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Rollercoaster Ride

by Lee Conderacci

The movie Fear is a suspense thriller that continues in the female gothic tradition of presenting horror and danger within domestic spaces and intimate or romantic relationships. The film focuses on a relationship between two teenagers, Nicole and David, which starts out with intense romantic chemistry, quickly escalates in emotional and physical intensity, and then shortly becomes abusive.

Research indicates that abusive and controlling partners often hasten emotional attachment via “love bombing,” or showering their partner with affection and attention in the very early phases of the relationship, in order to “hook” them. This is a tactic also used by cults to indoctrinate new members.

In this scene from early in the movie, Nicole and David are on a romantic date at a carnival. This is still in the initial “honeymoon phase” of the relationship before anything has gone awry, and David has been love bombing Nicole, so she is entirely invested in him. They get on the rollercoaster, and David places his hand on Nicole’s thigh. As the rollercoaster begins to move, the two share eye contact, Nicole gives David a sly and suggestive look, and she moves his hand under her skirt. He stimulates her to orgasm as the rollercoaster continues its ride, with the Sundays’ cover of the Rolling Stones song “Wild Horses” swelling in the background.

This scene is presented as a moment of female-centered euphoria, with Nicole’s pleasure and exhilaration as the focal point. The literal action in the scene— the rush of orgasm enhanced by the rush of the rollercoaster— encapsulates the romance and exhilaration of a new relationship. The soundtrack choice here underscores this feeling of joy and reckless abandon, with the female vocalist adding a dreamy, sensual, passionate touch to the classic line, “Wild horses couldn’t drag me away” — words which also hint at the obsessive attachment that David develops as the film continues. The rollercoaster also works as a vivid metaphor for the extreme ups and downs of an abusive relationship.

The encounter in this scene appears to be fully and mutually consensual; consent is established via eye contact and body language. Current discourse about sexual consent debates whether nonverbal consent can be considered a sufficient form of consent; this is still a grey area, and it is still the subject of much conversation. As it stands, a number of college campuses and two states (California and New York) have enacted affirmative consent standards— meaning that consent must be a voluntary, affirmative, conscious, agreement to engage in sexual activity, for all parties involved. These regulations hold that consent can be established either verbally or through clear nonverbal cues. In this scene from Fear, it appears that the sexual activity between David and Nicole is an example of affirmative consent.

This highly-romantic, exciting sexual encounter effectively demonstrates to the audience how an abuser can make their partner feel on top of the world, a feeling which they use to gain the trust and attachment of, and subsequently to manipulate, their victim.

Fear: Rollercoaster Ride

The movie Fear is a suspense thriller which centers around an abusive relationship, in which the abuser uses various tactics to seduce his victim and gain her trust in order to manipulate and control her.

from Fear (1996)
Creator: James Foley
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Posted by Lee Conderacci