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The Lasso

The Student News Site of Santa Rosa Academy

The Lasso

May December: A Deep Dive into the Chilling Realities of Grooming

Trigger Warning: This article discusses mature content.
Photo Provided by: Netflix
Official Poster for May December

What happens when innocence is exploited, boundaries are crossed, and society’s darkest secrets come to light? Brace yourselves, for the riveting and thought-provoking film “May December” which peels back the layers to expose the disturbing truths of grooming, assault, and fetishization that children can face.

In a world where youth is cherished, there lies a disturbing underbelly. The film “May December” fearlessly takes us on a gripping journey that exposes the stark realities faced by vulnerable children at times. Inspired by true events, this thought-provoking movie delves into the disturbing depths of exploitation and serves as a stark reminder of the importance of protecting our children.

“May December” was directed by Todd Haynes and stars Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, and Charles Melton as the characters, Elizabeth, Gracie, and Joe Yoo respectively. It was released in select theaters on November 17, 2023, and began streaming on Netflix on December 1, 2023.

“May December” is a gripping drama that draws inspiration from real-life events and seeks to shed light on the alarming issues of grooming, assault, and fetishization. As the film opens, we follow the story of actress Elizabeth Berry (Natalie Portman) who visits Georgia to research her upcoming role in an independent drama where she will be playing Gracie Atheron-Yoo (Julianne Moore), who back in 1992 was caught having an illegal relationship with her son’s schoolmate Joe Yoo (Charles Melton) who was thirteen years old at the time. Joe Yoo became the target of a cunning and manipulative Gracie, leading to a traumatizing ordeal that tests their resilience and strength. As the film progresses and Elizabeth begins to learn more about Gracie Joe’s relationship, we see that the perfect family image they have plastered on their lives for years isn’t as perfect as it seems and there is more evil and manipulation at play throughout the entire relationship.

The film is filled with some meta dark humor on this situation at hand, but also offers a true, deeply disturbing take on what it is like to be manipulated for all these years by an older individual into an inappropriate relationship, and how it can destroy your sense of reality. In the movie, Joe Yoo acts as if he is a thirteen year old child stuck in a grown adult’s body. His mannerisms and the way he listens to Gracie are as if he is a child, and she is the parent. It does not seem like they are in an actual relationship with one another. It’s sad to see that this man’s livelihood and childhood was ripped away from a woman who still, after all these years in this movie, doesn’t seem to have any remorse for anything she had done to Joe. We also see Elizabeth begin to exploit the actual illegal relationship these two had for her own benefit. As the credits begin to roll, you see that both Elizabeth and Gracie are both exploiters and manipulators of the entire situation that played out.

In the movie, the term “May December” is derived from the concept of an age-gap relationship, often between an older person (December) and a younger individual (May). The narrative delves into the exploitation of this power dynamic and the devastating consequences it can have on the victims involved.

“May December” draws inspiration from real-life cases, most notably the Mary Kay Letourneau case in which Mary had an inappropriate and sexual relationship with her student, Vili Fualaau who was twelve years old at the time. Mary ended up being arrested and pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree rape of a child, but was released after six months and jail and ended up giving birth to their first child, a daughter while awaiting sentencing, similar to the characters of Gracie and Joe in this movie. “May December” highlights the chilling realities prevalent in our society. It serves as a reflection of the experiences of real victims and aims to generate awareness about the pervasive issue of child exploitation.

The film forces us to confront uncomfortable truths, challenging the audience to acknowledge the existence of grooming, assault, and fetishization. By shining a light on these deeply unsettling topics, “May December” compels us to reevaluate our societal priorities and the steps we can take to protect our children.

Grooming is a tactic used by predators to establish trust, manipulate, and exploit the innocence of vulnerable individuals. The film provides an unflinching portrayal of how grooming techniques are employed to subvert the boundaries of a child’s understanding, leading to devastating consequences. It lays bare the dangerous dynamics that can develop under the guise of mentorship or care.

“May December” also explores the troubling phenomenon of fetishization, where individuals are reduced to objects of desire based solely on their age, appearance, or vulnerability. In the film, Joe Yoo is described as half Korean, and when Gracie explains to Elizabeth how they first met, the first thing that comes to Gracie’s head is how she noticed that he was different from other kids because he was in the only “Korean family in town.” This comment alone showcases the fetishization on Gracie’s part in their relationship. By exposing the dangerous ramifications of this dehumanizing behavior, the film raises awareness about the need to challenge societal norms and foster a culture that respects the dignity and autonomy of all individuals. It presents a confronting narrative that forces us to look beyond the facade of innocence and confront the disturbing reality of grooming, assault, and fetishization. This is a film I highly recommend for people to watch, it serves as a stark reminder of the importance of vigilance and nurturing environments that safeguard children.

By acknowledging the powerful message behind “May December,” we can create a society that prioritizes the protection and well-being of our youth. We can educate ourselves, support survivors, and advocate for systemic changes that dismantle the structures enabling such exploitation. Together, there can be a difference and break the cycle of abuse, ensuring a safer and brighter future for our youth.

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About the Contributor
Danielle Okogho
Danielle Okogho, Copy Editor
Danielle Okogho is a senior at Santa Rosa Academy. She joined journalism this year because of her love for writing and wanting to get involved with the school. Born and raised in the vibrant Orange County CA, she has been to London, Paris, Belgium, and Nigeria and wants to go to Italy. Her hope for college is to go to the University of San Diego. She likes to write, play basketball, watch movies, and listen to R&B and pop. Her favorite artist right now is SZA. She is a Marvel fan and loves Black Panther and X-Men.  Her favorite movies are The Dark Knight and Back To The Future. Her goals for this year is to make the most of it, maintain her grades, and keep it positive.
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