Welcome to Freaky Friday. Our resident “creep whisperer” DoubleCakes has found a delectably dark ditty for your viewing pleasure—I Think We’re Alone Now—which traces one man's obsession with Tiffany. Yes, that Tiffany.
First things first. About 8% of women in the United States have been stalked, but a mere 30% of those victims seek counseling to recover from their trauma. Just a few facts to consider as the camera focuses on the terror in Tiffany's eyes as she is approached by Jeff Turner, one half of a stalker duo.
While the film does its best to comfort and console us, it also provides a compelling chronicle of the viewer's complicity in the predation of women.
It meets us halfway with a familiar face: the unoffensive man slouched over in a dirty bedroom, heralded by a Napoleon Dynamite-like typeface. See? Not every stalker is a violently detached night prowler. This isn’t that sort of joint. This is just some old-fashioned “picks chewed gum out of the trash” stalking.
Then we take a peek into Jeff’s life—we flip through his scrapbooks and take a walk with him through Santa Cruz, we laugh out loud together about fascists. We check under his stepfather’s model train set—but nope! No monsters here.
What seems to slip the mind of the filmmakers is to remind us of the taste of palpable irony. Our infinite—and largely uncritical—eyes that never blink in the face of Tiffany’s decades-long struggle to escape Jeff’s stalking, are very well what could be keeping her and other victims of stalking awake at night.
Harassment culture isn’t always a feeding frenzy. It’s often a lazy Wednesday night movie date with a friend. You pass a paper bucket of kung pao between the two of you. You laugh. You pensively inhale at Tiffany’s screen time—a silent thank you to circumstance that your dysphoria and gender identity did not manifest in such awkward ways that a film crew would want to follow you around and then put you in a hotel room with the guy who tried giving a 17-year old girl a samurai sword at her emancipation trial.
You tell yourself that at least these two have each other and somehow that makes it better—it makes up for a teenage girl having to file a restraining order against a grown man she knows nothing about.
Tiffany’s scarce presence in a movie about people obsessed with her excises the victim and their voice from narratives of entitlement and gendered violence. It’s not “about her,” but about the struggles of her stalkers to cope in the real world despite their hang-ups about her not belonging to them.
The film invites us to pity Jeff, the genius with Aspergers, and Kelly, the intersex speed runner—personas non grata in any other context—because it is an immediate emotional payoff. Their psychosis is nobody’s fault. They’re just different. They’re doing their best.
We don’t have to consider our complicity in systemic apathy and indifference toward neuroatypical and gender non-conforming people and how this “well at least they’re over there and not here” attitude enables them to cope with their challenges in ways that hurt others.
We came here to laugh at the misfortunes of women who have been afforded visibility and eat kung pao. And now we’re all out of kung pao.
The aforementioned study predates social media by 16 years. Anyone with a Facebook or Twitter has a ubiquitous digital and social visibility that rivals Tiffany at the height of her popularity in the heyday of analog.
You think you’re (laughing) alone now, but a million unblinking eyes could be affixed on you at any. time.
I guess now would be a good time to point you in the direction of some ways you can fight harassment culture, at the very least to spare yourself a filmed meet and greet with your stalker.
Resist social media sites trying to make legal names compulsory. Hold news sources accountable for publishing the birth names of vulnerable people: trans folk, sex workers, abuse survivors. If you see someone snapping an inappropriate picture of a stranger, stop them.
Basically poke that indifference right in its fucking eye any way you can. Because today it’s Tiffany, tomorrow it’s Alyssa Milano, and every day we remain silent increases the probability that one of us is next (or picked again). And your harassment—sadly—may not be the right fit for the documentary category of your local indie film festival.