Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game- A Covenant of Silence

It is easy to forget the nature of man, and though we stroll amidst a mirage of the complexity of our creations, one truth remains. We are but walking beasts. And beasts we shall remain. Yet, this innate bestial roar is overshadowed by our greatest gift. Reason and Logic. Making our existence the ultimate oxymoron: The philosophical animal.  And this ever-growing battle between beast and philosopher is what has shaped the world as we know it today. We have built great civilizations, yet all have fallen due to our corruption. We have nearly mastered the secrets of the formation of matter itself, and now we are but a button away to annihilate life as we know it. We’re a species filled with compassion, yet cruelty is far too common to dismiss. Few artists have been able to capture the intricate duality of our existence, and one of them is Stephen king, whose twisted and dark stories have amazed and horrified the literary world ever since his name came to our bookstores. There has been a few films who have tried to capture the obscurity of his words into the silver screen. Some have failed, and some have succeeded. And today we will have an in depth look at a Netflix exclusive film, Gerald’s Game, that takes us to a journey inside the mind of a disturbed woman in the brink of death and her struggle to survive, while unearthing painful secrets of her past. So, sit back and relax because we are going to explore the hidden meaning behind: Gerald’s Game.

The Story

This all starts with what essentially is a pretty inane Romantic getaway. Where an older couple are simply trying to spend some time together and spark their passions after years of a monotonous marriage. Jessie, the timid and soft-spoken wife, and her Husband Gerald, a cut-throat lawyer, despite their problems; decide to take a trip to their beach house to revive their yearning for one another. It begins pretty innocently, with Jessie nervously awaiting for her husband in bed, and Gerald going out of his way to make sure everything is perfect. However, this tender moment between the two turns sour once Gerald handcuffs jessie to the bed, where she is trying to play along until things get too far for her. She begs Gerald to remove the handcuffs, but he seems to be unwilling to do so. They start arguing and Gerald suddenly suffers from a massive heart attack, falls over the bed and his skull is cracked open. Trapped and terrified, Jessie starts screaming for help, but the only thing that catches her attention is a stray dog they came across on their way to this place.  The dog starts to devour Gerald and she has a mental breakdown where she relieves the most traumatic event in her life, where her father sexually assaulted her when she was only 12 years old. Jessie struggling to distinguish between fantasy and reality starts having visions of a macabre being that stalks her during the night. She endures for a couple of days in this delirious state, where she is haunted in her dreams, being tormented by the dog at day, and the ghastly entity during her nights. Just before her body shuts down, she comes to a closure with her past, and finds a way to break free from her shackles. Nearly amputating her arm, she is greeted by this ghoul, who she calls Moonman, and she gives it her wedding ring as a toll for her passage to life. On her way to a hospital, she has a vision of this spectre and crashes her vehicle. She wakes up in a hospital and soon after receives a large settlement from her husband’s life insurance. She uses this money to open up a shelter for children who are victims of sexual assault. Despite her breakthrough, her traumas still haunt her and she comes to terms that this darkness will never abandon her. Later she finds out in a newspaper that the Moonman, was no fiend or apparition. In fact he was man who suffered from a severe deformity, and was a necrophiliac cannibal who started robbing graves years past, but eventually graduated to murder. Jessie decides to confront this wretch of a man during his trial, and fearlessly walks out of the courtroom a new woman. 

