Social/economic factors; red herrings Social and economic factors

Why consider socio-economic factors?

[sb,jp] Superficially, the girls appeared to exist completely in their own little world. However, closer inspection of "Heavenly Creatures" reveals plenty of evidence that the girls took careful notice of their environment. Hence, their relationship may also have been motivated in part by environmental factors, or at least fueled by them, and not simply by 'internal' factors.

Where can I read more about this aspect?

[jp] A central thesis in Glamuzina and Laurie's analysis of the case is that socio-economic factors played a big role in the case, though not as large as personal conditions within the households. For a brief treatment, see their short article quoted in section 7.8.2. For a more extensive discussion, see their book, described in section 7.7.6. [jp]

Were family conditions much the same then as now?

[maw] Many families were much harsher on children in the 50s than is the case now and attitudes were different. Discipline was emphasized and open affection was probably much less common, as a rule. In my family, my parents were very prudish, especially my mother, and I wouldn't say that my father (a scientist) was particularly or openly kind to us kids but, rather, he was very distant and never emotional. I was never praised if I did well and the minor mistakes anyone makes were always emphasised as needing to be improved. Good performance at school was always stressed. I was so happy one year when my CGHS school report was lost in the mail (delivered on a very wet, windy day, but found months later near an irrigation ditch at the front of our property). I didn't get into the trouble I was expecting, especially from my father!

How would being an 'outsider' have affected Pauline?

[maw] It probably meant she had one or, maybe, two close friends and she would have lived with the fact that making new ones was not going to be easy and, perhaps, not worth the effort.

What was unattractive about Pauline's life?

[sb,jp] To Pauline, almost everything about her own life was unattractive. The social situation of her parents was a cause for acute embarrassment on more than one occasion in "Heavenly Creatures." She hated the poverty that forced her family to take in boarders. She clearly grew to hold her mother in contempt because Honora had run away from home with her father, because she was 'stupid' and seemed to be a dull, plodding kind of a woman and because her mother eventually forced Pauline to contribute financially to the family. Most of Pauline's criticisms of her family and her mother in particular revolved around class, status and money. Pauline eventually summed these feelings up in her phrase "I loathed Mother" and her reasons: "Because she nags me."

Juliet didn't help matters. Clearly, she shared many of Pauline's attitudes about the Riepers, all the more evident because of her politeness when she was at the Riepers' house. The scene where Juliet first comes over for tea is a splendid study of class distinction, and holds many clues about the girls' attitudes to Pauline's lot in life. On the day of the murder Juliet opines: "Your mother is sort of a miserable woman."

What was attractive about Pauline's life?

[sb,jp] About the only attractive thing in Pauline's life, to Juliet, was the aspect of 'family.' Once she got acclimatized to the Riepers, we see that Juliet actually became quite comfortable in the Rieper home, the few times she went there.

Of course, that might have been upper-class arrogance, too. It didn't really matter what the little people thought once it had been determined that they had no power.

What was attractive about Juliet's life?

[sb,jp] To Pauline, Juliet's life looked extremely attractive. First, there were the obvious material benefits--the beautiful home and gardens, the car, the many possessions (contrast the way Pauline treated her one, precious Mario Lanza recording and Juliet's casual spreading of all of hers on the floor). Second, there was the air of intellect that permeated the Hulme household. These were cultured, refined people, who respected and encouraged scholarship, imagination and things cerebral. Pauline was obviously a very bright girl, and she would have shared instinctively many of the sensibilities and passions of the Hulmes. And the Hulmes, in turn, would have encouraged her because of their social mores. Remember, Pauline was always a guest in the Hulme's home, so would have been treated accordingly, especially in the beginning of the friendship.

Juliet took many of the material aspects of her life for granted, but that doesn't mean she didn't value them. Her parents indulged her shamefully, in fact--we know she had a horse, an extensive and lavish 'fantasy' wardrobe, and all the accessories of a well-off teenager.

Finally, both girls shared an intense devotion to Dr Hulme, who personified for them everything that was best about Juliet's world. Pauline, especially, admired him greatly because of his cool intellect, his even temper and his thoroughly British attribute of grace under fire.

Does Pauline actually take notice of these factors?

[jp] Absolutely. Jackson makes this point over and over again: on Pauline's first stunned viewing of Ilam, the way she stands timidly in the doorway on her first visit, the way she observes and imitates Hilda Hulme's mannerisms and manners at the dinner table (the one with real crystal, and good china, and silver cutlery, and candelabras and...).

What was unattractive about Juliet's life?

[sb,jp,lfr] To Juliet, many things. But she dealt with these things by ignoring them, or by flights of fancy to take her away from ugly reality. The most obviously painful thing for Juliet was the constant threat of separation from her family and their world. So Juliet did not find the material aspects of her life unattractive, just some of the emotional ones.

