Beverly Marsh is the strongest character in IT: Chapter One. Always the first to dive into danger, Beverly regularly saves her fellow Losers with a perfectly aimed rock throw or a well-timed thrust of a steel rod, constantly pushing back the dark forces of Derry.
Beverly's strength is particularly impressive when you consider her origins. Bullied by her peers and abused by her father, Beverly could have easily embodied the role of victim here, one who hides behind the masculinity of the Losers' Club. However, Sophia Lillis lights a fire within her portrayal of Beverly, trying her best to veer the character away from such negative labels, and this is why it's so disappointing to see IT fail Beverly so utterly in many other ways.
Much like the abusive and evil forces that surround Beverly, the movie itself also seems determined to crush her potential. Sure, Andrés Muschietti avoided the controversial sex scene where she becomes the focus of a sewer-based gang-bang, but the director found plenty of other ways to define Beverly purely in terms of her sexuality.
When we meet Beverly, the first thing we learn is that she's been labelled as a slut by her fellow students, a vicious rumor that we later discover has even reached the ears of Derry's adult population too. Despite the fact that this accusation is entirely unfounded, Beverly soon learns to take advantage of this reputation by flirting with the pharmacist, thereby helping the Losers to steal the medication that they need.
Honorable intentions aside, this scene paints Beverly in a rather uncomfortable light. Yes, it can be argued that it's rather empowering to see Beverly take control of her burgeoning sexuality, particularly as later scenes in the bathroom portray this as the thing she fears most, but isn't this also rather exploitative? And why is no one talking about the rather alarming connotations of this under-age interaction?
Beverly's Act Of Defiance
Of course, it's easy to see why Beverly has learned to use her sexuality as a weapon. After all, the looming threat of sexual violence pervades every aspect of her life at home. When she's not sparring with the likes of Henry Bowers and Pennywise, the poor girl is trapped at home with a real-life monster who abuses his power over Beverly in disturbingly realistic ways.
Because of this, the scene where Beverly fights back against Al Marsh and emerges victorious is particularly empowering. Despite his superior strength, Beverly successfully uses her cunning and wiles to stop her father's violent advances, something that helps position her as the strongest character of all.
However, Al Marsh isn't the only one who reduces Beverly to a collection of nubile body parts. In the scene where the Losers' Club dive into the water together, both the boys and the camera itself gawp at her 14-year-old frame, taking their time to soak in the flesh that's on display. Of course, this is a rather accurate portrayal of how teenage boys would genuinely act in this situation and yes, they too are semi-naked, but Muschietti never objectifies the likes of Bill and Richie in the same way. Beverly is fearless in this moment, diving first into the water without caring what the boys think of her body, but the camera undermines this, still objectifying her through the male gaze.
If this undermines Beverly's strength somewhat, then the final act of the film robs her of it completely in both a literal and symbolic sense. Despite proving herself to be a worthy foe for #Pennywise, the screenwriters deviate from the book in the final confrontation, relegating Beverly to nothing more than a damsel in distress. Held captive in Pennywise's lair, Beverly becomes the reason why the Losers' Club must venture under Derry and become her cavalry, despite proving herself to be stronger than the boys up to this moment.
As if that weren't depressing enough, Muschietti's adaptation of IT also plunders outdated fairytale tropes in its conclusion, saving Beverly from the deadlights with a kiss of true love. Both cringey and unnecessary, this archaic scripting choice feels entirely out of place in the movie, further disrespecting Beverly's character by reducing her to a mere damsel in distress. What was the point of allowing Beverly to finally break free of her father's sexual abuse if she was simply going to be subjected to another non-consensual advance a few scenes later? Of course, Ben's intentions are far nobler than those of Al Marsh, but there's still something rather disconcerting about Beverly being saved by a kiss she never consented to.
Fortunately, IT ends on a far more positive note for Beverly. After the Losers take their blood pledge, she and Bill share a genuine kiss, one that's driven by real affection between them both. After all of the abuse and horror that Beverly has endured, the poor girl finally enjoys a moment of actual love that's pure and innocent. Considering everything that's come before, this act of salvation is well deserved and hints that Beverly Marsh may finally receive the treatment that she's entitled to when the story of #IT continues in Chapter 2. Of course, there's also the matter of her abusive husband from #StephenKing's book to consider...
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