By Rachel Shaw, Collage by Kathryn
Movies with no distinct answers can be frustrating. Often, it can cause complete confusion regarding movies that might simply need more delving into. After seeing Rebecca Thomas’ Electrick Children, I immediately wanted to know more about the film. I thought there was something I was missing. The movie tells the story of a 15 year old girl named Rachel who goes to Las Vegas to escape a Mormon traditionalist group after being impregnated, as she believes, by music. By the end of the film, Rachel, her brother Mr. Will, and their friend Clyde have had many adventures, but the film never reveals how and by whom Rachel was impregnated. While in the process of Googling “electrick children”, I noticed that the second most common search was “electrick children who got rachel pregnant”. I think it’s a really common question to ask, especially in a movie that, other than Rachel’s presumed immaculate conception, is fairly relatable and realistic. This caused me to look to the genre of magical realism to better understand and analyze the film and the purpose of Rachel’s pregnancy.
I will admit, after seeing the common Google search asking who got Rachel pregnant, I preceded to look around for answers. The most common theory I came across was that Rachel’s father had actually raped her and impregnated her, perhaps while she was asleep or sedated. This made sense to me: she had lost her nightgown and had to borrow her sisters, and her father interviews her in the beginning of the film, testing her loyalty to him. Still, I loved the idea of their being elements of magical realism in this movie.
Magical realism is a genre of fiction that relies on creating different realities and inserting shocking elements, which are not presented in shocking ways, or remain unexplained. Magical realism often portrays the absurd as normal, and the normal as absurd. It’s a distinct genre that’s often lumped with science fiction and fantasy, even though it’s so unique. What caused me to relate Electrick Children so much to magical realism is that when reading or analyzing magical realism works, it’s important to regard everything you are told as true.
It’s easy to watch Rachel’s acceptance of music impregnating her, and disregard her belief as naivety or the product of beliefs that could have been pushed on her during her conservative upbringing. But I think that the film is so much more interesting when looking at it as a work of magical realism, and simply accepting that Rachel is pregnant, period. Accept that there is no explanation. Accept that it could have been an immaculate conception, or it could have been music, even if that seems ridiculous. Even though the movie’s plot line is fairly realistic, we have to remember that the world Rachel lives in is fictional, and because of that, anything can happen.
By seeing the film this way, I was able to appreciate Rachel’s character so much more. I fell in love Rachel the first time I saw the film, but I think it was out of endearment. Her hair, small voice, and her complete cluelessness regarding everything from music to boys was adorable and funny a lot of the time. And when Rachel accepts her pregnancy with the same naivety as she does most of the other events in her life, I was genuinely upset. I was sad that she didn’t realize how hard this would be for her, how she would be forced to keep the baby, and how the reactions of others would affect her. But by simply accepting Rachel’s pregnancy, viewers can recognize her strength as easily as they recognize her innocence at first. She pursues her pregnancy as a personal journey. She wants to see what is in store for her through this experience, and she will not let anyone else hold her back from doing that. She is constantly brave in order to make a better life for herself and do what she feels is necessary to be authentic, no matter what it takes. When viewers are constantly searching for clues of who is the father of her child, it’s easy to overlook Rachel’s tenacious ownership of her pregnancy and the experiences that she takes on with it.
After thinking about Rachel’s character in this context, I no longer saw her as innocent, but as a person who puts trust in others and looks for the best in situations. Recognizing Rachel’s journey and bravery is so much more important to me than trying to find out how she became pregnant. When viewers accept the realities of the world that they are experiencing on the screen, the viewing experience becomes so much more enriching. Consequently, the mysteriousness behind Rachel’s pregnancy gives the film depth and a dimension of other-worldliness. Questioning films is important, but it’s equally important to celebrate the world that the artist has created, no matter what that world may be.