Guest Column

Guest Columnist

Stephen King’s IT teaches about dealing with trauma


Recently, the genius of Stephen King has been resurfacing since the release of the “IT” remake that came out this September.

Rightfully so, there has been a resurgence of love and — almost more so — fear from a new generation of teenage viewers, bringing the fandom of King horror back to life.

Little do people know that I have long adored King since I was a young child. I was 6 years old when I first set my eyes on the television screen to gasp at Tim Curry’s painted face.

I loved the story more than anything else, because even my 6 year old self knew it was terrifying for all the right reasons.

It was real-life stuff the children were running from, traumas brought on by a small town plagued with ignorance and the conscious ignorance of the everyday troubles of youth.

“It” would be used in therapy to describe how children could overcome their fears even if their situation might not have seemed to change.

Reminiscent of situations I had to overcome at those ages, I found myself relating to the child characters who knew what it was like to be afraid.

It was unlike anything I had seen previously, because it had finally given children the power to defeat their own monsters; the characters had real-life traumas and defeated them in their own ways, in their own time.

My 6-year-old self saw power in that.

Watching the movie became a family event, where we would sit and watch the made-for-television adaptation together.

My youngest brother and I would bring the movie on trips when our parents went out of town and we would even ask our relatives to put it on at night because it helped us sleep a bit easier.

Although it may appear very strange, it helped.

It helped me find my voice and ultimately showed me that I wanted to tell stories like that in order to bring power to kids who needed it.

The voices of King and Ray Bradbury, one of my other earliest literary influences, followed me throughout my youth and wrote words that shook me to my core.

Even if I was too young to understand it fully at the time, I was able to understand the parts I needed to, and isn’t that the most important part when you are a kid?

You take the stuff you need and you use it to help you get to sleep easier, to fight the nightmares, to win the thousands of battles that surface every few years.

I don’t think I could have made it otherwise, and anyone who may think it strange and weird that I found solace in this horror movie simply has had the pleasure of living life with minimal amounts of their own obstacles to overcome.

In this new version, the character Bill, played by Jaeden Lieberher, has a speech towards the end of the film where he states going into the house on Neibolt Street, with all the fears it holds, with Pennywise, would be easier than walking into his own house.

His silent house, where he knows his younger brother Georgie’s room will be empty, lacking a source of love that wasn’t supposed to go missing.

I believe that there is longevity that transcends fear and trauma and that longevity is seen in love and bravery. The “Losers Club,” as town bully and sociopath Henry Bowers calls the seven friends, end up going with him into the house and defeating the entity that is Pennywise.

As much as this movie is filled with fear, it is matched with friendship and bravery, and the latter wins.

I grew up knowing what it meant to be a friend due to King’s portrayals of the seven main characters in the story. Sometimes it takes more than one person to clean up all the blood that cakes our bathroom walls.

I do not think I would want to tackle that alone; who could?

You just need people who believe, friends who believe.

I hope young people get to see this movie, to be able to know their strength, because this is real life and real life is tough.

I think King doesn’t just write about real-life monsters, but he gives us the tools to defeat them.

King sums it up best in his own words from “It,” saying, “Maybe there aren’t any such things as good friends or bad friends ― maybe there are just friends, people who stand by you when you’re hurt and who help you feel not so lonely.

Maybe they’re always worth being scared for, and hoping for, and living for. Maybe worth dying for too, if that’s what has to be. No good friends. No bad friends. Only people you want, need to be with; people who build their houses in your heart.”