Queer & Feminist Film Studies
Representation of Los Alamos in Let Me In
The town of Los Alamos was highly influenced by the Cold War especially considering that it is one of the most iconic places in the United States during this time. It was one of the cities where the atomic bomb was being developed so it eventually became a suburban town where families that were working in the lab could live in. Although Los Alamos is supposed to represent normalcy and nationalism during the Cold War era, it is a direct reflection of the violence and reality of the war through the degenderization and savagery of Abby and Owen’s relationship in Let Me In.
Throughout the entire film, Los Alamos never presents itself as what the government intended the town to become. Ideally, it was supposed to represent a white, heterosexual nuclear family but none of the characters in the film fit these standards. Abby, for example, is a vampire who does not consider herself a girl or a boy. When she speaks to Owen about possibly having a relationship, she tells him she cannot be his girlfriend because she does not fit into any of the categories. Abby is the opposite of what a teen girl should be in a town like Los Alamos, “she’s the queer, nonreproductive, non-human Other masquerading as a good little white daughter.” (Hannabach, 19) She is seen as a threat in an environment like this. Owen’s gender is also vague and questioned throughout the film. He is bullied and called a little girl because he is scrawny and does not act or look like the other boys in his class. Through the bullying, he begins to have tendencies that attempt to make him more masculine such as using knifes and violence to protect himself. The violence that he constantly depends on demonstrates how the wartime culture has made everyone comfortable with using extreme forms of cruelty. The “families” that Owen and Abby come from are not normal in the nuclear family sense. Owen’s parents are divorced and his mother is never really present in the film. She does not have any awareness about where Owen is and never notices when he sneaks out to hang out with somebody who is dangerous. On the other hand, Abby does not have parents but does have a guardian who knows where she is at all times and gives her advice as to who she should and should not be around. It makes sense why Abby and Owen were attracted to each other when they first met considering the fact that “neither Abby not Owen come from traditional nuclear families in either sense of the term. Neither character has strong ties to the lab, and both lack heteronuclear family arrangements.” (Hannabach, 11)
Los Alamos does not embody what the government intended it to be in Let Me In. It is a dark town full of ominous places and violence in all common places. One of the main settings where we see violence playing an important role is the public school that Owen attends. He is constantly bullied and abused by three boys whose sexualities also seem vague. Although they tease him for being scrawny and weak, they refer to sodomy and harass him to entertain and enjoy themselves. During the film, there is an obvious increase in violence and deaths. This may seem odd in other towns but everyone seems to ignore it in Los Alamos except for the one police officer. There were four cases in which one or more people died in the span of two weeks in one small town and nobody necessarily noticed. They are living in a wartime culture and it seems normal to witness and hear about such violent deaths. None of the killings seem like accidents. They are all purposefully done and result in freak accidents. It does not come as a surprise to the resident of Los Alamos “when a child-vampire begins attacking local residents, and exsanguinated bodies start appearing drained of blood.” (Hannabach, 6)
When Abby and Owen begin to interact more closely and regularly, Owen begins to notice that there is something different about Abby. Instead of staying away from her, like she has warned him in the beginning of the film, he becomes intrigued in her friendship. One of the most violent scenes occurs when she is killing the police officer and Owen just closes the door and does not stop her. When she is done, she approaches him and kisses him on the lips even though her face is covered in blood. In another scene, she gets into bed with him while she is naked and just finished killing her guardian. Although she is also covered in blood in this scene, he does not hesitate to let her in. This shows how he considers her the most innocent character in this film. He does not question what she does and never doubts her intentions with him. He “prefers this monstrous, inhuman, aggressive, queerly feminine creature who is neither girl nor boy to the life that Los Alamos embodies.” (Hannabach, 21) Owen runs away with Abby at the end of the film because he determines that his life with her is healthier for him rather than the “normal” life he is supposed to have in Los Alamos.
Let Me In is an accurate representation of what a lot of towns must have looked like during the Cold War era. Although the towns were specifically designed for heterosexual families, the wartime culture prevented this from occurring. Violence plays a prominent role in this change and is eventually normalized like Owen did in his relationship with Abby.
Hannabach, Cathy. “Between Blood and the Bomb: Atomic Cities, Nuclear Kinship, and Queer Vampires in Matt Reeves’s Let Me In”