6.6
million Americans will be the victims of stalking in the United States this
year, according to the Office on Violence against Women; this equates to 1 in 6
women and 1 in 29 men. Given the freedoms and rights afforded to citizens in
American, notably their right to privacy and the freedom from illegal search
and seizure, being able to gather the conclusive evidence that someone is a
stalker with a violent swaying in nearly impossible to prove without an
aggravating act. The Perfect Guy is a
2015 film that forces viewers to admit the ugly truth: stalking is not
difficult to do, but it is difficult to stop. In the age of modern technology,
the ability to latch on to someone’s every detail of their personal life has
become both easier and more invasive. The threat of being stalked, whether
physically, electronically, or both, is relatively ignored with a penchant
towards victim-shaming. The Perfect Guy
flips these misconceptions and throws them back in the face of viewers:
stalking is very real, not the fault of the victim, and no one is immune to
this threat.

Pause
and reflect for a moment. When you think of someone being stalked, who is the
victim? A female with a quieter disposition, more passive than assertive, and
lacking physical strength. The victim in this film is a strong female lead with
an assertive personality bordering aggressiveness. This appeal to logos is a
bit complex: the kneejerk logic here is that a victim of a stalking case must
have either set themselves up for the scenario to begin with, or lacks the
appropriate mindset to end the discomfort. Leah, the main character, forces the
audience to strip away their preconceived stereotypes and come face-to-face
with the unsettling truth that anyone can be a victim of stalking.

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In
comparison, the stalker is a good-looking male (Carter) with a pleasant
demeanor. Not your stereotypical friendless boy who takes revenge on females by
obsessing over their lives and pulling unwilling characters into their plots.
Leah was not only a shock to the viewer’s expectation by being such a strong
female lead, but she also willfully entered into a relationship with her
eventual stalker. This is another truth that commonplace society works hard to
ignore or push aside: you are much more likely to know your stalker than not
know them. In fact, according to a report published in 2012 by the Office on
Violence against Women, 66% of female victims and 41% of male victims are
stalked by someone they know. How disconcerting, to admit that our
relationships that we have willfully initiated/engaged in can lead to such
destructive consequences.

The
production team for this film employed interesting narrative techniques to get the
story across both poignantly and factually. While Leah is the protagonist in
the film, we are not restricted to only seeing the story from her eyes. Carter
has significant story time and we see a number of scenes showing his active
stalking of Leah without her being the primary focus of the scene.
Additionally, another romantic partner of Leah’s, Dave, gets significant
airtime as we follow his demise at the hands of Carter’s stalking.  What makes this an effective method of
story-telling in this situation is that we are able to see just how extreme and
unstoppable Carter’s methods of stalking are. With so many individuals in
modern society tethered to mobile devices and other electronics that actively
transmit GPS signals, it’s a necessary eye-opener to see just how much more at
risk these technological advances can put us. Carter wires Leah’s home so he
can watch her activities within the confines of her house from afar, allowing
stalking to no longer be the physical act of following someone, but rather an
invasively intimate act by stealing another’s privacy and personal moments.

Another
aspect of the narrative explored was the direction law enforcement took, or
could not take. Seeing how, despite mounting evidence and testimony, difficult
it was to charge Carter officially for any stalking crimes further emphasized
the importance of having a real discussion outside the cinema regarding
stalking and how to protect one’s self. The emotion put forth in the
emotionally-charged dialogue and event sequence aptly grasps the heart of the
audience by letting them identify with any number of characters in the movie.
This technique made everyone feel connected to the storyline and threat of
stalking, whether they would identify with Leah’s demographics or not.

The Perfect Guy
forces the audience to accept ugly truths regarding stalking: you are not
invincible, you cannot predict who is going to become aggressively attached,
and the world we live in is only making such crimes easier. Stalking is
discussed, certainly, in popular culture, but not as seriously as it should be.
We see primetime television shows breaking down situations where teenagers are
lured by pretenders online into risqué lifestyles and then the perpetrator
latches on to the teenager, or the warnings from parents to their children to
be careful what information they share online. We brush off people like Edward
Snowden warning us of the tracking technology in our cellphones being used by
government and claims that this information can be hacked by stalkers by saying
only conspiracy theorists buy into these theories. We read magazine articles
about lovers who couldn’t move on after a relationship ends, launching the duo
into a violent turn of stalking mistaken as deep emotion. We see, hear, and
read these stories, but as a whole we do not identify with the risks. This
movie takes the audience’s sense of comfort and manhandles them into accepting
that there is no way to predict who can turn violent, all we can do is try and
be proactive with a strong system in place to protect ourselves should
something go wrong.

Another
valuable take away from this film, is the need for a discussion on the private
versus the public self. In Carter’s case, his public self was the charming man
who had a way with wooing others over, hence the title, The Perfect Guy.  However,
his private self was a cyber security expert who knew how to take systems and
bastardize them in order for perverse personal gain. Leah did not anticipate
the ugly turn from Carter until an incident at a gas station, when his
possessive anger took hold of him and he acted irrationally. It was in this
moment when a situation was outside Carter’s control that his public self-facade
fell away and let the private self be revealed. There is a very real dialogue
that needs to happen with individuals concerning these theories so they can be
armed with information about what can happen very rapidly in their lives, so
they can be ready to take action.

Internet
users in 2015 have an average of 5.54 social media accounts. Carter was able to
stalk Leah from afar without having access to any social media accounts.
Imagine if she was as connected on these platforms as the typical internet
user? Carter would not need his technological savvy to stalk her. From status
updates to check-ins, live tweeting an event to instantly uploading photos to
Instagram. Between Google and iPhones logging the travel patterns of users, and
the users’ personal initiative to post daily updates about their lives, there
are no secrets any longer. Our lives are publically displayed, prominently
displayed across social media, arguably in hopes that someone will care enough
to pay attention and get to know us and care about us in a respectful matter.
However, therein lies the problem. Our lives are open books and the pages are
there to be read by someone who has a very twisted sense of what is okay.