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By Jane Gilgun
Summary True Grit is about the satisfactions of revenge. Revenge is sweeter than sex. This review analyzes the violence of the movie. The main characters, Rooster Cockburn and 14 year-old Mattie Ross, have it both ways, with a twist. Mattie is hurt and outraged by her father’s murder. Rooster is an avenging, imperfect angel. They have their revenge, all right, but both pay a huge price. The only character in the movie who has true true grit is Mattie’s horse, Blackie, who in the end, sacrifices himself to save Mattie. About the Author Jane F. Gilgun, Ph.D., LICSW, is a University professor and researcher who has interviewed violent men for more than 25 years. She plans to spend much of the next 25 years talking about violence and its savage contradictions. Professor Gilgun has many publications on violence available on scribd.com, Amazon Kindle, iBooks, and other on-‐line booksellers. She also writes children’s stories, articles, and books on a variety of other topics, such as resilience, child development, and qualitative research.
Revenge is Sweeter than Sex: A Review of the Coen Brothers’ Movie, True Grit
e want it both ways. We love violence. The thrills and chills of righting a wrong and of seeing justice reign are gratifying. Snuff the bad guys out. Tear them limb from limb. Throw them to the lions and jackals. It’s only right. Some people deserve it. We hate violence. We hurt when we are targets of violence, when people we care about are targets, and when our enemies use violence in political causes. Kill those who use violence against us. It’s only right. Some people deserve it. Individuals and the societies they create believe so deeply in violence that violence will never change. A case in point is True Grit, the Coen brothers’ movie where the main characters have it both ways, with a final twist. True Grit is a 2010 remake of an old movie, remade, I suppose because of its timeless message. The message is revenge. The twist to the movie is the punishment that visits itself upon the avengers. . Plot Summary After a hard chase through rough Western country in the winter, Mattie Ross finally finds and shoots her father’s murderer. The murder is particularly heinous because the father was trying to help the murderer. Mattie’s shot to the chest is so powerful that the man is propelled off a cliff. His name is Cheney. Not only does a 14 year-‐old girl kill the murderer of the good father, but he falls to the earth in a heap of broken bones. How satisfying. In the meantime, her sidekick, Rooster Cockburn kills the other murderers who were Cheney’s companion. More satisfaction. The world is in balance once again. But wait, there’s more. The kick of the carbine that Mattie uses to kill Cheney is so powerful that Mattie is propelled backwards, right into a pit full of rattlesnakes. A snake bites her left hand. Rooster comes to the rescue, shoots the snakes, and carries Mattie to safety. Mattie loses her left arm up to her elbow because of the rattler bite. We see her 25 years later, dressed in black, a spinster, with a left arm that ends at her elbow. Mattie is searching for Rooster after all of that time. Oh, no, Rooster died a few days before. Denied the satisfaction of seeing her savior, the middle-‐aged Mattie has his body exhumed and brought to her family’s plot. The last
scene is of Mattie standing at Rooster’s grave stone, then walking off against the huge Western sky, her missing limb there for all to see. An Analysis The movie gives violence to us both ways. We have the satisfaction of seeing bad guys snuffed out in exciting scenes. Rooster gallops toward four bad guys with guns ablazing, for example. Now that is true grit. Mattie pushes her beautiful black horse to swim across a wild and deep river to join up with Rooster on the hunt for Cheney. The grit here is the horse’s. The black horse is the only character in the movie with a pure heart. The horse hurts no one and helps Mattie reach her goals. He dies carrying her and Rooster back to civilization for medical care. The horse has real true grit. The death of the horse hurts. It’s also contrived and manipulative. With true grit, Rooster shoots the horse in the head as the horse lies on the ground panting for his last breath after hours of carrying Mattie and Rooster across the frozen terrain toward medical help. This movie shows we want it both ways. We get it, too. Mattie had her revenge. Rooster kills bad guys. Sadly, they pay a price. Mattie loses her arm. Rooster dies before he can see Mattie. Mattie doesn’t get to see Rooster one last time. The death of the horses shows that even virtue goes unrewarded. The Moral of the Tale The moral of the tale gets to the heart of things. Revenge is sweet, but you still pay. Mattie and Rooster are the good guys. They had the satisfaction of revenge. They murdered people who murdered people. Moviegoers share the sweet and deep satisfaction of revenge. They felt sad because Mattie lost her left arm and Mattie and Rooster never got to see each other again after they satisfied vengeful quest. Revenge and retribution are sweeter than sex. . The Coen brothers may believe they have a vision that is moral. After all, Mattie and Rooster paid a price for their violence. This moral vision may be a step closer to a rethinking of vengeance. Yes, the Coens want it both ways. They exploit violence to attract attention to their movies. They also show the price of violence. In the end, revenge through violence reigns supreme, even when it exacts a price. Revenge is a pearl of great price. References Gilgun, Jane F. (2010). Reflections on more than 20 years of research on violence. Reflections: Narratives of Professional Helping, 16(4), 50-59. Gilgun, Jane F. (2010). Methods for enhancing theory and knowledge about problems, policies, and practice. In Katherine Briar, Joan Orme, Roy Ruckdeschel, & Ian Shaw, The Sage handbook of social work research (pp. 281-297). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Gilgun, Jane F. (2010). Child Sexual Abuse: From Harsh Realities to Hope (2nd ed.). http://www.scribd.com/doc/16484981/Child-Sexual-Abuse-From-Harsh-Realities-to-Hope Gilgun, Jane F. (2010). Children with Serious Conduct Issues. http://www.scribd.com/doc/28821898/Children-with-Serious-Conduct-Issues Gilgun, Jane F. (2010). Reflections on more than 20 years of research on violence. Reflections: Narratives of Professional Helping, 16(4), 50-59. Gilgun, Jane F. (2008). Lived experience, reflexivity, and research on perpetrators of interpersonal violence. Qualitative Social Work, 7(2), 181-197.