Stephen King’s Blockbuster It and America’s Abortion Trauma
“The artist … one who allows art to realize its purposes through him … a vehicle and molder of the unconscious psychic life of mankind.”
—Psychiatrist Carl Jung, Psychology and Literature, 1930
A new screen adaptation of Stephen King’s classic 1986 novel It was just released in theaters. It was a record-setting debut for a September film, grossing an estimated $123.1 million.
King’s story explores the small New England town of Derry and a group of geeky adolescents called The Losers. As the story unfolds, they encounter vicious bullies and disappearing classmates.
Something dark and mysterious is happening in the town of Derry. The murder rate in Derry is six times that of any other town of comparable size in New England. Children disappear at a rate of forty to sixty per year. Their bodies never turn up. One member of the Losers, Mike Hanlon, says the town is in a state of mass denial about this disturbing phenomenon: “In Derry, people have a way of looking the other way.”
Something Dark and Mysterious
In the opening sequence of the movie, a young boy named Georgie tries to retrieve his toy boat. It had floated down a storm drain. King’s book describes Georgie’s encounter with a clown named Pennywise. He lurks beneath the surface of the storm drain:
“Want your boat, Georgie?’ Pennywise asked … he held it up, smiling.
‘Yes, sure,’ George said, looking into the storm drain. … Georgie reached. The clown seized his arm. And George saw the clown’s face change.”
Dave hears the desperate screams of Georgie: “Dave Gardener was the first to get there. … Blood flowed into the storm drain from the tattered hole where [Georgie’s] left arm had been. A knob of bone, horribly bright, peeked through the torn cloth.”
A mangled arm is all that is left of little Georgie.
Months later after Georgie’s disappearance, his brother Bill is driven to find the boy’s missing body. Bill leads his friends Ritchie, Eddie, and Stan into trouble as they search the sewers for some sign of the boy.
The children learn of a demonic clown with razor-like teeth which they name “It.” The creature lives in the sewers beneath the town. The clown periodically surfaces to visit children in different monstrous forms tailored to their personal fears.
Missing Fathers and Missing Children
It author Stephen’s King’s biography reveals childhood trauma and the loss of his father. That loss left the young boy tortured by anxiety and phobias. Writing became a creative outlet for his emotional pain. King skillfully wove that into his tales of horror, science fiction and fantasy.
As psychiatrist Carl Jung suggests, a gifted story teller like King, who experienced a daily and intensive compulsion to write, can also connect to those dark currents submerged in a community and culture.
Like the clown Pennywise lurking beneath the sewers, there are sinister forces and events that the adults and society fail to recognize, or aggressively deny. As Mike Hanlon said of the town of Derry, “people have a way of looking the other way.”
What seismic event was unfolding across the small towns and big cities of the United States in the years leading up to King’s 1986 novel It? The national abortion rate was rising. In towns and cities across the U.S., millions of children were missing:
Abortion crossed the 1.5 million a year mark for the first time in 1980 with 1,553,900 … and the high for the decade of 1,590,800 reported in 1988. … The U.S. abortion ratio reached its peak in 1984, with a figure of 364 abortions for every thousand live births. [my emphasis]
One of the Losers, Bill, asks his friends after Georgie’s attack: “What happens when another Georgie goes missing? Are we just going to pretend it didn’t happen, like everyone else in this town?”
We often fail to acknowledge that children born since 1973 are “abortion survivors.” Some have expressed an intuitive sense that children in their families and communities were missing.
Psychiatrist Dr Philip Ney has studied and treated children and adults who learned at some point in their lives that their sibling or half-sibling was aborted. Author Janet Morana shares:
Dr. Philip Ney tells a story of a woman who came to him for counseling for her six-year-old child who was having nightmares, wetting the bed, and suffering from separation anxiety. Dr. Ney, in his interview with the mother, asked her about any pregnancy losses. She told him about two abortions that she had prior to giving birth to this child. Then in a separate interview with the child, Dr. Ney asked the child to draw a picture of her family. She was an only child, and yet she drew a picture with her mom, dad, brother, sister, and herself. She had a sense of the missing siblings.
Pennywise the Abortionist
Think of the razor-like teeth of Pennywise the clown tearing off the arm of little Georgie. That’s a powerful metaphor for the actions of an abortionist, especially in later term procedures. Former abortionist Dr Anthony Levatino describes a D&E abortion:
[I]n a D&E procedure you must use a grasping clamp … there’s rows of teeth … When this gets a hold of something it does not let go … grabbing at parts of the baby, and then getting a hold and pulling, and you really pull … all of a sudden you pull out an arm or a leg that big, and put it down on the table next to you.
Media can keep us perpetually distracted. There has been a conspiracy of silence about the disappearance of close to 60 million children missing since abortion was legalized in 1973.
Our collective denial of this national tragedy robs us of the chance to repent, grieve and heal from the loss. To mourn our fellow children, grandchildren, brothers and sisters, and nieces and nephews.
It brings to mind Bill’s reaction to the missing, dismembered and murdered children in their town of Derry: “Are we just going to pretend it didn’t happen?”