SPOILER ALERT – This article spills the hidden greatness within ‘Speak;’ watch the film or spoil all of the good stuff by continuing to read.
TRIGGER WARNING – ‘Speak’ contains short clips of sexual assault, rape, and similar acts that some might find triggering. If you are a victim of sexual assault, please contact the resources below. You are not alone.
1 In 6 Women Are The Victim Of An Attempted or Completed Rape
There are films the educational system requires students to watch like 2004’s ‘Super Size Me’ of a man who gains weight by eating McDonald’s every day; however, I wonder why was ‘Speak,’ a film so closely related to the true events that occur within every school never shown in class? My darkest fear is telling me it is because the system knows they are at fault, so why show a film to students that directly goes against the faulty system?
Girls, from the day they are born, are punished in the views of the male species. Are they wearing a short skirt or showing their shoulders? Punish them. Speak when not spoken to? Punish them. Share their feelings? Too emotional. Have their period and bleed through their jeans? Disgusting and dirty.
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From the day women are born, we are punished for acting a certain way so as to not “trigger” men because they are incapable of restricting themselves. Women in relationships from the ages of 15-24 have a 1 in 4 chance of having experienced violence by an intimate partner. Of the 90% of adult rape victims being female, nearly 80% have experienced their first assault before the age of 25.
The faulty system degrades and humiliates those who come out against their rapists, leaving the statistic of reported rapes to less than 20%. Please, if you are reading this and are a victim or are suspicious of a past event that is causing you continuous trauma, go immediately to the resources section. If you are afraid of what others will think of you or what your parents might do if they find out, you are not alone, and you are not in trouble. It is not your fault. And it is ok to ask for help.
Every educational system, family, corporate company, work environment, friend group, every single person needs to have this discussion. Every class, student, child, teenager, young adult, adult; need to have this discussion. And those who are rapists, predators, stalkers, bullies; need to reap the repercussions of their horrific actions.
The system needs to hold them accountable.
Their parents need to hold them accountable.
Their friends need to hold them accountable.
Their family needs to hold them accountable.
Their co-workers need to hold them accountable.
Everyone needs to hold them accountable.
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‘Speak’: A Film That Encapsulates The Truth Behind Sexual Assault Victims
Directed by Jessica Sharzer and based on Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel, 2004’s ‘Speak’ dives into the trauma a young girl experiences after being raped at a school party. Struggling with school, friends, and family, Melinda Sordino (Kristen Stewart) is drowning in her head as she tells her dark experience with rape. We come to learn that this horrific sexual assault has made her mute and unable to speak to anyone about her traumatic experience.
Melinda’s mother, Joyce Sordino (Elizabeth Perkins), is unknowingly blind to her daughter’s inner trauma. She is not a bad mother by any means, but she most devastatingly pictures the actual image of what most mothers are, which is; unaware. She is busy with keeping the house together and working every single day, never having enough time to become that person Melinda needs. It is not her fault because had the system been more accommodating or had she been given more time, she might have spent that freedom getting to know Melinda better.
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Melinda’s father, Jack Sordino (D.B. Sweeney), is your regular dad who only does small talk and cannot bear to ask about feelings. He’s there to grab donuts but has no thoughts of truly wondering if his daughter is ok. He’s kind, and I am sure that he loves his daughter but that energy of dedicating himself to honestly trying; it’s not there.
At the beginning of the film, we are in the middle of Melinda’s crisis after her rape experience at a school party. At this party, she ended up calling the cops, which resulted in the entire school hating her, even her best friend of nine years, Rachel (Hallee Hirsh), who does not see Melinda as a friend anymore. Alone in the world, a girl named Heather (Allison Siko), a babbling, bubbly, self-centered girl, be-friends Melinda because they are both without anyone.
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Heather airs out her thoughts relentlessly to a mute Melinda, never taking a moment to learn anything about her. With all of the talking, she never takes a single moment to hear Melinda or consider she might not want to do something she is suggesting. So, with Melinda being a polite girl, she sits and listens while egotistical Heather talks about her modeling.
The constant snickering of bullying throughout the film is quite triggering from how realistically it comes across. The hushed whispers flood the screen after someone does something unorthodox; it is all but sadly true to how people are. Such as when the students giggle to themselves about Hairwoman (Leslie Lyles), who is Melinda’s English teacher. She is an incredibly passionate woman who honestly reminds me of myself in the sense of her odd ways of trying her best, all while everyone judges her relentlessly. She’s weird, different but kind, just a kind woman, and yet the students cannot stop tearing her apart in hushed whispers.
