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#466791 - 06/19/14 01:47 PM Ode to Billy Joe (1976)
Chase Eric Offline

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MaleSurvivor


Registered: 10/25/10
Posts: 2381
Recent events have compelled me to revisit this movie - a remarkably frank story about a young teenager dating a pretty girl, and trying to come to terms with how he could love her, and yet do that - you know - unspeakable sin. The movie spells out the sin, actually - but looking at it from a more enlightened perspective makes me realize they got it sort of wrong....

Billy Joe is portrayed about 14 in the movie, and the single sexual encounter that has caused his anguish was at a local carnival. He gets drunk, stumbles into a series of tents that comprise a "makeshift whorehouse" and has sex with an adult man - his boss from the saw mill. He looks back upon that night and rails against it in anguish as a sexual identity issue. This really struck me, because it was in actuality a boundary issue. But the film was made in 1976 when people were less knowledgeable about defining these things.

In any case - God - that was so me. So me. I was in love with the prettiest girl in the world, but doing things that belied who I was to her and even to me. In the end, I just let her drift away. I just could not reconcile my identities. And like Billy Joe, I saw it as a sexual identity issue rather than for what it really was. What a tragedy. What a regret....

Billy Joe McAllister - like me - was molested. Plain and simple. The movie paints it as a spontaneous same-sex tryst. Billy Joe buys into that fully, defines it with in startlingly self-actualized language to his girlfriend, his words acting as both a heavy door he closes in her face, and self-accusatory dagger aimed at his own heart. He accepts his identity with fatal resignation.

The film is a sensitive yet devastating portrait, and ends with neither judgement nor salvation for anyone. It really was very frank for its time. It looked at it at a time when nobody cared to (and we STILL care to look away), and I cannot blame the production for its treatment of the subject. But for me personally, it spelled out the gravity of my actions, the responsibilities I had to myself and to my girlfriend, and in a way suggested that Billy Joe's choice was a valid option. I suppose I'm supposed to say it wasn't.
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#466828 - 06/20/14 10:27 AM Re: Ode to Billy Joe (1976) [Re: Chase Eric]
Jude Offline


Registered: 08/09/12
Posts: 1633
Loc: New England
Hey Erik,

I remember this movie well, saw it on TV. It was a few years post CSA when I was well into my teens and it caused me a great deal of distress, as I was struggling to reconcile my obsessive attraction to girls with my secret fantasies for boys. The movie stoked my worst fears of where the demons within would take me....and that the only way out would be suicide.

What I recall of the climactic scene where he makes his confession to the girlfriend is that at the time I DID understand him to be saying he was molested (trigger). But then he mournfully blurted out something along the lines of he "liked it" (double trigger). It was just too close to home. I couldn't watch the rest.


Be well,

Jude


Edited by Jude (06/21/14 11:21 PM)
Edit Reason: removed picture
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I will remember you
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by
Weep not for the memories
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#466832 - 06/20/14 02:08 PM Re: Ode to Billy Joe (1976) [Re: Chase Eric]
Chase Eric Offline

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MaleSurvivor


Registered: 10/25/10
Posts: 2381
Thanks for chiming in on this, Jude. I find your take that he admitted being "molested" really interesting. I read it much differently - that he participated in sexual activity "with a man" not as a victim but as a guilty participant and was full of deep self-disgust about it - about who it meant he was. What really impressed me was his brutal honesty about it. I wasn't at that point at all in similar circumstance. Billy Joe actually named it, admitted it, and even identified with it - none of which I could ever at the time come close to doing - certainly not to myself, much less my girlfriend. So I found his admission extremely uncomfortable to watch. I certainly don't feel this way now, but back then I saw it as a sign of weakness. You never, ever, ever give in - you fight this stuff, you deny it - or you jump off a bridge in Tallahatchee.
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#466848 - 06/20/14 09:54 PM Re: Ode to Billy Joe (1976) [Re: Chase Eric]
Jude Offline


Registered: 08/09/12
Posts: 1633
Loc: New England
Erik,

Well, your take is probably more accurate than mine since I haven't seen the movie for about 40 years! But that is the way I remember understansding it at the time.

Jude
_________________________
I will remember you
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by
Weep not for the memories
Sarah McLachlan

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#466858 - 06/21/14 08:03 AM Re: Ode to Billy Joe (1976) [Re: Chase Eric]
Chase Eric Offline

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MaleSurvivor


Registered: 10/25/10
Posts: 2381
.
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#466859 - 06/21/14 08:03 AM Re: Ode to Billy Joe (1976) [Re: Chase Eric]
Chase Eric Offline

Moderator
MaleSurvivor


Registered: 10/25/10
Posts: 2381
It is very telling to read the comments on Amazon. So many viewers see this movie as dealing with a "gay" issue rather than an abuse issue. The general lack of enlightenment on these issues is disturbing, but if it took me years to understand it myself, I suppose I can't blame others who may see it similarly. We work on our stuff in here knowing a little better than most, but this place sometimes feels like a bubble of understanding in a sea of ignorance.
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#466872 - 06/21/14 02:21 PM Re: Ode to Billy Joe (1976) [Re: Chase Eric]
Chase Eric Offline

Moderator
MaleSurvivor


Registered: 10/25/10
Posts: 2381
Actually, he kills himself by jumping off a bridge, and what does she do? She talks conversationally to the man who molested Billy and agrees to keep his secret so as not to disturb the fragile sensibilities of the community.

My, how things never seem to change....
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#466899 - 06/22/14 08:10 PM Re: Ode to Billy Joe (1976) [Re: Chase Eric]
WriterKeith Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 12/30/10
Posts: 980
Loc: California
Eric,
I never saw the movie but your analysis and correlation are so insightful I am intrigued to see it. As you mention, it may reveal the contrast in "what we knew then" and "what we know now" on the issue at hand.
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I have taken to the stand-up comedy stage to educate other male survivors and those who try to love them. I blog about my isolated religious upbringing where physical and sexual abuse were commonplace and I serve as a facilitator of a weekly support group for men who have suffered sexual assault.

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#466905 - 06/22/14 11:04 PM Re: Ode to Billy Joe (1976) [Re: Chase Eric]
Chase Eric Offline

Moderator
MaleSurvivor


Registered: 10/25/10
Posts: 2381
I hope that if you do get to see it, Keith, you will return to this thread and give your impressions.
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