IT and Why the Losers are Significant in Defeating Pennywise
It had to be them
Someone on Twitter once asked what book or film you could write a thesis on and for me, it's definitely IT. Last time, I talked about how IT isn't just about a scary murder clown and continuing with that theme of hatred and indifference breeding evil, let's take a look at why it's the Losers that could ultimately bring down Pennywise the Dancing Clown and what makes them so special.
We've already talked about the systemic hatred and racism that was present in the story which ultimately gave Pennywise his power. One thread that always intrigued me was the notion that most people didn't seem to react to the atrocities that happened in Derry. At first, I thought it was kind of like adults not believing in the boogeyman while kids do but now I read it a little differently. Especially given everything that's happening in the world right now.
The people of Derry aren't anymore influenced by IT than anyone outside of Derry would be. What I mean to say is that this level of ignorance exists everywhere and is exactly how atrocities can continue to happen. When no one questions it, the problem grows until it eats us whole. So, why then are the Losers special? Why do they see IT when no one else (who doesn't die) can?
Well, precisely because these kids are "losers". Bill is ridiculed for his stutter and neglected by his parents because of their grief over the loss of his brother. Eddie is picked on for being sickly, weak and coddled by his mother. It's also found out that he's being emotionally abused by his mother who is lying to him about his various illnesses to keep him "safe". Stanley is Jewish in a predominantly Christian/Catholic town and there's always a bunch of anti-Semitism going around. Similarly, Mike is one of very few POC in a very white town. Beverly is a victim of physical and it's pretty heavily implied, sexual abuse. Richie was always the weakest link in the book as he pretty much just has glasses. Back in the day, it was much more rare for a kid to have glasses (a thing I identified with a lot) and you were seen as weak and vulnerable. These days, I really don't think it's as big a deal if a kid is wearing glasses which is why the newly added thread in the remake of him struggling with his sexuality was a very interesting angle for the character and I very much liked that change as it fits well with my little thesis I've got going here.
All of the Losers are vulnerable in some way or another and as such, they cannot hide or feign ignorance to the town's problems because they are experiencing them every day, especially Mike and Stan. How can any of them turn a blind eye when they are the victims of hatred every day of their lives? They can't run from it or hide from it or ignore it, because they don't have that privilege that most of the town might have. This is why they see IT for what it is, a poison on the town as a whole. This became crystal clear to me when it's revealed that Mike's father had also witnessed a version of Pennywise during the burning of The Black Spot.
The thing is, evil is not shy. It appears everywhere in seemingly friendly manners (hence the clown, some people like clowns and view them as harmless go figure). So everyone in Derry has probably witnessed IT in some form or another but they either choose to ignore it or bury it out of fear. It's so much easier to ignore a problem, to run from it than it is to face it. It takes being put through a lot, sometimes for people to fight back. That's why it's so insidious, it creeps up on you or acts friendly until the trap snaps shut and there's no chance for you to fight back anymore.
It takes these seven kids being pushed by teachers, parents, and other students to finally stand up and fight back. No one believed them, no one fought for them, they had to charge in and face the problem alone. My point is, it usually takes a marginalized group of people to see where and how society is failing. Comfort breeds complacency and the only comfort these kids found was with each other.
In fact, that was their strength. Their weaknesses brought them together and made them stronger, strong enough to defeat Pennywise. How, you say? By talking about IT. No, seriously. Them sharing their painful experiences with each other is what lead them to realize there was a problem in Derry at all. The thing that bullying and abuse can do is isolate you and make you feel alone but when these kids found each other and realized they weren't alone, it became easier to stand up for themselves. Case in point, the rock fight in the Barrens. After that, all seven kids were assembled and showed them that together they could face a bigger atrocity than just the school bully (who was admittedly extremely psychotic and terrifying himself).
Why couldn't Pennywise kill them? Because they recognized him for what he was. They, essentially saw through his guise so he had less power over them than anyone else. That's the other thing about evil, it's not shy but at the same time, it doesn't like to be called out because when it's called out, it's put in the defensive position and that's exactly where it doesn't want to be. It's much more happy to go about its business undisturbed, flaunting its greatness and power sure but never being questioned. The Losers questioned IT, they asked what was wrong with their town, they discussed the problems that plagued them and the vulnerable around them, they wanted to fix it and that made Pennywise terrified of them.
Imagine being an all powerful being, free to go about as you please and do what you want and inflict whatever you wanted upon people for centuries and then suddenly, the very group of vulnerable people that usually bow to your will or become your prey, stand up and fight against you. Picking them off one by one was easy but as a group, suddenly, you're the vulnerable one. Suddenly, you start flailing desperately, trying to get that fear back in them again so they will break apart and be easy to manage but they just keep standing together, calling you out, making you feel so much smaller than you used to. Who has the power now? Who had it all along?
To me, the Losers represent the downtrodden finally rising up and fighting back against the violence and injustice society imposes on them. While more simply (and probably more intentionally) they are simply manifestations of different childhood traumas and the adult versions of themselves having to come to terms with and facing up to their demons, I also think it works on a broader scale to look at IT as a representation of the horrors we, as a society, let happen as long as we aren't personally affected by it. The Losers are those that take a stand and fight for the rest of us who have chosen ignorance or complacency. Why these 7 people to save us? Because no one else cared enough to. Their empathy and heart is their greatest weapon and it's honestly the reason I am so attached to this book.
IT shows us the very nature of evil in humanity and the violence and destruction it can cause and asks us if we are compassionate enough, brave enough, and strong enough to be a Loser. It's true, one person can't make much of a difference in the world but a group can, even if it's small. IT seems impossible to defeat when we are alone and feel weak but there is strength in numbers and suddenly the fear IT tries to control us with, doesn't seem so big.