Three nights ago, my cousin and I watched Chained. The film is about a man who kidnaps a boy and his mother. After raping and killing the boy’s mother, the man keeps the boy hostage for ten years, grooming him to become a rapist and killer.
It was my cousin’s idea to watch the movie. He likes films like Hostel and Saw. I try not to read too into that. We watched it on the big TV in the living room. He slouched down on the couch so much that his chin was on his chest. Somehow he finds this comfortable.
The film wasted no time getting to the point. I suppose it says a lot that neither of us were bothered by the scenes. The film does not show much of the gore, but it does include the screams. Neither us reacted to them.
My cousin asked during one of the quiet moments in the film, “Do you think that could’ve been us? If we didn’t get out?”
I said, “Yes. What do you think?”
My cousin stayed quiet. In the film, there was a time jump and the boy was now a teenager. One of the victims, a college girl, attacked the kidnapper and ran out of the room. She stumbled onto the boy, who was now chained to the wall after trying to escape years before. She begged the boy for help. He froze. She pleaded with him, tugging on him to get him to move. Then girl went stiff and fell face first onto the boy’s cot. A knife jutted out the back of her head. The kidnapper stood behind and appeared unfazed by the attempted escape.
My cousin said, “Yeah.”
I think all of my siblings feel the same way. Growing up the way we did, I do not doubt that if we stayed with our family until adulthood we would have at least allowed the abuse to continue despite how we felt about it.
If I had to pick a word to describe what that house was like it would be helplessness. It felt as if these things were going to happen no matter what anyone did. This was simply what our family did. There was no getting out of it. We had to accept it.
The film had a similar feel to it. Although the boy did try to fight back (and was no more successful at it than my siblings and I were) he carried that sense of going with the flow. This was his life. While he did not like it, there was nothing he could do. It was not until the man decided it was time to push the boy to become a killer that the boy managed some genuine retaliation.
After the film ended, my cousin said, “He did it wrong.” When I asked what he meant, he said, “It would’ve worked if he’d made him kill when he was little. But they’d never get to show that.”
I caught his point. The film never explains why the kidnapper did not force the boy to become more involved. He does make the boy clean up the blood and move the bodies. The scene with the college girl implies that the boy has seen the man kill before. The boy watches the man kill a girl later in the film and seems used to it. Yet it is odd that the man suddenly wants the boy to become more active.
When I think about my family’s experiences, if we had been raised to abuse others we likely would have. We were completely under their control. We had no reason to question anything we were told. Even without being raised to do it, had our fathers tried to turn us against each other we likely would have become like them. Our bond with each other may be the only thing holding us back.
That thought is always in the back of my mind. What will it take for me to become the bad guy? What will it take for one of my cousins or brothers to do it?
I wonder sometimes why my father and uncles never pushed us to do more. Maybe it had something to do with how my grandfather used them against each other. I saw it as a child, the way they distrusted each other. It is still there today. None of them are close. They tolerate rather than like or love each other.
My cousin and I finished the movie. I do not want to give away the ending, but it has a twist that could have been better handled. The kidnapper succeeds in a way, and I suppose the same is true for my family. I doubt any of us will hurt our children should we have any, but I think we will instill some of the wariness of outsiders that we picked up. I found that I passed that trait on to my godson. As outgoing as he is, he keeps most people at arm’s length. It takes a lot to get into his inner circle. Family comes first, even though his family is quite blended.
I would love to think that the very fact my cousin and I think about these things means something good, but maybe this is what it is like to be the bad guy. Maybe we only see the traits we do not like and miss the ones that seem to benefit us.