A different kind of movie review: Domestic violence in Water for Elephants

23 Jun

I went to see Water for Elephants when it was in theaters knowing nothing about the story. I enjoyed the movie’s premise, it’s cinematic stuff (as much as the next average movie-goer), and the 1930’s era elements. Even Robert Pattinson was bearable – dare I say likable. Compared to August, Jacob was a downright hero and you hoped he’d get the girl. I realized as the movie progressed that not only was August a perpetrator of domestic violence, but that his behavior and personality were textbook batterer. Everything about him was right on track.

  1. August married Marlena, who was a young and abused girl. The more vulnerable someone is (because of their age, past abuse, home life, living situation, etc.), the more likely it is for them to be targeted and then victimized.
  2. Marlena tried to excuse August’s temper, controlling behavior, and physical domination over her by his consumption of alcohol. Although it is common for perpetrators of domestic violence to abuse alcohol, it is not the cause or reason for their abusing.
  3. August abused the circus animals, which he knew were dear to Marlena’s heart. Abusing animals for the purpose of intimidation and cruelty to their wife, girlfriend or partner is a tactic of abusers.
  4. Although August correctly suspected Marlena and Jacob of having an affair, it’s not much to assume that August didn’t also falsely accuse Marlena of other affairs. To me she acted like his accusations were familiar. Often, abusers will fabricate stories of infidelity just to have a reason to yell at, berate, and name-call their partner.
  5. In the end, August tries to kill Marlena. Domestic violence homicide does happen – there were 543 of them in the United States in 2009. Sometimes the lethality of an abusive relationship comes into question when other factors are in play, like they were with August:
  • the abuser is assaultive during sex
  • weapons are present
  • the abuser starts letting others see his abusive tendencies, rather than keeping it in the home
  • the victim has begun a new relationship
  • the perpetrator abuses the victim while intoxicated
  • the abuser is depressed
  • the abuser is preoccupied or obsessed with the victim
  • the abuser has a history of assaultive behavior against others

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