Film: It Follows
Director: David Robert Mitchell
Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi
Release Date: 05/17/14 (festivals) / 07/14/15 (DVD/Blu-ray)
Studio: RADiUS-TWC / Anchor Bay
Tagline: It doesn’t think. It doesn’t feel. It doesn’t give up.
Plot: “A young woman is followed by an unknown supernatural force after a sexual encounter.” (Source: IMDB)
(Author’s note: This discussion may contain spoilers.)
After watching It Follows, the story depicting a group of young teens on the run from a shape-shifting entity whose chase begins after it’s target engages in a sexual act, critics and audiences quick analysis pointed to the surface-level symbolism of STD’s rise in today’s youth. The real-world facts do support this. According to a CDC report published in November 2014, there is a rise in young men and women contracting three of the primary sexually transmitted diseases – chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Director David Robert Mitchell has been vague on details, only stating the idea originated from a nightmare he had at age nine or ten about different people following him. However, in an interview with AV Club, Mitchell admits he’s “aware of the [STD] connection,” but that the topic “wasn’t the driving force in terms of subtext.”
So, if not STD’s, then what exactly is ‘It’? My belief is Mitchell’s script explores a topic outside of the sexual realm entirely; rather, a philosophy whose obscure status has slowly made ‘it’s’ way into the mainstream in the last few years. I’m referring to antinatalism, a philosophical theory that life should not be brought into existence, but probably better known as the foundational rhetoric that creator Nic Pizzolatto used to create the Rustin “Rust” Cohle character, masterfully played by Matthew McConaughey, in the first season of True Detective. Consider a few key points and omissions within It Follows to support this theory:
– Despite all the sexual encounters, none result in a pregnancy.
This is probably the most glaring point in favor of the antinatalism argument. Reproduction is a primal instinct, nature’s only way of ensuring continued existence of a species. While there is sex, the goal is not to reproduce, but to pass on suffering in the form of ‘It’ chasing after the victim’s partner. Therefore, the act itself to create life is shown to be undesirable.
– Despite the dire circumstances, the young adults appear to be left on their own.
– Also, with the exception of two instances, ‘It’ takes the shape of an adult.
– The color red is featured prominently in nearly every scene.
These three points support the idea that the current generation (millennials) sees less value in having children and raising a family than previous generations. According to the 2013 U.S. census, deaths now exceed birth rates for white Americans, who will make up less than half the country’s population by 2040. All of the film’s character’s are white, middle-class suburban youth who are often surrounded by abandoned or dilapidated houses and building. Unlike their parent’s and grandparent’s generations before them, millennials may see no future for themselves, and thus no reason to bring life into that uncertain world. They view adult figures with contempt and suspicion. The elderly ‘It’ figure in a hospital gown could represent the metaphorical unfair burden on young taxpayers to pay for insolvent social programs which they themselves will likely see no future benefit from (i.e. Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, etc.). Red isn’t the McCarthyism communist threats of the baby boomers; instead, the color represents millennial debt (think credit lines on a billing statement). Student loan debt, to be exact. Their parents were promised jobs after college that no longer exist. Notice the three leads in uniform at the back of a fast-food chain? Bingo. These factors lead to a never-ending cycles of worry, depression, and anxiety; the suffering as defined by antinatalism and shown in the film as one form of the ‘It’ endlessly chasing them.
– There appears to be no way to kill ‘It’.
The film’s opening sequence shows an unnamed girl, with tears in her eyes, telling her parents that she loves them before sitting on a beach. What’s implied is her nature, tired of running away and looking over her shoulder, deciding to succumb to ‘It’. The shot pictured above shows Jay looking into the pool after allegedly killing ‘It’. Later, we the audience see this may not have worked as the film’s ending is of a eerily similar figure walking behind Jay and Paul as they hold hands. David Benatar, author of the book ‘Better Never To Have Been’, explains that only the total absence of life means the avoidance of pain and therefore it is “morally imperative” to avoid bringing new persons into the world. With that in mind, the ambiguous ending is in actuality very clear: Jay and Paul are walking, hand-in-hand, into oblivion.