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Sweetie's Secret Redux

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To the editors:

I have recently read a review of the movie, Sweetie, written by a male, that makes no attempt to ponder the reason for the insanity of Dawn, also known as Sweetie. This name, Sweetie, is a name given to her by her father, a man I would nickname, Sickie.

I have spoken with numerous women who have seen this movie. We have all noticed and talked about the same thing--incest. Dawn uses her madness as a way to cope with the sexual abuse of her father. When a child's reality becomes too unbearable, it is not unusual to exhibit such behavior as Dawn's.

There are some very disturbing issues raised by this movie, which is further amplified by the straight male press not seeing the issue of incest in the movie. Even though Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Reader has claimed to have seen this film three times, he does not question the reason for Dawn's behavior [March 30]. He cops out. He blames the victim, Dawn, for her bizarre behavior.

I think there are some very basic questions to ask about this movie. Rarely does a movie contain such rich character development. We receive major insights into virtually all the characters, except for Bob. There are numerous family scenes that show how each member of the family interacts with each other.

In probing the dysfunctional family presented here, I think it is important to focus on the father and his behavior. While Dawn blatantly manifests her behavior, the father, Gordon, is the more elusive one of the family. We see him lying on Sweetie's childhood bed as if in a trance. He travels all the way to the bush with Kay and Louis, (Dawn's sister and her boyfriend), to visit his estranged wife, and then he leaves in a huff immediately upon arrival. He tricks Dawn so she does not go on the trip, but he is supposed to be the only one who can handle her?

What seems to constantly be put on Dawn's insanity, is in reality the work of the sick father. Why is Sweetie's throne so large? (We see Gordon sitting in it.) Why is the treehouse, Sweetie's treehouse, and not both of the sisters? (They both appear close in age.) What would really happen in the treehouse when Dawn was a young girl?

While there can be many interpretations of the roots and the family, and twisted roots and twisted families, I also see another aspect of the tree imagery in the movie. Kay's seemingly abnormal behavior of uprooting the tree sapling planted by her boyfriend is not motivated by a fear of trees. I believe it was the fear of a treehouse that a father can make for his daughter. If you can imagine her thought process of "What if we get married and we have a child, and what if the man I now love, though he seems gentle and sensitive, what if he starts to do to my child what my father did to . . . . ?????" That word that is never mentioned in the movie but is screaming without sound to be recognized? INCEST.

So sisters and brothers, I recommend that you see this movie, that you talk about it, and that you say the word. Yes there are many facets about this movie to be discussed, and often a reviewer has some space limitations. Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Reader uses such an excuse in his reply to a letter from another woman who saw the movie [May 4 and 25], and she wondered why did he not mention incest. However, I think three pages do leave enough room to mention it, and not only do I wonder why Jonathan did not, I am outraged that he did not.

We need to keep breaking the silences of our lives. We need to say the words.

Cynthia White

N. Marshfield

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