6.6million Americans will be the victims of stalking in the United States thisyear, according to the Office on Violence against Women; this equates to 1 in 6women and 1 in 29 men. Given the freedoms and rights afforded to citizens inAmerican, notably their right to privacy and the freedom from illegal searchand seizure, being able to gather the conclusive evidence that someone is astalker with a violent swaying in nearly impossible to prove without anaggravating act. The Perfect Guy is a2015 film that forces viewers to admit the ugly truth: stalking is notdifficult to do, but it is difficult to stop.
In the age of modern technology,the ability to latch on to someone’s every detail of their personal life hasbecome both easier and more invasive. The threat of being stalked, whetherphysically, electronically, or both, is relatively ignored with a penchanttowards victim-shaming. The Perfect Guyflips these misconceptions and throws them back in the face of viewers:stalking is very real, not the fault of the victim, and no one is immune tothis threat.Pauseand reflect for a moment. When you think of someone being stalked, who is thevictim? A female with a quieter disposition, more passive than assertive, andlacking physical strength. The victim in this film is a strong female lead withan assertive personality bordering aggressiveness. This appeal to logos is abit complex: the kneejerk logic here is that a victim of a stalking case musthave either set themselves up for the scenario to begin with, or lacks theappropriate mindset to end the discomfort. Leah, the main character, forces theaudience to strip away their preconceived stereotypes and come face-to-facewith the unsettling truth that anyone can be a victim of stalking.
Incomparison, the stalker is a good-looking male (Carter) with a pleasantdemeanor. Not your stereotypical friendless boy who takes revenge on females byobsessing over their lives and pulling unwilling characters into their plots.Leah was not only a shock to the viewer’s expectation by being such a strongfemale lead, but she also willfully entered into a relationship with hereventual stalker. This is another truth that commonplace society works hard toignore or push aside: you are much more likely to know your stalker than notknow them. In fact, according to a report published in 2012 by the Office onViolence against Women, 66% of female victims and 41% of male victims arestalked by someone they know. How disconcerting, to admit that ourrelationships that we have willfully initiated/engaged in can lead to suchdestructive consequences.Theproduction team for this film employed interesting narrative techniques to get thestory across both poignantly and factually. While Leah is the protagonist inthe film, we are not restricted to only seeing the story from her eyes.
Carterhas significant story time and we see a number of scenes showing his activestalking of Leah without her being the primary focus of the scene.Additionally, another romantic partner of Leah’s, Dave, gets significantairtime as we follow his demise at the hands of Carter’s stalking. What makes this an effective method ofstory-telling in this situation is that we are able to see just how extreme andunstoppable Carter’s methods of stalking are. With so many individuals inmodern society tethered to mobile devices and other electronics that activelytransmit GPS signals, it’s a necessary eye-opener to see just how much more atrisk these technological advances can put us. Carter wires Leah’s home so hecan watch her activities within the confines of her house from afar, allowingstalking to no longer be the physical act of following someone, but rather aninvasively intimate act by stealing another’s privacy and personal moments. Anotheraspect of the narrative explored was the direction law enforcement took, orcould not take. Seeing how, despite mounting evidence and testimony, difficultit was to charge Carter officially for any stalking crimes further emphasizedthe importance of having a real discussion outside the cinema regardingstalking and how to protect one’s self.
The emotion put forth in theemotionally-charged dialogue and event sequence aptly grasps the heart of theaudience by letting them identify with any number of characters in the movie.This technique made everyone feel connected to the storyline and threat ofstalking, whether they would identify with Leah’s demographics or not.The Perfect Guyforces the audience to accept ugly truths regarding stalking: you are notinvincible, you cannot predict who is going to become aggressively attached,and the world we live in is only making such crimes easier. Stalking isdiscussed, certainly, in popular culture, but not as seriously as it should be.
We see primetime television shows breaking down situations where teenagers arelured by pretenders online into risqué lifestyles and then the perpetratorlatches on to the teenager, or the warnings from parents to their children tobe careful what information they share online. We brush off people like EdwardSnowden warning us of the tracking technology in our cellphones being used bygovernment and claims that this information can be hacked by stalkers by sayingonly conspiracy theorists buy into these theories. We read magazine articlesabout lovers who couldn’t move on after a relationship ends, launching the duointo a violent turn of stalking mistaken as deep emotion. We see, hear, andread these stories, but as a whole we do not identify with the risks. Thismovie takes the audience’s sense of comfort and manhandles them into acceptingthat there is no way to predict who can turn violent, all we can do is try andbe proactive with a strong system in place to protect ourselves shouldsomething go wrong.Anothervaluable take away from this film, is the need for a discussion on the privateversus the public self.
In Carter’s case, his public self was the charming manwho had a way with wooing others over, hence the title, The Perfect Guy. However,his private self was a cyber security expert who knew how to take systems andbastardize them in order for perverse personal gain. Leah did not anticipatethe ugly turn from Carter until an incident at a gas station, when hispossessive anger took hold of him and he acted irrationally.
It was in thismoment when a situation was outside Carter’s control that his public self-facadefell away and let the private self be revealed. There is a very real dialoguethat needs to happen with individuals concerning these theories so they can bearmed with information about what can happen very rapidly in their lives, sothey can be ready to take action.Internetusers in 2015 have an average of 5.
54 social media accounts. Carter was able tostalk Leah from afar without having access to any social media accounts.Imagine if she was as connected on these platforms as the typical internetuser? Carter would not need his technological savvy to stalk her. From statusupdates to check-ins, live tweeting an event to instantly uploading photos toInstagram. Between Google and iPhones logging the travel patterns of users, andthe users’ personal initiative to post daily updates about their lives, thereare no secrets any longer. Our lives are publically displayed, prominentlydisplayed across social media, arguably in hopes that someone will care enoughto pay attention and get to know us and care about us in a respectful matter.
However, therein lies the problem. Our lives are open books and the pages arethere to be read by someone who has a very twisted sense of what is okay.