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#304. Burn Victims

Every scar has a story. Even though humans can be hardy creatures, sometimes our bodies can’t completely recover after a particularly damaging trauma. Sometimes these scars can be covered up by clothing, like a scarf hiding a throat that was slit (a la Seven Psychopaths (2013)), but sometimes these injuries can be difficult to disguise. What people often don’t realize is that a scar that can’t be hidden often carries with it a load of psychological damage as well. If the trauma against a person’s body is severe enough, then the scars of the mind can often be forgotten when the scars of the body are hard to ignore. These people know they don’t appear “normal.” Every time they look in the mirror, they are reminded of painful memories. Often, these scars are due to severe burns. This week’s two films examine the lives of burn victims and the two different ways they deal with their scars.

Pay it ForwardPay it Forward
Year: 2000
Rating: PG-13
Length: 123 minutes / 2.05 hours

It can be difficult to carry a visible scar in a profession that requires you to interact with plenty of people, especially one that involves large numbers of children. Young children often lack the tact to recognize they shouldn’t point out a person’s scars, but even older children will often speculate and start rumors as to the origins of a person’s scars. In these situations, burn victims will head off any questions about their scars by being forward about this potentially sensitive subject. Hopefully, this tactic stymies any further inquiries; since the details of the trauma might be too painful to bring up in public. With visible scars, negative body image can be a challenging obstacle to overcome. Fortunately, if enough people are accepting and loving of these burn victims, even despite their disfigurement, they can learn to love themselves as well.

As a child, Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey) was knocked unconscious by his alcoholic father. While unconscious, his father lit him on fire with gasoline, leaving Eugene with deep scars across his body. Now a middle-aged teacher in Las Vegas, Eugene is hesitant to accept the advances of Arlene McKinney (Helen Hunt), the mother of one of his students, Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment). It turns out that Eugene is the recipient of one of Trevor’s “pay it forward” favors through the romantic setup that eventually becomes deeper when the teacher helps Arlene find the missing Trevor. Unfortunately, since Arlene’s alcoholic ex is still in the picture, Eugene is upset with her because he sees the same behavior in her that his own mother had with his alcoholic father. This revelation helps Arlene kick out her ex, but before Eugene and Arlene can reconcile their differences, Trevor is involved in a tragic accident.

V for Vendetta
Year: 2005
Rating: R
Length: 132 minutes / 2.2 hours

The origin of scars can be as varied as they are unique. How did a burn victim get their scars? Were they burned as a child, being forced to grow up with these scars their entire life? Did they enter a burning building to save someone? These stories can run the gamut from heroic to deplorable, but they usually define a person’s life, much like any trauma will. The make of a man comes when he has a decision to make in regards to his scars. He can either wear them proudly, confident in his personal identity, or he can hide his scars behind layers of subterfuge and masks. The former is likely someone with a public presence, whereas the latter has the ability to hide in the shadows. Sometimes we might even find that the latter is waiting for the perfect moment to enact their vengeance, taking revenge on those who burned him in the first place.

On the cusp of Guy Fawkes Day, a masked figure going by the name of V (Hugo Weaving) blows up the Old Bailey as a statement of anarchy against the fascist government of the United Kingdom. Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman) is the only person around to hear of V’s reasoning behind the terrorist attack, but it also puts her in danger of being caught by the police state. As the detective investigating V dives deeper into the masked vigilante’s past, he finds that many of the high-profile victims of his vengeance were once part of a chemical weapon research facility in Larkhill. This detention facility burned down, and few escaped unharmed. Meanwhile, Evey learns a lot more about V as a person, including his extensive burns. When she has finally been broken and freed, she helps enact V’s plan to free the people of England from the tyranny of their government.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 traumatic tales

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