Pearl is a gorgeous, technicolor daydream of a lonely, unloved girl who desperately wants to be a star so she can be loved by the entire world. She’s also aware that something is deeply wrong with her; Pearl enjoys murder-first animals and then graduating to people who reject her in some way. The first person she ever kills is her mother, who lacks basic love for her daughter-she drives Pearl hard, probably meaning well but truly never giving her a place of safety that felt like home. Her father is wheelchair-bound, unable to move or speak; Pearl often shoulders the burden of keeping him alive after he contracts influenza. This pandemic in 1918 is simply a reflection of our world today: attention-starved people vying to be stars online without any real talent, just the hard wish–however, this is a side issue though a saddening one through the eyes of Pearl. This is the story of a girl who feels much too deeply the abandonment of her husband, the rejection of her mother, and that people draw away from her when they know who she really is inside. Pearl may be a sociopath, but it seems to be a reaction to gain control over the well inside her bubbling up, taking her over the edge from a harsh existence telling her she isn’t good or lovable enough. Pearl is living through her own isolation in the middle of a pandemic and trapped by the ties that bind her to other people-her desires are pushed aside.
Something I loved about X (2022) (Pearl is the prequel to X) was that the women lived their lives how they wanted to without societal values restraining them. They were free. At the time that I saw X, I was constrained similarly to 1918 Pearl, though I didn’t understand that yet (the movie hadn’t been released yet). X pushed me forward when I was afraid to put myself/my writing into the world, in a job I hated where I spent most of my time. Eventually, I decided I’d had enough and within two days, I had a new, better job that was more suited to me. People told me I had talent, though I’ve also had people pass on my work in higher echelons.
Pearl (2022) reminded me that what I had experienced was unfair and harsh: my husband is in prison and I am living in a place I never wanted to go back to because of money constraints. I can’t go to where he is because it’s too expensive to live in that state. I may not be Mrs. Murder Mayhem (thankfully) nor do I wish truly to be a star, though everyone wants recognition and to be able to do what they’re passionate about. I am murderous with my words and have been known to be destructive when I’m hurt. In my own Nowhere Farm, I’ve been able to write about, podcast about, be showcased about the things that I care about: demons, folklore, and horror movies. I also have sites that I want to submit to that are just out of my reach and in some ways, my career isn’t moving forward the way I would like. We all have a measure of ambition and just like Pearl, I have a serious lack of patience.
Maybe people sometimes hinge their desires too much on others, but sometimes, other people can truly help us change our circumstances. It fucking hurts when you try your hardest and are told you aren’t good enough (the horror world definitely told me that). Pearl didn’t have it in her to dust herself off, not murder anyone, and then try again. I didn’t either-not for a good eight months after I got out of grad school (the dusting off, not the murder). I felt very estranged from the community that I felt I should’ve been welcomed in with academia; they didn’t seem to value my creativity. Academia isn’t for everyone; after realizing that, I left, but I had worked very hard only to feel like I didn’t belong. I felt that my writing/my ideas weren’t good enough and that no one cared what I thought. Luckily, I found acceptance in the paranormal community and that healed those wounds for me. (Also, something I noticed watching the movie again is the vibrant use of the color red; it seems to signify those moments in Pearl’s life where her madness reaches a fever pitch.)
Can I even truly be angry about my husband? I chose my Howard, my good man, knowing where he was and why he was there (he did something stupid and dangerous in his youth). I didn’t fully understand my own agony until I saw it in another onscreen: the unfairness, the abandonment, the destructive rage of waiting for your life to begin. I can understand all her reasoning aside from the murder-she really needs to stop killing in general, but Pearl is a girl who needs help at a time in history when she especially can’t get it. In Howard, her madness is allowed to flourish because when he comes home and sees her dead parents propped up on display, it is clear he simply cleaned up her mess and continued to love her despite her sociopathy. He even descends into her level of crazy by helping find people to fulfill her desires once he cannot by 1979. Pearl explains this as an old woman in X: “there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for me back then-that’s the power of beauty”. She explains it as her beauty being a form of manipulation and without it, she is powerless and desirous of Maxine’s youth. To me, it’s not beauty but love that can be a form of manipulative madness-it sweeps us up and causes us to do insane things. I married a I couldn’t truly be with. Pearl took sharp things then went stab-wild, and Howard didn’t have her arrested. He protected her instead.
Pearl is a young woman I’m sad for, but I wept for the girl I was. I wept for anyone who feels unloved by the world, who becomes loved by their person only to lose them in some way. For the people whose dreams are unrealized, unnoticed, and pushed aside. Maybe it was poking fun at the pandemic-induced wannabe stars obsessed with themselves, but the point of the film felt like it was to round out Pearl so that we might evaluate her as something other than horny granny with murder in her veins. Her obsession with Maxine Minx comes into focus; she gets really weird really quick about that in X. These villainous characters, crazy as they are, are people and sometimes, it really sucks to be a human being. Circumstances can twist people into something they shouldn’t have ever become. In the end, it comes down to: don’t murder people or animals. Get help for mental illness. Don’t let yourself become dark and corrupted because you didn’t chase your dreams or live the life you wanted. Do you know what happens to a dream deferred? It rots, then becomes poison inside us. Also, Mia Goth needs an Oscar stat for her monologue that could break anyone’s heart.