Black Snake Moan DVD cover artIn my previous article I introduced myself, told a little about what I am trying to do, and my goals for this series. The Movie, Black Snake Moan by Director Craig Brewer, is a pulls-no-punches look into the life of abuse survivors, their problems & challenges, and offers hope for the future. The lead characters are brilliantly brought to life by Samuel L. Jackson as Lazarus, Christina Ricci as Rae, & Justin Timberlake as Ronnie. These actors portrayals are so real and multi-dimensional one almost feels like a voyeur peeping into the very private lives of others. As I mentioned in the previous section, as a chronic childhood abuse survivor with PTSD, I almost wondered if Craig had been lurking through the shadows of my own young adulthood. The supporting cast is a mixture of: famous Blues musicians, famous actors native to the movies location in Memphis TN, and raw local talent.

The musical score is nothing short of phenomenal. The songs and sounds serve not only to set the tone and mood; they feed the soul and tell a story all their own. If you are at all interested in the Blues, this is a MUST see.

The purpose of this series is to use BSM as a guideline to take an in-depth look at PTSD, abuse of all kinds, and anxiety disorders. I will be offering information from real life sources of both my own and Mr Brewer’s via his DVD commentary. In addition I will draw comparisons to similar situations that are occurring within the media surrounding Missing Child cases country-wide. The stand-out case, that anyone who has seen the film can’t help but compare it to, is the Haleigh Cummings Missing Child case from Palatka, Putnam County, FL. She is now six years old, has been missing since February 10, 2009, when she was 5. She lived with her father Ronald Cummings, her brother Jr/Butterbean, and their dad’s then 17 year old girlfriend, Misty Croslin. Haleigh disappeared in the middle of the night while in the care of Ms. Croslin.

The lead female character of Rae, not only physically reminds me of Ms. Croslin, she also seems to mirror her in attitude and actions. I will describe in further detail, with sources that back up my opinions and theories, on exactly how & why Rae, Misty, and I are very similar. The lead character Ronnie, may or may not be a perfect representation of Ronald Cummings, but they do have things in common. While Mr Cummings  may not have anxiety issues, he does face some of the real-life issues as “Ronnie”.  Most especially the challenges of a relationship with someone who appears to have PTSD. Samuel L Jackson, as Laz, in relation to the Cummings case is to me, an amalgamation of those who care about the girl who has been at the center of the story, those who care about these issues in general, & a symbolic representation of what it might take top help a young woman like this. Here is some information on PTSD: http://www.npadnews.com/post_traumatic_stress_disorder.asp

I plan to discuss the 1st & 2nd chapters of BSM in this article. One must bear in mind that the topics covered are dark, sad, and often times painful to convey. The words within the movie and this article may be harsh, raw, and often offensive. I will try to be as honest as I can without gratuitous sex, violence, and offensive language.

The movie’s Introduction is by Blues great, Son House. He was a preacher who due to liquor killed a man, then became a Blues legend.

Chapter 1:

As the movie opens the viewer is immediately thrown into their voyeuristic role. You are confronted with the basic subject of the film and the issues that surround it: SEX! Justin & Christina give an energetic, almost embarrassingly realistic portrayal of Rae’s & Ronnie’s passion for each other. It’s graphic and shocking but is meant to be. They are not only naked physically, but figuratively as well.  Everything is laid bare,  pun intended. They work and make sense together, if only in those moments. It also serves to metaphorically strip the viewer. To lay them bare and open them up to vulnerability. It shocks you and begins to prepare you for what is ahead.

As Ronnie is preparing to return to military life we start to see signs of anxiety and an attack. The vommiting is a symptom of an anxiety attack. Please follow this link for more information: http://helpguide.org/mental /anxiety_types_symptoms_treatment.htm

Director Craig Brewer states in the commentary that he “feels that one of the greatest ways people show that they truly care about each other is in how they take care of one another when they are sick”. Notice Rae’s response to Ronnie’s attack. She is reassuring with both her voice and her touch. Her skin against his helps to ground and center him.

We get a glimpse of at the subject of infidelity, it’s impact on others, and what the motivations may have been. Laz’s wife Rose speaks of her life with him. She tells him how she’s always wanted more. A bigger life.  As a victim of childhood sexual abuse myself, I wonder if Rose is also an abuse victim hence the relationship with a much older man.  Rose would have grown up during the 1950’s, early 1960’s. From the website for The Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society: “ A comparative study of Anglo-American surveys covering the years 1940 though 1990 showed no noticeable change in the prevalence of abuse of girls younger than fourteen. Between 10 and 12 percent are thought to have been sexually abused. All research suggests that the most severe sexual abuses of children are related to incestuous relations within the family.” http://www.faqs.org/childhood/Pa-Re/Pedophilia.html

Ronnie prepares to leave due to military obligations. Rae insists that “It won’t work”. She knows she is out of control when he is away. She begs him to stay.  There is mention of Rae being sick and seeking help to get better. Ronnie shows Rae twin watches. As he puts one on her he explains that they are set to beep at the same time every night. When her watch beeped she would know he was thinking of her and vice-versa. He tells her he must leave and has his best friend ,Gil, drive him to meet the bus.

Chapter 2:

As the scene opens we see Ronnie driving away and Rae chasing after, then crumpling to the ground in tears. She falls to her knees and begins to experience an intense reaction to her severe emotional pain about Ronnie’s departure. She later describes what this feels like but, for now we are forced to only bear witness to what is to be the first of many PTSD episodes that re-occur through-out. She shakes her head, as if to shake out the unpleasant thoughts, she punches her thighs, then falls back with her legs twineing and writhing together, somewhere between pleasure and pain. It has no explanation at this point. We are privy neither to it’s definition nor it’s relevance to the story. One could assume that she is just very “upset”.

