyped, dismissed -- was replicated in their deaths.
and in this sense, Freddy is just an extension of every victimizing force in the world that preys on children or neglects them.
if we just see Freddy as an embodiment of children being murdered by their own dreams for a better future... it's just chilling. i cried a lot for these kids. they fought really hard. and they lost. i hope they know that this isn't their fault.
they are Dream Warriors in the most profound sense: that they fought every fucking day to stay alive in a world that couldn't care less about them. somehow they held on to Dreams of a better future.
in NoES 4, we see Alice taking the Girl Warrior mantle. and her most amazing power is remembering her friends. she gathers their powers by remembering those who lived.
my Dream is against disposability. No One left behind. and i'm holding onto it, no matter what claws are snatching.