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  • Grace Wayne

The Virgin Suicides: Boys Watching Girls, Men Watching Women

This article contains spoilers

The year is 1999. Sophia Coppola has just released her debut film, ‘The Virgin Suicides’. A film that would linger in the minds of many young women for years to come. The beautiful film depicts an element of womanhood that many have tried and failed to replicate: to be a woman is to live a life under constant observation.

Despite focusing on the girls, this film isn’t about the Lisbon sisters. It’s about the boys that watch them and their perceived version of them. Whenever I think of this film, I think of the famous Margaret Atwood quote: ‘You are a woman with a man inside watching a woman.’ The girls are unknowing performers in a play they want no part in. Despite living under the constant surveillance of their parents, the boys still find a way to watch them. Glances through windows, stolen artefacts, brief encounters. They aren’t even afforded privacy in death. As the four main men grow into adults they cannot let them go, desperate to understand who they were; why they did what they did. A large part of the narrative revolves around testimonies from other unreliable men.

Arguably, Trip Fontaine is the most unreliable - and important - of them all. However, he is introduced as someone to be trusted: the boys take his stories as gospel, hanging on his every word (as do the viewers). He sets their relationship up as something special. Their story begins like many other fictional relationships. Love at first sight. Trip hides in a random classroom to avoid getting caught skipping class. A lucky coincidence. This is where he lays eyes on Lux, glistening and beautiful. She notes his presence, smiles, and immediately turns away. He is instantly infatuated by her beauty. This infatuation is only worsened by her dismissive nature. She is the first girl to not pay attention to him. His attraction comes from her unattainability.

In the novel, Trip’s perspective is further explained. Lux dresses in baggy clothes: her style is dictated by her mother (controlling and overprotective). He is enticed by this conservative clothing, sexualising something purposefully non-sexual: ‘Trip spent his days wandering the halls, hoping for Lux to appear, the most naked person with clothes on he had ever seen. Even in sensible school shoes, she shuffled as though barefoot, and the baggy apparel Mrs. Lisbon bought for her only increased her appeal.’

He is fixated on her, desperate to have her (the emphasis being on have). He appears to be uncontrollably infatuated - it is endearing for a while. Just a lovesick teenager. So when his continued efforts start to pay off, we are excited. We root for them, root for Lux to have something good. Things were so nice for a while. He convinces Mr. Lisbon to let him and some other football players take the girls to the prom. This seems like a happy resolution to previous issues set up. The girls finally have some freedom, time outside of the house with people that aren’t each other. It was the perfect night. Trip and Lux win King and Queen. The night ends with the pair sneaking away into the night and having sex on the football field.

Then things take a turn for the worst... Trip left her there on that field, abandoning Lux to deal with the consequences of staying out all night. He was aware of her parents nature but he no longer cared. After they slept together his perspective of her had changed. She was no longer an idea or something to pursue. He now viewed her as a person. He believed he put the pieces of her together and now she was uninteresting. This is only emphasised by adult Trip’s claims of love. In death, she has become a mystery again. Someone that only exists in his mind, forever unattainable. Ultimately, he was more interested in the pursuit than the person. This is reflective of all of the men in the film. They have spent their lives trying to piece together the girls. It is an obsession. But the film suggests that they are incapable of ever understanding the sisters - and that if they got the answers they so desperately seek, they would never be satisfied.


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