Nevermind Pennywise, Let’s Talk About Beverly
When evil wakes up in Derry, Maine, a group of marginalized kids come together to form a bond and take on the monster. Given their social status, the kids call themselves Losers Club. Beverly Marsh is the only female member of the Losers Club (the group that takes on It/Pennywise) and one of the most complicated in terms of what role the character plays.
If you have read the book, you know there is a scene that takes place in the sewers with the Losers Club where Beverly must have sex with all the boys to further bond the group or usher the boys into manhood or some other such bullshit. I’m not going to get to into that scene but I will say that cutting that scene out of the movie is the absolute right choice. So how was Beverly handled in the most recent movie?
First off, Sophia Lillis, the actress who plays Beverly, was incredible. She does her best to play Beverly as strong, independent, caring, and a leader. And for the most part, this comes through, making Beverly more than a love interest for the boys in the group. While I was disappointed that the slingshot scene, where Beverly emerged as the most capable with a slingshot, was not in this most recent movie, I was pretty happy with Beverly’s portrayal and felt it was a step up from both the book and the mini-series. That is until the final act of the movie. But we'll get to that in a second.
All of the Losers are isolated from their parents. But in the case of Beverly, she is the most vulnerable and the most at risk. When It shows the Losers all their worst fears, Beverly’s is a bathroom covered in blood. Given that we have seen Beverly buying tampons in the previous scene, it’s an obvious reference to the horrors and fears of puberty and being a teenage girl. However, once you see the way Beverly’s father acts towards her, this fear takes on a much more sinister edge in terms of Beverly being a victim of sexual assault at the hands of a parent. For Beverly, the monsters are not limited to the supernatural, and now that she has had her period, the repercussions of perceived womanhood are even more terrifying. Because of this struggle she is perhaps the bravest of the Losers, and the one manages to hurt Pennywise first.
Beverly is the one who vanquishes her personal monster, fighting back against her father and ultimately killing him, freeing her from his abuse. However, when Pennywise takes her to the sewers she is suddenly reduced to a plot device for the male characters. She isn’t fridged, but she is reduced to becoming a damsel in distress. After vanquishing her own demons, Beverly becomes a tool to help the male lead, Bill, confront his fear. Beverly is put into a trance and this motivates Bill to head to the sewers to confront Pennywise. Additionally, Beverly is literally awakened from the trance with a kiss, by another male character, Ben. It should be noted that while Ben is interested in Beverley and sends her poetry, it’s Bill and Beverly who have the burgeoning relationship. Besides being super lazy writing, having a character who has faced sexual abuse be saved by a non-consensual kiss is cringe-worthy at best; a complete erasure of Beverly’s control of her own sexuality at worst.
There is still a second chapter of IT to come. We will see the Losers Club return to Derry as adults to once again face It. It will be particularly interesting how Beverly will be handled as an adult but I can only hope that she is once again given agency and individuality, and not just used as the 3rd point in a rekindled love triangle.