It wouldn't be a Stephen King story without a little controversy. The same apparently goes for the film adaptations that give King's novels a new medium to terrify viewers while narrowly crossing the line with contentious subject material. Director Andy Muschietti didn't just take over IT to create a remake, he used the opportunity to uniquely reimagine the story involving a group of young kids facing off against a shape-shifting evil entity assuming the guise of Pennywise the Clown. Any remake or project based on a beloved book will be nitpicked to death, but one particular character's arc is being debated heavily. Is Beverly Marsh portrayed as the classic helpless female, or is she appropriately represented as the most well-rounded despite being the only girl in the group?
In reality, Beverly Marsh does something that you rarely see a female character do on the screen. As the lone female character in a movie dominated by boys, Bev took all the characteristics traditionally associated with being "male" and embodied them as her own.
Girls Aren't Supposed To Be Violent
The rest of the group suffers greatly, but the winner of worst home environment easily goes to Beverly Marsh. After dealing with her horrific home life for years in secret, Beverly finds the strength in herself to stop the abuse. Beverly defeats her own personal demon by fighting off her father after an inappropriate advance pushed her over the edge. No longer tolerating being the victim, she fights back, leaving her father bleeding out on the bathroom floor.
After Bill, Eddie, and Richie venture into the house and have their first group showdown with Pennywise, Beverly fearlessly spears the clown in the head with a metal fence rod. Her strength also manifests in the form of protecting others, like running to Mike's aid and partaking in a rock throwing fight against the sadistic Henry Bowers.
Young girls aren't typically shown acting in a physically violent way against their oppressors, especially when it comes to authoritative figures, bullies, and monsters. Girls her age are stereotypically shown to react in tears or just shutting down emotionally and accepting the situation. When it comes to Beverly she has no second thoughts about getting her hands dirty in a fight, and her fierceness makes her no less feminine.
Girls Aren't Supposed To Be The Brave One
Beverly showed her level of bravery through her "we can't run away" mentality. It became evident that she was the truly fearless one of the group very early on in the film. While Bill is also brave, he is driven less by a lack of fear than from a sense of vengeance; for Beverly, however, defeating Pennywise is something that must be done for the sake of others. From the moment Beverly joins the Losers at the quarry by being the first one to jump off the cliff, even the boys are surprised by her bravery. Even when the rest of the group is enamored with a woman in their presence, it was her courageous attitude that slowly starts to evolve the group's strength and dynamic.
When Bill asks the Losers Club who wanted to stay behind to keep watch outside of the Neibolt house instead of going inside, Beverly is the only other one to not raise her hand. Normally, boys are portrayed as the daring risk takers, but in this case it was Beverly. Bill might be the de facto leader of the Losers, but Beverly is just as deserving of the title. She's a motivator who urges the boys to face their fears and return to the sewers to get rid of Pennywise for good. In reality, she was motivating herself to face her father and defeat the threat plaguing her life long before Pennywise turned their lives into nightmares. It's exactly how women should be represented in film today. We don't need any more victims; we need fighters.
Girls Are Supposed To Conform
Besides battling off her personal demons and a evil shape-shifting clown, Beverly is the target of malicious rumors. Her classmates have been feeding the notion that Bev has been sleeping around despite still being a virgin. The verbal abuse even reaches Derry's adults in a gut-wrenching accusation from Eddie's mother regarding the false rumors involving her supposed promiscuity and a disgusting overture from the town pharmacist. "Slut" is a label that has been used as a weapon against girls forever, but Beverly is not one to let the mean-spirited words hurt her. Instead of conforming to her other people's beliefs that she is a "slut" or "loser" or letting it break her down—which we often see as traditional reactions from female characters—she continues to live her life without regard for the idiotic rumors being spread about her.
Girls Are The Ones Who Get Saved
Beverly's arc has been criticized as having a weaker third act, but this is not your typical damsel in distress story—maybe just the opposite. Beverly isn't taken to the sewers because she's the girl and therefore the weakest, she's taken because she is the strongest. She is the biggest threat to Pennywise, after all. It feeds off fear to survive, and Beverly has none. Her greatest fear has been her father; after conquering the very real monster of her life, she has no personal terror left for the entity to exploit.
The fellow Losers risk their lives to find her because they know she would be the first to volunteer to do the same. Her strength of character has rubbed off on the young group of misfits and their belief in overcoming their fear. In many ways, Beverly reverses the gender roles and does the saving. Once they realize they are not victims and no longer helpless, they expose Pennywise's weakness and send him back down the well.
Girls Can Still Be Strong While Also Compassionate
Before Beverly comes along, the boys accept their fate as losers, letting its negative connotation affect their own perception of their self-worth and capabilities. Just by noticing and conversing with "new kid" Ben, she gives him a new boost of self-esteem and then eventually goes on to bring all the Losers out of their shells, creating a sense of pride in their Loser label. Even with her tough attitude, Beverly is still represented as the nurturing type.
Bev has every reason to turn her back on the town and her classmates, every reason to become a bully herself, but instead, she has the compassion to help those in need. With everything that has happened to her, she doesn't think twice about helping others while protecting the very town that has failed her. Despite having no issue throwing down in a fight, she has a kind heart.
Ultimately, Beverly Marsh is an example of what a perfectly well-rounded female character should be. Why do we need certain traits to be gender specific? It is perfectly fine for women to be both strong mentally and physically while also being proudly feminine, something that Beverly teaches us.
Much of the credit for the portrayal of Bev's character arc goes to the profound performance by newcomer Sophia Lillis. The young actress took on a complicated and dynamic role and delivered like a seasoned pro. IT: Chapter 2 will bring #AndyMuschietti back to direct and is rumored to incorporate the kids in flashbacks while also focusing on the reunion of the Losers as they come back to Derry 27 years later for Pennywise's return. We will be eager to see how she tackles the character of Beverly a second time around. Here's hoping that Muschietti continues to do the character justice by giving her a strong and meaningful arc.
It is currently in theaters with the sequel slated for September 6, 2019.
What are your thoughts on Beverly Marsh's character arc in the remake of It? Tell us in the comments below!