by Tim Jones 2/11/16
I went to see the movie Room a few weeks ago without any expectations other than having a general idea as to its story – one about a woman who is abducted and kept hostage along with her young son. It turned out to be an excellent movie but what really stood out for me was just one short scene that takes place over half-way through the movie. It is a scene in which I think the whole movie really turns and reveals a type of conduct that occurs in the United States and Europe at both the individual and collective levels.
Before I get into that scene, I’ll go into a little more detail about the movie. Brie Larson (the actress) is living in a small, dilapidated shed in the backyard of a moral deviant who kidnapped her and is keeping her prisoner for his sexual pleasure. It is essentially one large room, and hence the name of the movie. She’s been in the “room” for seven years where she gives birth to a son after being held in captivity for two years. His name is Jack played by Jacob Tremblay. Brie Larson goes by “MA”. (She has already won the Golden Globe and SAG awards for best actress.)
The movie is basically divided into two parts: the first being where MA and Jack are prisoners and how they manage to get by living in extremely depraved circumstances. It includes the occasional appearance of her abductor who shows up for his sexual gratification. In order to keep Jack from witnessing these occurrences, there is a small closet in the “room” that protects him from seeing anything.
The second half of the movie takes place at her mother’s home, where she and Jack are staying after making an incredulous escape. MA concocted an ingenious plan to get Jack to freedom although it seemed to be fraught with a high probability of failure. If I were writing the movie, it’s not how I would have created the getaway but for the sake of dramatic suspension of disbelief, it succeeds. After Jack is in the safety of police custody, it doesn’t take long before they are able to find MA through the use of satellite surveillance technology.
MA is feeling the stress of returning to normal life after so many years of being held as a sexual hostage while raising a little boy at the same time, a child who’s never seen the world beyond a skylight window in the ceiling of the “room.”
She agrees to do a television interview, most likely to her regret, as the person interviewing her asks about the most inane and impersonal questions. You can see the pain in MA’s face as it’s taking place where one can almost read her mind, “why did I agree to do this interview.”
Shortly after the media interview and still feeling a great deal of stress, she gets into a big argument with her mother in which MA essentially blames her mother for her abduction. It is now she reveals how it happened. Apparently her abductor asked MA to help him find his missing dog which turned out to be a ruse. The following is from the line from the script:
MA: Don’t you ever tell me how to look after my son. I’m sorry if I’m not ‘nice’ enough for you. Maybe if you hadn’t been in my head saying ‘be nice’ that day I wouldn’t have gone to help him.
That one line was pivotal in so many ways. Her mother was clearly trying to raise her daughter to be a “nice” person, so much so that when it came to helping a total stranger find his dog, she’s hearing her mother’s admonition in her head to be a nice person to other people. And it ended up getting her kidnapped.
Being nice has become one of the most important values today but the problem is that it is fraught with danger. Being nice is clearly important for people to get along in nearly all environments (business, social, etc.), but this movie speaks to a much larger problem in the same way political correctness poses a problem for society in general. It puts a person in a submissive position where the other party can and will usually take advantage of an individual if he or she has nefarious intentions. It also reminds me of a quote I recently read: “being nice is a sign of weakness.”
Sometimes not being nice can be not only the right thing to do, but safer as well. And being nice can be a dangerous thing for others’ safety as well. Consider the attitude of the neighbor had when he decided against reporting the suspicious behavior of the San Bernardino terrorists. Because the man was afraid of being offensive, in other words, he was being nice because he would be afraid of being called a racist. Fourteen people were murdered as a result.
So one can understand why MA’s value system came crashing down on her once she was released from bondage. It caused her so much distress in adjusting to a world she had known as a free person for seventeen years that she attempted suicide. Her five year old son Jack who had never before experienced even sixty seconds of freedom seemed to adapt to the ‘real world’ without any significant problems. Extreme cognitive dissonance can cause extreme distress and confusion which might explain a lot in today’s world, especially when trying to determine when to be and when not to be nice.