Films tell us stories and present us with values and messages about our society and what needs to be changed. In the film Girl, Interrupted, Susannas struggle with self-discovery and her fight to find a place in society illustrates the view that the women who do not fit into traditional roles should be ostracised from mainstream society given that they pose the threat of change. It is clear that women like Susanna, who have little ambition in becoming a carbon copy of their mother, are seen as a threat and therefore classified as crazy. Susanna is clearly misunderstood by her peers as well as the authority figures in her life.
She is not a degenerate but a young girl frustrated with her limited options for the future. When Susanna is held after class by her teacher to discuss why she is the only senior not going on to college, she tries to reach out for support from her teacher by explaining that she’s not a druggie but she is concerned about ending up like her mother. The teacher does not hear this and claims that there are more options for women today. Susanna is trying to open up and seek some guidance, but the only solution she gets is that she gets is to start acting like everyone else. This scene reveals how secluded and trapped Susanna feels, nobody seems to understand her even her parents don’t know what to do with her. The people she is reaching out to, brush off her ambitions of being an artist, as something to do in her spare time, and place social pressure on her to do what is expected. Even her peers expect more from her; at the after-grade party the boy that is trying to pick her up is talking about his scholarship and future, but this does not impress Susanna. He sees this as strange and is willing to believe her when she jokes about joining the Krishna’s because she seems to have no plan for the future.
This scene demonstrates that Susanna is also faced with peer-pressure. Susanna is not attracted to the status quo; the fact that this guy is basically doing the same thing as everybody else is tiresome and uninviting. Her peers do not accept her because she is unlike them and crazy for having no interest in her future. Being institutionalised at Claymore, Susanna is faced once again with the choice of conforming or being labelled as insane because she is different. The definition of normal is set in stone; according to the institution, any one who does not act or react according to the text book definition is ”crazy.” When Susanna is being shipped off to Claymore she gets a Taxi driver who asks her what she did to be going to an asylum. She tries to explain but the only answer she can give is that she is sad, he claims that everybody gets sad.
She goes on to say that she smoked a little weed, he says that if thats so then they should put Bob Dylan away, Susanna answers that she is not Bob Dylan. This examines the fact that Susanna doesn’t think she is crazy she is merrily a girl who has no choice but to do as they say. She thinks that she is different from the people who surround her, but the world is a bigger place. At Claymore she learns that the more you open up to the doctor the better her chances of being released. This is where Susanna has to decide if she should do what is expected or not. Val influences her to ride the system out and not to get trapped in Claymore like Lisa, she tells Susanna that she does not think she is crazy.
Val sees Susanna as lost which she is, the fact that at least one authority figure is willing to understand, her encourages Susanna to break free of the system she is trapped under.Closed windows are a running theme throughout the film they symbolise Susannas closed window of opportunity; she can see out them but cannot reach trough them. Susanna is not stupid she knows that there is more to the world than her sheltered suburban life, she can see out the window but she feels trapped an locked into the life style set up for her. When the doctor is telling Susanna that her parents do not know what to do with her, she is looking out the window at her mother and says “what the hell is my mother doing!” This portrays to what extent Susanna can’t related to her mother she is trapped behind an invisible force she can’t reach through to seek the opportunity to relate to her mother , they do not understand each other. They live on separate sides of opinion, the fact that her mother could not even tell Susanna herself of the plan to send her to Claymore shows how divided they are.
Another example of Susanna being trapped behind a window is when Lisa is being brought in for the first time. Lisa is Susanna’s alter-ego, she is free and does as she feel well Susanna is trapped on the inside not knowing how to get free. Lisa does not want to conform to the way of the system, she fights it this is why she is on the other side. Susanna wants to be free but she is grounded enough not to go to the same extremes as Lisa.
Susanna’s struggle for self-discovery showed her the thin line between crazy and normal it helped her discover that the world is a big place and that judging others when so little is known about them is not the answer. Because she was institutionalised, she has the chance to discover who she really is and what the world has to over her.Bibliography: