I watched Rocket Science this Sunday, at a free showing hosted by Northwestern. It was a different kind of comedy drama, as it doesn't have the happy ending. Partially because it was about debate, partially because it was about hermetic nerds, I enjoyed the movie. What lingered on my mind afterwards, however, was the question of what motivated Ginny Ryerson.
Movie spoilers ahead.
Let me give a short recap of what I remember of the movie. Ginny wanted the first place trophy for the state tournament, but didn't get it because her partner (Ben Wekselbaum) just stopped speaking in the middle of his speech. So next year, she goes and recruits Hal Hefner (among other similarly "disfigured" students) to the debate team. She makes out with him at least once, and makes him do a whole bunch of work before transferring to a competing school and joining their team. She also makes out with her new partner. Hal then finds Ben to try and win, without success. When Hal confronts Ginny in the middle of her speech, she justifies her actions as giving him the strength to stand up for himself and fight.
I have thought about several incomplete theories which would explain her actions:
- Revenge - The most cliched motivation would be that Ginny wanted revenge against Ben and the school. This explanation is a stretch though, as the school had almost nothing to do with her not getting the trophy. She knew Ben didn't go to college, and therefore probably doesn't value the school much anyway, and so would have no emotional lost over the school being ass-kicked in the tournament.
- Self Worth - It could be that Ginny is really looking for self-worth. This could extend back to the point she tried to get the trophy, as that is the only thing that she's missing from her trophy case. She measures herself by how many trophy she has, and in failing to do that, feels horrible. She tries to find other people who will accept her easily (that is, people who need a social life)... then what? She feels the school couldn't help her get the trophy? I could see the making out being about self worth, it wouldn't explain why she transferred to another school.
- Desire - Perhaps the most complete theory is that Ginny simply, for whatever reason, just really wanted the trophy. Getting experienced debaters on the team, snogging Hal, then transferring is really all just a ploy to destroy the previously strong school. Snogging her new partner might have to do with making sure he will debate with her. That is, the entire film shows why she forms this plan, and the execution of the plan.
I just noticed that none of the theories portray Ginny motives in a positive light. I wonder if her motives are really as she said, that she wanted people who are "disfigured" to learn to stand up and fight, that she was doing what what Ben had done (by leaving her alone at the finals). That's a very cold way to teach someone though - it reminds of the training school in Ender's Game.
There are several more loose ends about her too. Ginny has a gold pendant of her and Ben that she likes, and tries hard to find. This would imply that they were somehow in a relationship, or at least that she had a crush on him. Since Ben didn't seem to care about Ginny loosing, the latter would seem more likely.
Part of me hopes that, although her motivation for much of the film is negative, she changed at the end. Hal showing up at her school probably surprised her, and not accepting the trophy could signal a change in what she thinks, although she still doesn't want to talk to Hal.
Either way, it is debatable whether Hal or Ginny is the one we should pity more.