The history teacher Mr. Neck (Robert John Burke), is your horrifically perfect portrayal of the rude, barbaric teacher who could never believe that a male student could sexually assault a young girl. For some reason, he has it out for Melinda throughout the entire film, never giving the girl a break from his sexist ways. In his first lecture, he says, “Tell me why my son cannot get a job? – Reverse discrimination.” Heather rebuttals and says, “I think we are all foreigners and should give the country back to the Native Americans.” Mr. Neck could not be more displeased and disgusted by her point, and when other students point out that maybe his son wasn’t fit for the job, he loses his cool. He feels like the type who will talk about what they want to talk about, and when someone disagrees, then that person is punished, which is precisely what happens next.
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Melinda’s friend, Dave Petrakis (Michael Angarano), is someone who is your example of a young male figure who does not use his masculinity to prove he is worthy. When Mr. Neck tries to leave the debate after the students begin to disagree, Dave stands and says, “You opened the debate; you can’t just close it because it’s not going your way. The constitution does not recognize different levels of citizenship based upon the time spent in the country. As a citizen and a student, I’m protesting the tone of this lesson as racist, intolerant, and xenophobic.” And with that thoroughly fantastic line of dialogue, he is sent to the Principal’s office because Mr. Neck cannot contain his “big man” feelings being hurt.
One of my favorite characters in film history is Melinda’s art teacher Mr. Freeman (Steve Zahn). He is the light within the film that ultimately saves Melinda and helps her discover a passion for art that becomes her outlet to opening up her inner demons. People like him are the ones in the world that make you believe it’s worth living in. He is not blind to the severity of issues within the system but instead fights against them with kindness and understanding.
When Melinda shows up to his room during lunch, he says, “You can eat lunch in here if you want. It’s against school rules, but I’m kind of a rebel.” He doesn’t question why she is there; instead welcomes her, knowing that she would not be there if she had another choice. He asks her other questions, like if she is going trick or treating but never pushes her to speak. Instead, he waits. She will speak when she feels the moment is right, knowing that he will be there to listen and not judge, criticize, be angry or debate on her feelings.
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And now, my least favorite character and, more specifically, my least favorite type of human to ever exist, Melinda’s rapist Andy Evans (Eric Lively). He is cocky, arrogant, and it’s disgusting even to have to speak upon him. As Melinda walks in the hallways, he has the nerve to say, “Fresh meat.” or “What, I can’t say hello?” The film does its job at perfectly imperfectly depicting the vile human that is a rapist.
“I wonder how long it would take for anyone to notice if I just stopped talking.”
The wonderful director, Jessica Sharzer, leaves hints within Dave’s dialogue that show that a boy can be taught how to respect women. When he asks, “Are you sure you want to do it?” After Melinda shows fear of cutting a frog in science class, we see that he is considering her feelings. At Christmas, her parents had taken notice that she was drawing and got her a sketchbook. They were paying attention, and she had no idea. Overwhelmed by love, she cannot speak to tell them how much she appreciates the gift. As I said, they are not bad parents, but they are also not perfect. They love Melinda with everything they have, but sometimes in our lives, we fail to see that the ones we love are in pain.
Heather, the only semi-friend in Melinda’s life, decides to leave her, saying, “You’re the most depressed person I’ve ever met, and excuse me for saying this, but I think you need professional help.” Melinda responds by saying, “So, you’re blowing me off because I’m a little depressed?” And with that, Heather is gone from Melinda’s life. A few weeks later, Heather shows up at her house, rambling about how she is requesting Melinda to help her decorate because the other girls were mean to her. But, Melinda is learning to speak and says, “No. I don’t have to help you. You’re a self-centered social climber.” She’s speaking, and I could not be more proud as a speechless Heather leaves her life for good.
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When Mr. Neck gives her a failing grade, Melinda resorts to completing an essay about the Suffragettes to earn extra credit to raise her grade. She chooses them because before they came along, “women were treated like dogs.” However, Mr. Neck being the a-hole as he is, requests that she deliver it orally in front of the class. But, she has a different plan. She has Dave represent her voice in class, explaining that she does not have to read aloud her essay, earning a very grumpy response from Mr. Neck as he says, “Open your damn mouth.” Ending up in the Principal’s office alongside her parents, they turn the situation about them as they say, “I don’t know why she is doing this to us.” Speaking about her like she is not there all while the airhead Counselor tries to offer advice about a mute Melinda.
