The Key to Carrie

I’m in the midst of compsing, part of which entails writing copious amounts about gender/sexuality in Carrie (1976). And while rewatching the film’s opening shower scene for the umpteenth time, I noticed something strange: Carrie has a key on a string around her neck. So I’m wondering: why? Having just written all about Cat People and The Haunting, two films where keys play huge roles, I’m tempted to ascribe some symbolic significance to it, but I can’t think of anything. And why would Carrie even have a key at all? Her mother supervises every single aspect of her life, and seems unlikely to trust her with the ability to lock or unlock anything; furthermore, I don’t remember anything about a key in Stephen King’s novel.

Given how meticulously selected the props, costuming, and set design in Carrie are, I feel like there must be a reason for this, but it’s not coming to me. Thus, I go to you, the reader: have any ideas? Why is this key so important that Carrie must wear it in the shower? Any suggestions would be appreciated. In other news, analyzing this scene reminds me of just how scrawny and anguished Sissy Spacek looks. Carrie may have its faults, but her she’s damn near perfect. Those little, fast-moving eyes just get to me every time; they’re more powerful than any single line of dialogue in the movie.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “The Key to Carrie

  1. Maybe it’s just a decoration for the necklace? I mean, she never uses it, I don’t think. Or maybe an injoke, or a unspoken aspect of Carrie that’s more to help Spacek get in the mindset of her. Did they do that back then? Besides with Ben-Hur?

  2. I reckon it’s her locker key. The other girls would keep it in the handbag or compact, but Carrie – bullied into her nerdish ways by her domineering mother – would have been told to keep the locker key on her at all times. Not to leave it. Maybe she DID leave it in the changing room once and it was taken and something stolen from her locker. Carrie’s mother would have blamed her, would probably have given her a beating and used the incident to inculcate her daughter with the concept that only God and her mother are infallible, everyone else is to be distrusted.

    The key, for me, is a symbol of the lonely and rejected place Carrie’s mother has consigned her to.

    • Ooh, I like these theories! At the very least, the idea that she has to wear her locker key the entire time she’s in gym class is very plausible, especially because that’s such an uncool-kid thing to do. Thanks a lot; that very much satisfies my curiosity.

      It’s a really cool little detail to have tucked away in just a few shots – just one more glimpse of how Carrie’s personality is methodically built up through the dialogue and the visuals.

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