How The Horror Film Carrie Teaches Us All To Be More Empathic To Targets Of Bullying

By Ziggie

Movies can resonate with us for a variety of reasons. Films can make us laugh, cry, get angry, or even just be shocked by what we’ve seen on the big screen. Horror features can have some of the most dramatic settings where characters face adversity or untold horrors, and as the audience, we can only bear witness to those experiences. 

Carrie (1976) tells the haunting tale of a young teenage girl whose greatest desire is to be treated with respect and kindness. But, unfortunately, relentless bullying and an overbearing mother lead to the most tragic of results when Carrie’s latent psychic powers erupt in vengeance against her school. This month, I would like to discuss this film, its themes, and how it still resonates with me even now, and why empathy for victims of bullying is so important. 

Growing up is challenging for any young teenager; our emotional states are in flux with hormones, and we’re learning how to interact with friends and our schoolmates, but there isn’t a handbook on how to do that perfectly. Carrie opens with the namesake character experiencing something that all young women will encounter, but when it happens, her classmates criticize and laugh at her instead of offering support. The tormenting only ends once the Gym Teacher intervenes. 

When Carrie experiences harassment, there isn’t any ambiguity; you can tell that actions inflicted on Carrie are deliberate. Bullying can be depicted as a harmless right of passage kids deal with, but this film puts it front and center and says: This is the worst thing that can happen to someone, and why we shouldn’t avert our eyes from the cruelty that tormentors can inflict on another person. 

Carrie, throughout this film, is innocent. None of her actions warrant her terrible treatment by her mother and classmates. What she does do is research her suspected supernatural powers at the library. And when fellow peer Sue Snell approaches Carrie with a proposition to go to prom with her boyfriend, Tommy Ross. Carrie, while hesitant fearing it’s another prank, eventually says yes to going to the dance. As the audience, we see this event as heartwarming, but you remember that this is a horror film and wonder what will happen next.

The Big finale of the film is the prom. Carrie and Tommy have crowned homecoming King and Queen, and as the shot pans, you see how happy Carrie is for once in this film. But, unfortunately, her joy does not last as the jealous bully Christine pulls one final prank that tips the entire movie on its head. I will not spoil this event other than to say Carrie’s latent telekinetic powers are unleashed. 

When I first watched Carrie, I had all sorts of different emotions. I, too, wanted to fit in, but kids were needlessly cruel to me, so I had so much empathy for Carrie’s entire experience. As an adult, I’ve helped friends and family navigate situations where their kids were being bullied and needed a way to resolve it. So while the movie is heartbreaking, the lesson we can all take is not to dogpile or harass anyone. Instead, we need to be kind to each other. 

If you’ve seen Carrie or watched this film after reading this blog post. I would love to hear your thoughts about it. 

Until next time, Take care.