Detention: Mummy Dearest, where are you?

JK_POSTER1_v1 Detention (2011) combines multiple genres of ‘slasher’ horror and comedy with the teen-high school theme that is reiterated in so many teen films in recent years. Writer and director, Joseph Khan, seems to have incorporated his previous works of music videos into this film. The hyperkinetic style in Detention has the feel that we are watching a film, music video and computer game all mashed up into one. Fast paced editing, onscreen captions and loud rock music to match introduces the nature of this film within the opening sequences.  Possibly, the Director’s intent is to capture or reflect on the intended audience’s scattered attention span. Nonetheless, Kahn has made a film that is in tune with the world around us whilst exploring, what could be the next stage of pop filmmaking. The narrative employed in the opening scene subjects the audience to the melodramatic outbursts and incomprehensible self-centered antics of a teenager’s attempt to prepare for school. Taylor, played by Alison Woods, addresses the camera directly and boasts of her awesome life and how to achieve it. With the aid of onscreen text, we learn the steps of Taylor’s ‘Guide to not being a total reject.

Taylor’s ‘Guide to not being a total reject.’

Taylor’s ‘Guide to not being a total reject.’

Taylor exerts confidence to the extreme with a salacious use of vocabulary to match. This teenager demands the space in which she occupies and is clearly misunderstood by her family as they appear in complete denial of her tout de suite needs.  One can only imagine the anguish Taylor must endure to find her younger brother occupying the bathroom at her time of need. No imagination necessary as Taylor makes it quite apparent at her disgust in him. “Get out of the bathroom, you’re ruining my life you F#*%,” as she screams from the doorway. Whether we like the characteristics of Taylor or not, she clearly seems to resonate with many of today’s teenage girls. What makes this film worthy of so many accolades and teenage girls declaring, “I so get where she’s coming from.” What part to do they get? Surely it’s not the tantrum, frustrated, demanding, wining teenager antics? Is Taylor’s behavior emulating Sigmund Freud’s, ‘Electra Complex’? According to William Indick, (2004, p.41), in Freudian theory, the Electra Complex is the desire and conflict of the female child who unconsciously experiences psychosexual love for her father, resulting in jealousy and aggression towards her mother. Teen girls who are typically portrayed with irrational behavior traits, by Freud’s analysis, is the result of the female child who never resolved her Electra complex. There is no mention of Taylor’s father in the opening scene, although we are witness to the irrational and aggressive behavior towards her mother.There is additional evidence that Taylor’s character is modeled on this theory. When the mother calls out to Taylor, “Honey, hurry up.” Taylor’s irritated response is, “Mum, I’m doing something important… Ah! You’re a monster.” Her mother transparently replies, “I’ll be in the car.” What does seem apparent in this household is the lack of parental discipline. During the breakfast scene, Taylor screams abuse at her mum about how she doesn’t eat the kind of food her mother has prepared on this morning. Her mum replies half-heartedly, “ Since when?” What we don’t hear is, “Watch your mouth young lady.” “Don’t speak to me like that.” “Have some respect.” We only get a questionable ‘since when’ statement from her mother. It’s great screenwriting for a character who plays the invisible parent and out of touch with her children. The mother also confesses whilst waiting in the car for Taylor, “Where is she? That girl gets away with everything.” Taylor’s body falling out the window and onto the family car is probable closure to the scene. Had the mother not seen her daughter in this fashion she would still be waiting in the car, ever so patiently like a paid chauffeur until her daughter surfaces. In which Taylor does, in grand style. 2011detention01 However, there are admirable qualities in this teenager’s character. For instance, Taylor is confident, self-aware, possesses excellent leadership and imparting skills and certainly a girl who always has the last word…. even if it is, “Get out of my room you pedophile.” References: Detention, 2011, DVD, Universal Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Sydney NSW. Indick, W 2004, Psychology for screenwriters: building conflict in your script, Michael Wise Productions, Studio City.

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