Hard Candy and Castration

The movie Hard Candy got me thinking about castration.  How could it not?  That moment when Ellen Page (who plays the female lead) says that she’s going to castrate him and raises her scalpel, well it literally brought shivers to my spine.  It was terrifying, and disgusting, and so meaningful, really.

Ellen Page as Hayley

I found myself thinking about so much more than the image of castration, though.  Hayley (as the movie refers to her) goes into this man’s house, seemingly a soon-to-be-victim of pedophilia, and then turns the situation completely around.  The movie opens in such a way that allows the watcher to believe that it will all be centered around the rape around this young girl.  The certainty of this being the main plot rises when Hayley mentions that she’d been told never to drink something she hadn’t mixed herself, but then downs the screwdriver, despite the viewer screaming “NO!” at the screen as loudly as possible.  And then the scene turns.

Hayley drugs Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson) and knocks him out.  This couldn’t help but bring to mind the date rape we’re all cautioned against.  Instead of being drugged, Hayley drugs Jeff herself.  And while he is knocked out, she ties him to a chair and prepares to do unspeakable things to him.  The image of rape was pretty strong, but when he awoke tied to a table, that was the moment when it just all seemed to fit together for me.  Hayley took this man and took advantage of him.  She abused him horrifically, to the point where he thought that she’d actually castrated him.

And that led me to another thought.  As soon as Hayley takes control over Jeff’s genitalia, his sexuality, and castrates him, isn’t that what rape really is?  Isn’t rape when someone takes control of someone else’s private parts and does something forcefully?  Rape is a form of castration on the victim, whose own sexuality is taken out of their hands.  I’d never viewed it that way, but felt that the movie did a good job showing me this.  So, Hayley was taking revenge on Jeff for all the rapes committed, especially on little girls, by basically raping him herself.

This is a rape scene turned on its head, basically.  The young girl takes the stage as the ‘rapist’, while the middle-aged man is forced into the role of the victim.  Perhaps that is why the scene is just so horrifying to the audience.  Would the rape of a woman onscreen have gotten the same response?

Hard Candy was such an intense and complicated movie, and there was so much more to it than this theme I happened to pick out.  But this was the most prevalent for me, and I thought it was one that the movie seemed to work hard to point out.  Does anybody else agree?  What other main points do you think the movie had?  How did the castration scene affect you?  I know I was shocked, too scared to look but too nervous to look away.  How did you feel about it?

3 thoughts on “Hard Candy and Castration

  1. This is really interesting. I thought about the loss of the male phallus all through that scene.The physical loss of the phallus stood out to me so that i was certain he no longer had it. Your post really makes me think about the ways that the female phallus could have actually existed, but because it is abused and removed so many times, eventually, there is that loss that confirms the absence of the phallus so indeed, we become “ladylike”or “well-mannered” or female. One mechanism to look into would definitely be finishing schools.

  2. Thanks for posting this. I interpreted the castration as a rape scene as well. Additionally, I noticed Hayley’s use of the camera in this scene and its role in replicating the sexual assaults we can assume Jeff took part in. Remember how Hayley takes out the camera and is acting really excited, telling Jeff, oh now you can watch etc.? I think here, she again wants to replicate the experience those other girls went through in which they were not only raped, but objectified through Jeff’s camera lens. Hayley accuses Jeff of hiding behind the safety of his camera, of becoming a different person when he takes photographs of young girls and young women. She turns the camera on him so he can witness his own rape/castration through the controlling and dangerous gaze that he subjected his own victims to–and by being forced to watch, he is punished for that way of looking (which formerly brought him pleasure). In this instance, he is a reluctant spectator of his own objectification. The camera is no longer the shield that he hid behind, but the weapon he used against others.

  3. Your post was great, and really conceptualized what I consider as the most powerful scene of the whole movie. It also made me think, why was the castration fake? Did the director feel it was too violent? This scene was so powerful, but for me it became something different when it turned out to be untrue.
    Thanks for sharing!

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