The very next scene is graphic, more so then the first. It also immediately sets the tone for the film: infidelity. The viewer quickly starts to draw conclusions about Rae. She’s bad, selfish, mean, spiteful, unloving, possibly even unlovable. As the Director mentions in his commentary, watch for Rae’s expression as she looks at herself in the mirror. There’s a second of recognition. Of herself, the situation, then followed be disbelief and disgust. She quickly pushes those feelings aside and goes back to pretending that she is in full control.  David Banner, as Tehronne, is very believable in his role as Rae’s sometimes lover, yet always menacing local “Player”.  They go on to discuss their relationship, or lack thereof.  They argue over who’s using whom, more or less and Rae moves to strike Tehronne. As she does he quickly subdues her. His physical restraint of her and her fear prompts another PTSD episode. We see Rae writhing an the motel bed as Tehronne talks about her “sickness” and references her sexual excitement. It is my opinion that this is where he realizes what is going on with her, a mental disorder.  One can not help but compare the Rae, Ronnie, Tehronne love triangle with the one involving Misty, Ronald, and Greg “White Boy’ Page. It has been rumored, then confirmed that the weekend prior to Haleigh’s disappearance Misty & Ronald had a fight and Misty spent 3 days & nights in Greg Page’s company.

We are then taken to another location where we see a black man’s hands, perched almost folded in prayer.  He is wearing a wedding ring on his right hand with a glaringly visible scar nearby. This scar is a symbol of the pain he has endured through his marriage.  We will be given more specifics later. It is here we are introduced to Laz’s best friend the Reverend R. L. I believe that the R. L. character is a representation of the good in people. He is: the personification of the church & religion as it helps to govern the morals & ethics of society; people’s desire to help their fellow man, and a desire to “do right without being holier than thou”.

Laz waits expectantly at a small table. A woman arrives, we discover she is his wife, Rose. She  has left Lazarus. She tells him she’s been unhappy. When he tries to remind her of the good times, she tears them and him down. She says to him that she “has a lot of living to do.”  She doesn’t want to “end up like her mother”. We then discover that she has had an affair with Laz’s brother Deke. They are leaving town together. Laz “curses” Rose in the classical sense. She refutes his curse and storms out. As I watched this scene I couldn’t help but wonder if Rose herself, had been sexually abused as a child. It is a likely possibility due to the large age gap between her and Lazarus.

In the next scene we see Rae walking down the middle of the road. There is an enormous tractor/combine following. The driver honks at her several times trying to get her to allow him to pass. She throws her arm defiantly into the air, middle finger extended. As she enters town the camera is focused on Rae’s overtly twitching hips. This walk is a signal to viewers that she is “hot to trot’. She’s free with her hips & her love. Rae approaches the corner store to see a woman smoking out front. The woman turns out to be her mother. Through the dynamics of their speech we can make some assumptions. When Rea says “I didn’t know you were working here.” it implies that they don’t speak very often. When her mother says “Cough drops or condoms?” so callously, we are given insight into the fact that there is no tenderness in this relationship. All pretenses are gone.  It also shows a lack of propriety, not only in her mother but in Rae’s upbringing. On a side note, the actress playing Rae’s mother is none other than Kim Richards. You may remember her from her legendary role as Gina, in Escape To Witch Mountain & Return From Witch Mountain. Mr Brewer has been a big fan, since a youngster and sought her out specifically. During the special features she talks about how hard it was on her to play this mother role. She, herself, is a mother and found it extremely difficult and unsettling to speak those words and act that part.

We flash-back to Laz as he uses his own smaller tractor to mow down Rose’s Roses. Lazaras goes to the local juke-joint to see some friends and to drink a few beer, drown out some pain. While there his brother arrives to confront him. His brother tells him that he and Rose couldn’t leave without settling things with Laz and how he had “laid it down” with Rose. This infuriates Laz. He tells him “You laid it down huh? How dare you lay it down with my wife” Not only do his words reference the implication that Deke is now Rose’s boss, but also to their sexual relationship and “laying down” together.  Laz’s brother tells him he would take a bullet for him. Where upon Laz inquires if “He really means it? We can test that right now!” Laz tells him “You took her into your bed, now you need to go lie in it.” The bartender intercedes and Laz gets up to leave. As he passes, Deke grabs Laz’s arm. There is a tussle and Laz ends up putting his brother atop a pool table, breaking a beer bottle, and threatening his life with it. Laz makes reference to the Bible and the story of two brothers, Cain and Abel. Laz tells Deke that “Cain slew Abel out of jealousy” and about how “God had put his mark upon Cain for it.” Laz then marks his brother with the blood dripping from his hand. It is an extremely powerful scene. I could start another whole series just on the interpersonal dynamics that are occurring in just this scene alone.

Percentage of men and women who admit to infidelity (emotional or physical) with a brother-in-law or sister-in-law: 17%

Percentage of men who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they’ve had: 57%

Percentage of women who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they’ve had:

54% per http://www.infidelityfacts.com/infidelity-statistics.html

This concludes Chapter 2. In pt. III I will continue my in-depth view of this movie, the issues therein, and how they may relate to those surrounding Haleigh Cummings. I hope you continue onward with me.

The movie can be purchased at: http://www.amazon.com/Black-Snake-Moan-HD-DVD/dp/B000Q6GUWU/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1259744405&sr=8-3-spell

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