Throughout the film, we are shown flashbacks to the night Melinda was raped at the school party. She is pictured as this lively young girl who is enjoying a night out with people her age. She is doing what a young girl does and is just having fun. That is until a man who puts his pleasures above anyone else ruins her entire life; forever.
Andy says, “Do you want to?” Melinda resists and says, “Maybe I should get back to my friends.”
And as he begins to rape her, she physically resists and verbally screams, “No! No! No!”
But does he stop? No, he does not. He rapes her. He makes a mark on her soul that will never leave.
She walks home broken. Bruised. Forever cursed with the actions someone else put upon her.
A girl says NO. NO. NO.
And yet, he does not stop.
It makes you wonder if we need to go back to the age of 2 years old and teach boys the difference between “yes” and “no.” Or more specifically, how to respect others and the repercussions of your against. If she/he/they say “NO” and do not give consent, then you stop. You stop.
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After the rape, Melinda’s ex best-friend, Rachel, begins to get romantically involved with Andy ending up in a relationship with him. This does not hold Andy back from continuously marking his presence around Melinda, such as when he hovers his body over Melinda like she does not exist. I cannot begin to describe the pure rage I have to jump through the screen and make him bleed.
“Say something. My throat is dry. It hurts.”
A moment clicks inside of Melinda, after learning to draw her emotions and understand that, “It happened. There is no avoiding it. No forgetting.” She begins to fight for herself, but the issue of Rachel with Andy still hangs over her head.
For the first time after her rape, she tells someone, and more specifically, she tells Rachel what happened. Instead of saying the words, she writes in her journal, “I was raped.” Immediately, Rachel is empathetic as she says, “Why didn’t you tell me?” that is until she asks, “Who was it?” And when Melinda reveals that her rapist is Andy, Rachel calls her a liar and that she is jealous of her. Rachel says, “I’m popular, and I’m going to prom. You’re twisted and sick. You need help.” But, when Rachel starts to connect the dots by herself and tries to ask Andy how she knows Melinda, he immediately cowers and calls her a “Bitch,” then runs away. Rachel now knows that all along, Melinda was raped by Andy Evans.
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At the end of the school year, Melinda’s art teacher Mr. Freeman reveals that he is leaving teaching, and in one of my top scenes of all time, he says, “I’m here. If you want to talk, even if I’m not here.” Melinda decides to show him her hidden spot in the school that nobody knew about, but she went there when she needed to be alone. There were hundreds of trees from when Mr. Freeman instructed her to explore the symbol during class. There are hundreds of them kept within her safe space. She shares this with him, and he gets emotional. After all this time, we learn that after she was raped, she saw a tree. While left in agony, she saw a tree hovering over her. And all along, she was drawing trees.
After this beautiful exchange, the vile Andy comes into her safe space. “So I raped you? I could have any girl in this school I wanted…willingly. Why would I rape you? You’re not even attractive. You really screwed things up for me. You know that? And you are going to go to every single person in this school and tell them that you lied. You are going to tell them…” He forcefully grabs her until she fights back and throws chemicals into his eyes, blinding him. A girls team then finds the two as they pull Melinda to safety from the rapist. They yell, “Everybody knows what you did. Say something, asshole!” He doesn’t say anything.
After everyone learns that Andy Evans is a rapist, Melinda begins to tell her story verbally. In the end, she shares what happened to her mother, who, instead of speaking, listens.
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And if you think this film could never be true because boys will be boys and girls want attention; watch the Netflix documentary ‘Roll Red Roll,’ a true story event that is highly similar to ‘Speak.’ The teachers and parents who could never believe for a male student to do anything wrong and a girl who was asking for it; it’s true. Rapists ruin lives every single day. Make these boys, these men, responsible for their actions. Teach them to keep it in their pants and keep their slimy hands to themselves. Speak with kindness instead of catcalling and find a goddamn hobby instead of harassing girls and women. I never want to hear boys will be boys ever again. There is no chemical makeup in their bodies that gives them the right to ruin other’s lives for their pleasure. No right.
What Is Sexual Assault?
This list may vary, but if any of the following match with your experience, you may be a victim of sexual assault:
- If someone touches you without your consent. What is consent? Consent is when someone enthusiastically agrees, gives permission, or provides a positive “yes” to a sexual act. Visit the RAINN’s website for more information on the definition of consent in your state.
- If someone forces you into sexual acts through physical force or coercion.
