Trash Fire (2016) Love and Greater Evils


Trash Fire centers around a couple and an impossibility fulfillment. On first look, it may appear that Owen and Isabel's relationship is flawed due to incompatibility. Competing expectations about what it means to be in a relationship. Or some conscious decision to avoid empathizing. But I argue that there is something else going on. That the pair shows an intentionality which targets the other's expectations and perceived flaws. A kind of evil badgering that maintains continuity.
Isabel, you voiced a concern
about Owen's drinking.
- Do you still have an issue with that?
- BOTH: No.
Because I told him I'd cut his dick off,
and he knew that, and I meant it.
She did tell me she'd cut off my dick...
...and I did know it, but I wasn't
particularly concerned on account...
...of the fact that I don't use it
for much except pissing.
In fact, I'd love to see it go...
...because all I do is look at it every day
and it reminds me of better times.
Now when I brought up your dick,
it wasn't my intention...
...for you to just run with it
as a topic of conversation.
You know, gay guys get excited about dick.
It's celebrated and sought
after in their community.
You show a picture of a dick
to a woman, watch her cringe.
What are you saying, you're gay now?
I'm saying, I wish I was. I wish I was.
It's not dick that makes women cringe,
it's specifically your dick.
Threatening Owen isn't going to help him
with his drinking problem.
- I don't have a drinking problem.
- Yes, you do...
...and all your idiotic friends
just encourage it.
Okay, so I'm a substance abuser
with an ugly dick...
...who's mentally ill-equipped to stand up
to peer pressure and you're dating me.
Sometimes you don't choose
who you fall in love with.
(SIGHS)

Read more: https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/movie_script.php?movie=trash-fire
Therapist: Isabel, you voiced a concern about Owen's drinking. Do you still have an issue with that?
Owen and Isabel: No.
Isabel: Because I told him I'd cut his dick off, and he knew that, and I meant it.
Owen: She did tell me she'd cut off my dick and I did know it, but I wasn't particularly concerned on account of the fact that I don't use it for much except pissing. In fact, I'd love to see it go because all I do is look at it every day and it reminds me of better times.
Isabel: Now when I brought up your dick, it wasn't my intention for you to just run with it as a topic of conversation.
Owen: You know, gay guys get excited about dick. It's celebrated and sought after in their community. You show a picture of a dick to a woman, watch her cringe.
Isabel: What are you saying, you're gay now?
Owen: I'm saying, I wish I was. I wish I was.
Isabel: It's not dick that makes women cringe, it's specifically your dick.
Therapist: Threatening Owen isn't going to help him with his drinking problem.
Owen: I don't have a drinking problem.
Isabel: Yes, you do and all your idiotic friends just encourage it.
Owen: Okay, so I'm a substance abuser with an ugly dick who's mentally ill-equipped to stand up to peer pressure and you're dating me.
Isabel: Sometimes you don't choose who you fall in love with. (SIGHS)
Isabel's last line is particularly revealing, declaring a love without content. An unconsummatable love that nonetheless deserves commitment. The relationship, while full of conflict is not fully antagonistic. There are brief moments of genuine connection where the couple communicates like teenagers in love. This rubber banding between the tension and release becomes challenged when Isabel reveals she is pregnant.

Owen responds by offering to split the cost of the abortion which confirms Isabel's notion that Owen is not ready to be a father. While Owen never presented the moral fortitude to be a father Isabel's love held on to the possibility. A possibility she required to tolerate the relationship with Owen.

To mend the relationship Isabel tasked Owen with reconnecting with his family. She saw this as a test of Owen's love for her and a test of Owen's capacity to be a father. Little did she know, Owen's backstory was a complex set of traumas.
Isabel: I hate your fucking guts.
Owen: Yeah, what else is new?
Isabel: I'm pregnant.
Owen: What?
Isabel: I'm pregnant. Don't worry, I'm having an abortion.
Owen: Yeah, of course, you are. I mean, what is it, like, 400 bucks? We'll split it.
Isabel: Fucking asshole.
Eventually, the film reveals that Owen's mother and father to death and his sister level scarred because the grandmother was instructed by God to kill the family. Failing to kill Owen and pearl (Owen's sister) she shifted the blame for the fire on to Owen in hopes that he would be crushed by guilt and kill himself. The grandmother's plans failed and Owen escaped leaving pearl behind to fend for herself.

Owen's family origins explain his behavior. Erratic attachment patterns caused by promiscuous mother and a bible quoting father and the sister he abandoned to find another life. All this creates a psychology resistance to the kind of intimacy required for a long-term relationship. If this is the case, and Owen's sense of relationship has been fragmented as to make growing close with another impossible why even seek a relationship out?
Isabel: You remember the first time we met?
Owen: Bits and pieces.
Isabel: You were the biggest piece of shit douche bag I've ever met in my life. I could not stand you.
Owen: I tend to give off that first impression.
Isabel: And second, and third, fourth. But when I ran into you that fifth time something clicked.
Owen: Well, you were lonely.
Isabel: Well, you were drunk.
Owen: It's crazy... now you're pregnant.
Isabel: I want to have this baby with you.
Owen: Me, too.
What Owen found in Isabel's is a kind of love that to preserve and withstand Owen's emotional abuse and rejection. A love that became a duty. The tragedy of Trash Fire is that just when Owen and Isabel have mended their differences Pearl seeks her revenge. Does this not reveal an intolerance for congruence? As if there is no world in which Owen and Isabel can transcend their vices. As if such a world where couples develop solidarity is an even greater evil. 

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