Themes/Motifs

Loss of Innocence

Behind the gory scenes and the gruesome imagery, this film addresses a rather grim subject, and that is the loss of innocence. It is absolutely terrifying that a single event in your life could potentially shape your entire personality, and it is petrifying to know an emotional scar can devoid you of the most fundamental human necessity, connection. Though Jessie’s bondage and psychological torture may be the scare factor of the film, the true terror comes from the realization that Jessie has been living a lie all her life, and that she is but a facade of herself. And because of her inability to share this deep secret of hers, she has no true friends, family or love… making her even doubt if it’s worth to escape her dreadful fate in that secluded bedroom, in the middle of nowhere. Jessie, at her core, is incomplete. And she never escaped that grisly day at her father’s beach house. At the age of 12 she had only but a glimpse of her adolescence,  yet the transition between child and woman was ripped away from her, and on that day her childhood died and womanhood became a synonym with danger, predation, and solitude. And as she grew older, this fundamental bond between sexuality and security became a warped notion that defined her approach with anyone she interacted with. The subconscious craves safety and familiarity and sometimes when these two things do not align, it chooses to follow the ladder. And this explains why she was drawn to someone with the character traits of her husband. Just like her dad, Gerald’s is an older and very opulent man who has made an entire career as a lawyer, coming his skills for rhetoric, logic and manipulation. At first glance, it seems that she is repeating the cycle of her trauma, and reliving the marriage of her parents. But if you look closer, this is not exactly what is going on. Sure, the similarities between Gerald and her father seem too overwhelming to think otherwise. But, Jessie, unlike her mother never had children with Gerald. Probably because she may have suspected the he had a well-concealed dark side. Afterall, he almost raped his own wife. After the incident with her father, Jessie was never the same. Her role as an innocent child entering maturity, morphed into an isolated and dispassionate protector. She had seen the monster inside her dad, and now it was her role and her duty to protect her sibling against the evil nature of her father. And to this day, she subconsciously is still playing this role. Only this time, she is protecting her hypothetical children against the man she married. And although it may sound illogical and far fetched, Jessie, by refusing to give children to her husband, is trying to somehow fix the mistakes of her mother. This is a way for her to correct the trauma of her past. And by sacrificing herself, she believes that she is amending the wrong that was done to her as a child. And her role as a protector did not cease after she escaped the beach house, by opening this shelter for children who were the victims of sexual abuse, she solidified and came to terms that this was her purpose in life. However, this realization may have brought her closure, but no joy. After-all she departed with something that was very dear to her. Her infancy. This is what Jessie has craved all her life, to be the innocent and free spirited girl she once was. And this fervent yearning manifested itself when she was but a few seconds away from her death. Unlike her vision of her husband had suggested, her last thoughts were not of true horror or fulminating anxiety, It was a soothing and melancholic song. A haunting lullaby that barely escaped her vocal chords. A last cry for what could have been. A requiem for her lost childhood.

Perversion of Mankind

Another constant theme portrayed throughout the film is the Perversion of Mankind. The story, after all, is centered around Jessie’s sexual exploitation and the perverse nature of the men around her. Stephen King has masterfully encapsulated the claustrophobic perception of a woman distraught by the depravity of her father. Jessie’s view of man has been radically distorted, and it is no coincidence that a grotesque shell of a man plays such an integral part of this narrative. The moon man, is perhaps the perfect depiction of the ultimate depravity of mankind. He virtually violates all of which we hold sacred. He is a murderer, a necrophiliac, a cannibal and a thief. And it is more than appropriate that these sinister characteristics are embodied by this puke-inducing exterior. Yet is is not him who truly terrifies Jessie, but her visions of him. A few times throughout the film during and after her predicament at the cottage, she has some ghastly visions of this man. And in all of them his eyes are glowing with a red as intense as the depths of a volcano. But the color of his eyes are a reflection of the eclipse she eagerly anticipated before her father robbed her of her innocence. Hence, she views the moon man as an extension of her father. This is even clearer when at the end of the film she confronts this overgrown ghoul, and she sees him as himself, her father and her husband. This crucial piece of imagery is proof of her fractured conception of what a man is, or is supposed to be. This goes back to the fundamental duality of the male psyche. And although women are also suspect to this truth, it is men who wrestle more fiercely with this dichotomy. The protector and the destructor. Jessi throughout her childhood adored her father, he was her only male role model growing up and he was the provider and the protector of the family. And in an instant, seemingly out of nowhere, the protector became the aggressor, and permanently blurred the lines in her subconscious between these two. Hence, in her mind there was no distinction between men, and all of them no matter how virtuous they may appear outwardly, at their core there will always be that beast lurking, and looking for an opportunity to be unleashed. And as a result of this, in her mind, Gerald and the moon man are one of the same. Which by any objective measures is clearly untrue. Gerald’s sexual fantasies, although a little risque, are trifled by the grotesque activities of the moon man. Heck, it could be argued that the depravity of her father is but a pebble against the boulder of evil that this man represents. But, despite all this she can’t make a distinction between them because that is how she survived the rest of her youth with her family, and this is what has kept her safe ever since. And unfortunately for her, this primal need for safety, a need that should have been provided by her parents, has left nothing but a void, a part of her that will never be filled. 

