Gender Roles – Women
Room for Improvement:
Gender Roles – Men
Self-Esteem and Body Image
Language and Sexual Content
Violence Against Women
Gender Roles - Women: 4 Stars (Spoilers)
Aubrey Fleming is a gifted young woman with a taste for dramatic writing. She’s willing to set aside her work as an accomplished pianist and even her high school romance to put all of her energy into her passion for writing. Unfortunately, this clever character disappears early on and is replaced by Dakota Moss.
Dakota Moss also exhibits some measure of strength. She claims to be an exotic dancer and the daughter of an overdosed drug addict, but she’s managed to keep herself alive and safe up until the day she wakes up in the hospital with two of her limbs missing. She is forced to come to terms with her new reality, including the fact that everyone around her believes that she is an abducted girl named Aubrey. Despite these bizarre and terrifying circumstances, Dakota has the stamina and insight to keep her wits about her, and find out what truly happened to her – and Aubrey Fleming.
Plot: 3.5 Stars (Spoilers)
Dakota is the hero that ultimately rescues Aubrey from the hands of a brutal killer, though it’s a bit disappointing that it doesn’t take much effort or cleverness to unravel the mystery. She does sneak out of the house to do some minimal investigative work, but for the most part, she’s able to find Aubrey by relying on some unexplained psychic connection. She doesn’t need to piece together random clues or dig deep into Aubrey’s life to find some hidden connection, but everything is simply revealed to her in visions. Still, Dakota isn’t afraid to put her own life on the line to save the twin sister she’s never met, and takes on Aubrey’s killer despite her own amputated limbs.
Gender Roles - Men: 2 Stars
The men in this film are fairly unimpressive. Aubrey’s boyfriend, Jared, appears to be more interested in sex than the fact that his girlfriend is now a double amputee with significant psychological trauma. He doesn’t hesitate to follow “Dakota” up to Aubrey’s room, despite the fact that Aubrey had clearly indicated she wasn’t ready for sex. If he’s disturbed about Aubrey’s loss of memory or bizarre new persona, he gets over it fairly quickly.
Aubrey’s father, Daniel, obviously cares for his daughter and family, but he also has secrets that he’d rather keep hidden. Even when “Dakota” confronts him with the truth, he clings to his story, preferring to save his own reputation rather than his daughter’s life. While Daniel does come around by the end of the film, it’s too late and too little to undo the damage that’s been done.
Self-Esteem and Body Image: 2 Stars
Aubrey Fleming has a healthy sense of self-esteem and has no problem maintaining the boundaries she’s established with Jared (despite his claims that he loves her). Her alter-ego Dakota, on the other hand, is clearly aware of her low station in life. She doesn’t have much to offer the Flemings, or to offer Jared, but the one thing she does have is her body - and she doesn’t hesitate to use it the first chance she gets. To some degree it’s impressive that she maintains her brash, possibly even false sense of confidence despite the loss of her arm and leg. The amputations don’t prevent her from feeling sexy or taking the initiative to find out the truth about what happened to her. But some of these more powerful qualities, her determination and grit, are easily eclipsed by the intense focus on her sexuality.
Character Development: 3 Stars
I Know Who Killed Me doesn’t spend much time developing Dakota’s character. We’re given a rough description of what her life used to look like. She was a stripper who more or less existed on the outskirts of society. But this sketchy backstory is more of a weak justification to include some unnecessary nudity and to glamorize the life of exotic dancers. I Know Who Killed Me doesn’t bother to give Dakota any additional development once she moves in with the Flemings and her life gets interesting. We don’t see her struggling with the shock of suddenly having only one arm and one leg. Or adjusting to the foreign atmosphere of a loving family and being mistaken for their perfect daughter. We never see her wrestling with the idea of pretending to be Aubrey. Of embracing this new life and forgetting everything that she once was. If anything, Dakota is simply a distraction to confuse the audience. A stark contrast to the more clean-cut Aubrey, but hardly her own, fully-dimensional character.
Love: 2 Stars
There isn’t much of a love story between Aubrey and Jared. One of Aubrey’s proudest accomplishments was clearly her writing - and in particular, a story she’d written featuring a character named Dakota Moss. If Jared had a closer relationship with Aubrey, he would have recognized right away that she was playing a character she’d created. He might have spoken to Aubrey’s parents, doctors or investigators about such a crucial piece of the puzzle. But he’s clearly just as clueless about his girlfriend’s transformation as everyone else. He even takes advantage of her bizarre psychosis to have sex with her new persona. Obviously, this kind of disrespect tell us that, despite his claims that he loved Aubrey, his infatuation was more rooted in hormones than sincere emotion.
Language and Sexual Content: 3 Stars
Although I Know Who Killed Me stays away from offensive judgments on prostitution or promiscuous women, it also includes far too many scenes that grossly objectify women. Not only during the prolonged dance scenes in the strip club, but even during more benign scenes, such as when Aubrey is being ogled by a construction worker.
In some small sense, Dakota does find herself in a position of power over Jared due to his lack of sexual experience. But as a whole, the constant focus on women’s bodies, rather than their personhood, greatly diminishes the strength of both the female leads in this film.
Violence Against Women: 2 Stars
I Know Who Killed Me seems to revel in its senseless torture of women. The perpetrator is a faceless, haunting presence with invisible motives, rather than a real human being for us to judge and vilify. The film gives us the impression that there is something intoxicating and exciting about holding this sort of power over another person. It plays to an audience that feeds off of disturbing portrayals of torture, and pretends to give us a clear sense of what evil looks like. But I Know Who Killed Me never fully exposes the complexities or the depravity behind the kind of men that hurt women. It lets them remain a mysterious and powerful force over our lives.