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The Message in ‘The Strange Thing About the Johnson’s’ Still Strikes with Societal Relevance

*Highly recommend you watching the short film titled above before reading the following article as it does contain spoilers. Film does contain mild instances of sexual violence so viewer discretion is advised*

Earlier this week, a friend of mine recommended me to watch a short film titled The Strange Thing About the Johnson‘s. I took it upon myself to fulfill their wishes and watch the film. I went into this film thinking it was going to be a comedic feature involving crude humor and subtle satire about family values (assuming from the title). What I had witnessed from the first five minutes alone was disturbingly captivating.

In these first five minutes of the film, a young boy is masturbating on his bed to a photo. The photo is yet to be shown to the audience to inflict anticipation. The first awkward moment is captured when the boy’s father walks in and encourages the boy to not feel disturbed or ashamed as he continues explaining that masturbation is a natural aspect of life that all humans take part of at some point. The boy seems at ease at the comforting understanding of his father. After a short moment in the scene, the photo is revealed to the audience. In utter displeasure, the photo is of his own father.

My response to the shocking five minutes was speechlessness and I even had to pause the film and mentally go over what I had just watched. I had tried to gather my thoughts of what this film just might be about. At this point, the film’s its seemed the direction could have gone anywhere. I could not help but continue watching, despite my internalized discomfort.

The story line continues with a brutal narrative that is abrasive and almost uncomfortable to watch. The film guides the audience into a glimpse of the family’s life years later. The story depicts blatant horror. The narrative incites a parallel and I could not help but be filled with shock and concern. The film, at this point, pinpoints a victim in the story and a short realization hits the back of my brain. A role is reversed and there is nothing but suspense that leads up to the film’s climax. The film portrays a father being victimized of his own son’s sexual tendencies. There is a bystanding presence that is illustrated by the wife, who is the son’s mother, that chooses not to speak or act in defense of her husband until after her husband’s death. The actuality of this entire anecdotal raises hairs, chills the flesh and bubbles the brain.

The films paints the father to emulate a role of a victim. Throughout the film, the father overflows with shame because there seems to be a societal convention that imposes him as an umbrella over this family. A father figure portrayed as a molestation victim resonates as a pristine taboo.

The film’s moral and conscientious is obscured at first, but soon after there is beam that glistens at once. There is no age where victimization is disregarded. Even though the father is well in his years, he is still susceptible to becoming a victim. He is still a pawn under the convention that being a victim to someone who is younger, let alone related to you, is appalling and almost bogus. The only way the father is able to express his thoughts regarding his experiences are through a book, which is soon tarnished by his own son to avoid being exposed.

Perhaps there is a parallel. The film, through my own lens, brought a new perception on sexual abuse and it goes back to when I mentioned the roles being switched. The dad was being molested by his own son. Imagine the fear of telling someone your own son is raping you. The harm, the disbelief, the judgemental reactions of people. Some people would actually blame it on him and ask why he didn’t do anything to stop him. He cried for help as he was raped and even his loved ones didn’t help him. This is what goes through a sexually abused child’s mind. The molester often makes the child believe that it was his/her fault or that nobody would believe him/her. Some parents are even aware of the molestation and still do nothing. There are victims that describe both sexual and physical abuse happening and never being confronted. Just as the wife ignores her own husband being raped, the dad felt like what most abused children feel like—helpless. I think it is a masterpiece. With an open mind, this film puts you directly into the mentality of an abused child and the film does so with a parallel in the mind of a grown man, as well.

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