Juliet came to feel very threatened by anything which was destabilizing, and she was decidedly hostile to people who threatened to break up the ideal vision of family to which she clung so desperately. This included Bill Perry, of course, and her mother, eventually, though we see a reconciliation in the end. Juliet seemed to have no particular feelings toward her brother; he was a pesky annoyance, as younger brothers can be.

To Pauline, there was nothing unattractive about Juliet's life. Pauline empathized with Juliet concerning the things which upset the smooth flow of life in the Hulme household, but just look at her eyes whenever she was at Ilam. This was what Pauline wanted more than anything in the world--to be a part of this world. To "travel to Italy and dozens of other places..." "Red Herrings" - misleading clues

Is there a misleading 'example' of a lesbian in the film?

[jp,mc] The girls' gym teacher conformed to all the classic stereotypes that society would have held at the time for a lesbian, including her build, bearing, appearance, manner and occupation. The girls in the school, if they took note, might well have speculated about the gym teacher's sex life. Modern eyes certainly note these clues planted by Jackson.

The gym teacher is probably a deliberate "red herring." This one points a finger (or fin) at an 'obvious' lesbian as if to say 'if you are going to look for lesbians in this film then they are clearly going to look like this woman because this is what a lesbian looks like, right?' The girls bore little resemblance to the gym teacher so, by inference, they cannot have been lesbians, according to the logic of this red herring.

Is Pauline's name used as a red herring?

[jp] Probably. The familiar contraction she preferred was the decidedly masculine 'Paul.' Mrs. Hulme pronounced it with just the right preceding pause and raised eyebrow, when first introduced to Pauline, to indicate that she noted its suspicious masculinity. 'Paul' clearly preferred it to her full name and to her safely-feminine 'family' name, Yvonne. Even her schoolmates called her 'Paul,' when they weren't ignoring her.

Didn't Pauline pretend to be Charles?

[jp] Yes, in several scenes, including Diello's birth scene. She also wrote love letters to Deborah, as Charles. And Charles was, of course, a man.

But given the lighthearted tone of the scenes where Pauline pretends to be Charles, Jackson probably intends those scenes to be red herrings, not really proving that Pauline was a lesbian but simply illustrating the rich imaginations of the girls. And Pauline did not assume the identity of Charles in her own Borovnian visions, but the identity of the very feminine and heterosexual Gina.

Similarly, Pauline's letter writing is also portrayed, initially, as just a "brilliant idea" to cheer up Juliet. Jackson seems to interpret Pauline's adopting the pen-name of Charles to be insignificant, in terms of her sexual orientation, and he offers this as a red herring, too.

Didn't Pauline pretend to be Lancelot Trelawney?

[jp] Yes. But this was a very light-hearted scene.

What other 'masculine' traits were given to Pauline?

[jp] Other vintage-'54 'Pauline was masculine' red herrings: We are told Pauline liked woodworking. We never see her engaged voluntarily in 'feminine' pursuit of the culinary arts, and all of her activity in the kitchen was reluctant and cursory, her housework begrudging. She was a sloppy, dowdy, 'unfeminine' dresser, especially in her school uniform. The bloody carnage in her art work at school--hacked limbs, severed heads, death and mayhem--is more consistent with the art of an adolescent boy. She read "Biggles" war stories beloved of generations of British- Empire schoolboys, and pretended to be a fighter pilot.

What about Pauline's 'diagnosis' by Dr Bennett?

[jp] Dr Bennett's interrogation was ludicrously superficial: "Do you... like ... girls, Pauline?" "No." "Why not?" "They're silly." "But Juliet's not silly, is she?" "...No!...".

His diagnosis of "h-h-homo-sexuality" in Pauline can probably be taken to be a red herring. Jackson is being facetious here, letting us see how simplistic even 'learned' opinion was at the time. Indirectly, for the benefit of the aficionado (and if you are reading this, you are one...), he is also planting doubts about the accuracy and usefulness of the copious psychological testimony which took up more than half of the real-life trial.

Are there any 'Pauline is heterosexual' red herrings?

[jp] Yes. The most obvious one is the way Pauline's parents reacted to John-the-boarder. They assumed that Pauline was hopping wantonly into bed with him behind their backs, ergo she was obviously heterosexual.

The second one, on the surface of it, was the way Pauline rushed back into John's bed. Both Mr. Rieper and John would have stated that Pauline was a 'normal,' albeit lusty, girl. Her reasons may have been more complicated than this, however.

Are there any red herrings for Juliet?

[jp] Juliet also painted violent scenes. She, too, read "Biggles" books and pretended to be a fighter pilot. And there were the love letters she wrote, as Deborah, back to Pauline, of course.

On the surface of her letters, they would obviously point to Juliet being the lesbian lover of Pauline. Too simple.

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