- If someone violates you while you are asleep or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- If someone penetrates you with parts of their body or an object.
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If you are a victim of sexual assault, you may have the following feelings or trauma. This list may vary:
- You might feel a range of emotions including, but not limited to, helplessness, anger, sadness, and shock. You might feel unaffected, detached, and numb.
- You might be overwhelmed, confused or have difficulty concentrating.
- You might not want to see friends or family or have difficulty connecting to others.
- You might feel pain, bleeding, and have discharge from your genitals, anus, or mouth.
- You might have nightmares or flashbacks.
- You might experience changes in your eating or sleeping patterns
RESOURCES: If You, A Friend or A Loved One Are Victims of Sexual Assault
It can be challenging to know what to do after a sexual assault. The system has dictated that those who come forward about their assault are to be humiliated and in the wrong. You are NOT in the wrong. Here are several options available to anyone.
Report to Police – Visit RAINN to read more about reporting and what to expect from the criminal justice system.
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If you feel unsafe to report to police, Locate The Closest Rape Crisis Center – Find Help Near You is a feature on the RAINN site that locates the closest rape crisis center anywhere in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. You can also visit the Department of Defense Safe Helpline, a worldwide crisis support service provided by RAINN for sexual assault survivors of the DoD community.
Speak To A Live Chat – The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) have a 24/7 service hotline that connects you to your local advocacy center for help and provides crisis support by phone at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or via their live chat service. You can also contact the VictimConnect Hotline by phone at 1-855-4-VICTIM or by chat for more information or assistance.
Seek Medical Attention – Visit RAINN to learn more about receiving medical attention after an assault.
Learn About Your Legal Options – You can find more information about the laws in your state on RAINN’s website. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center offers various information relating to sexual violence, including a large legal resource library.
Contact Your School’s Title IX Coordinator – Information about your campus’ Title IX is available on this informational Title IX site.
Seek Support for Mental Health – RAINN’s sexual assault center finder can help you find resources in your local area, and Psychology Today can help you find local counselors and therapists.
Remember to Love Yourself – You are not alone and what you choose to do next is your choice. But, know that there are people out there on your side, forever, and will help you when you decide to get help. It is ok to ask for help. In the meantime, please practice self-care, remember to love yourself, and coping skills strategies.
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Where To Watch ‘Speak’
With subscriptions, ‘Speak’ is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video, Sling TV, Showtime, and fuboTV.
Where To Find The Stars
In the post-production process, Kristen Stewart can next be seen in Pablo Larraín’s ‘Spencer’ alongside Sally Hawkins, Jack Farthing, and more. You can check out the Hollywood Insider article revealing everything about the upcoming film here.
Unknown to when it will be released, Steven Zahn can be expected to be seen in Marny Eng and E.J. Foerster’s ‘Gringa’ alongside Judy Greer, Roselyn Sanchez, and more. As said on IMDb about ‘Gringa,’ “Plot is being kept under wraps. Described as a father/daughter coming-of-age dramedy.”
Click here to read Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Black Lives Matter, in which he tackles more than just police reform, press freedom and more – click here.
An excerpt from the love letter: Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, “Hollywood Insider fully supports the much-needed Black Lives Matter movement. We are actively, physically and digitally a part of this global movement. We will continue reporting on this major issue of police brutality and legal murders of Black people to hold the system accountable. We will continue reporting on this major issue with kindness and respect to all Black people, as each and every one of them are seen and heard. Just a reminder, that the Black Lives Matter movement is about more than just police brutality and extends into banking, housing, education, medical, infrastructure, etc. We have the space and time for all your stories. We believe in peaceful/non-violent protests and I would like to request the rest of media to focus on 95% of the protests that are peaceful and working effectively with positive changes happening daily. Media has a responsibility to better the world and Hollywood Insider will continue to do so.”
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Isabella Brownlee is an experienced writer, video editor and filmmaker. She is currently a writer for Hollywood Insider, focusing on detailed and thought-provoking film reviews and articles discussing truth and impact in the film industry. Driven by self-awareness and unique perspectives, she takes utmost pride in providing others with emotionally impacted knowledge about the film industry. As a writer, her main goal is to connect with the audience and those who find themselves in the back of the bleachers unknown to anyone but beautifully aware of the world. In addition to her primary job functions, Isabella creates and edits videos/films personally and professionally. Aligning with Hollywood Insider’s mission of sharing impactful and influential content, Isabella hopes to enrich her readers with positivity and truth.