John Bender’s trauma is real
John Bender’s home life sounds genuinely miserable to anyone watching the film. But as an adult it’s especially terrifying, as the abuse he describes can cause severe emotional, mental, and physical trauma. This is most evident when he describes what life is like for him at home, taking on the roles of his two parents during a confrontation.
That’s some very disturbing verbal abuse to witness and endure. Additionally, he later shows Andrew a scar on his arm, made by his father’s lit cigar, after he spilled paint in the garage. That’s grounds for investigation, according to Child Protective Services.
Allison’s line about rape is disturbing
When you’re young, you might not understand the machinations at work that perpetuate rape culture. That’s why you might miss just how disturbing Allison’s anecdote about sleeping with her therapist really is.
She says, “I don’t think that from a legal standpoint that what he did can be construed as rape since I paid him.” That’s a reflection of how rape culture twists reality and disempowers women. And it’s doubly messed up since she’s actually lying, just to make Claire divulge personal details about her sex life.
Claire is clearly — and rightly — grossed out, as she replies, “He’s an adult,” and points out that he’s also married.
Principal Vernon could be arrested for abuse
Principal Vernon is the villain of the movie, and is fleshed out as an entitled, condescending, and bitter person who resents his students and his station in life. But he’s also a dangerous man who could be arrested and charged for the way he treats John Bender.
For one, he threatens to shake the screw out of John’s pocket after the door malfunctions, a clear physical threat. Then, after yelling at John and giving him two months of detention, he tells the other students to go visit John in five years to “see how funny he is,” insinuating that John will be a failure. Later, when they’re alone in the closet, he asks John if he’s going to cry. Then he tells him he’ll always be watching him, and that he’ll “beat the s***” out of him. Satisfied with himself, he asks John, “What are you gonna do about it?”
John then asks him if he’s being threatened, and Vernon replies, “You think anyone’s gonna believe you? You think anyone is gonna take your word over mine?” Finally, he tries to get John to physically fight him, calling him “a gutless turd” when John does not respond. There’s no question that this is abusive behavior, punishable by law.