Symbols

Eclipse

The eclipse is the most poignant symbol in this film. The scarlet red inundating the endless sky is a powerful use of imagery that cements a feeling of awe and dread in the deepest section of your mind. And this feeling is more than appropriate, as Jessie herself is still haunted by this freak occurrence of nature. And typically in literature, an eclipse is the primordial symbol for the conscious being overpowered by a primitive drive outside of the realm of the ordinary. And well, here the eclipse is used fittingly as Jessie’s father is subdued by his degeneracy in the midst of the eclipse. But it could also portray something far more obscure. And that is the deafening silence that Jessie and everyone around her willingly partook in. The sun could be interpreted as the unadulterated truth, where no crook or crick are untouched by its powerful rays, and the moon, quite literally, impeding the truth to be unveiled. And it is no coincidence that Jessie’s dreams are constantly about the eclipse, since her silence and the deliberate ignorance of those around her has defined her as an individual. Although Jessie is partially responsible for her reluctance to speak about her trauma as an adult, it is obligation of her, quote and quote, “loved” ones around to have inquired about her muted suffering. However, she learned rather quickly from her own mother that the truth was so vile and disgraceful that even thinking about it was intolerable. And her mother, decides to protect this shameful truth and keep the family’s reputation untarnished in the eyes of the world. Breaking and betraying her daughter’s heart in the process. And condemning her to live her entire life in the darkest and most desolate depths of the eclipse. 

Moonman

Though we already have discussed how the moon man is the encapsulation of the evil nature of man; there is a lot more to unpack. Some say that he is a symbol for death and the impending demise of our protagonist. But I believe he is so much more than that. First, it’s interesting how he is essentially just going about digging graves and stealing bones and jewelry from the deceased. He is quite literally some nightmare stricken collector with a morbid curiosity. Taking the jewelry is somewhat sensible, after all they have some monetary value, but why take the bones? Well, I believe the moon man symbolizes the residual effects of a traumatized history.There is a crucial line in the dialogue that brings some light on what this could represent. ____, They won’t notice that the wedding ring or one of her bones will be gone… this one line strikes at the core of what the moon man does. He takes the most valuable thing that his victims possess. In Jessie’s case, her wedding ring. By doing so, metaphorically he is depriving her of one of the most fundamental joys in the human experience, the ability to love and be loved. And by taking one of your bones, a fundamental part of your structure as a human being, disrupting your individuality subtly enough for no one else to notice, or care to notice, making you appear normal, while faintly crumbling inside by the missing part in you.

Conclusion 

It’s hard to believe that the evil in humans could reach this far. And evil is not known for its courageous strides, it preys for those who are the weakest among us, and that unfortunately are children. Authors like King are but a handful of writers who truly understand that the darkness of humanity is nearly limitless, and as disturbing as some of his works are, they’re crucial for illuminating the masses to the obscurity of this truth. Just like in Gerald’s Game, most victims of abuse are bound by a staggering sense of guilt and shame. And along those self inflicting psychological wounds come silence. And silence is what buries these traumas, but at the cost of ourselves being entombed in a sepulcher that will be unmarked, forgotten and forsaken. 

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