“The Roommate” explores dangerous obsession, the line between love and possession, and potential unrequited Sapphic love.
The Roommate was released in 2011, two years after the release of Jennifer’s Body. Unfortunately, homophobic ideas were still prevalent. This may be why the film does not overtly explore queer relationships. But it’s not a stretch to interpret the bond — or desired bond — between the two women as Sapphic.
Rebecca Evans never had a true attachment to her parents (something about her backstory screams adoption and borderline and/or bipolar trauma of abandonment). Instead, she made connections to the young women around her that were both tenuous and destructive.
Her skewed perception of these connections is shown through the drawings in her childhood bedroom, implying a close relationship with someone who later claims she and Rebecca were never friends.
Quite Machiavellian in her desires, Rebecca seems to care about nothing except Sara Matthews, her new roommate — and the possible sister she’s never had.
She takes on the uninvited role of protector of Sara and of the deep bond she imagines the two share. She first “protects” Sara from Tracy (a party-loving ditcher), whose belly ring she rips. Later, she takes care of the “nasty” kitten that threatened to take Sara away from her. Her remorseless killing of the helpless creature is hard to watch. It’s a trope many of us, myself included, would be happy to see die out in the genre. But Rebecca uses the tragedy to get closer to Sara.
When that doesn’t quite work as well as she’d hoped, she beats herself up, cutting her stomach to make it look like she was mugged. This is all an attempt to garner some sympathy and pull Sara closer to her. There seemingly isn’t anything Rebecca won’t do to make sure Sara doesn’t stray.
Naturally, this does little to foster a healthy relationship and instead ends up pushing Sara away.
The Desire to Be Normal
At one point, Rebecca pierces her own ear savagely because Sara offered to loan her a pair of earrings. She seemingly has this desire to be like other girls while also not wanting to reject Sara’s offering of friendship (no matter how small).
The piercing scene is a good metaphor for Rebecca’s brand of loyalty: blood-soaked and angry.
The reason I think The Roommate, much like Jennifer’s Body, is very much an unrequited love story is because Rebecca takes care of those she “loves” in a very relationship-like way, much like how Jennifer demands Needy’s time even though they both date guys.
Rebecca wants to know where Sara is all the time and wants to be together always.
Rebecca is very much out of control with her actions; they stem from panic, not methodical planning.
Rebecca knows something is wrong with her and wants to be normal. Still, the way she develops relationships with other women is too intense and unnatural in her constant push to be the most important person in the life of her adored.
Rebecca’s obsessions with certain women border on Sapphic. When a man does hit on her, his affections are usually met with a lack of interest or even fits of rage when they won’t leave her alone.
When Sapphic love goes unrealized (especially in horror), things can take extremely dark turns. Embracing oneself entirely is the key to our internal freedom. Without it, we live in prisons of our own making.
Rebecca doesn’t seem to be written as explicitly Sapphic (though she does kiss Irene). But I do believe she’s in love with Sara. The times we see Rebecca seduce others, it’s in service to Sara — to screw over a scumbag professor or to lure Irene (a good friend of Sarah’s) and hold her hostage.
To Rebecca, love is about extremes. It involves being possessive, clingy, jealous, and driven by insecurities and fear of losing that which she covets. Her world is insular (and very lonely), and she clearly longs for a deep connection.
That could be a sisterly connection she craves, but it seems to be something deeper and more intense than that.
When I watch The Roommate, I’m reminded a great deal of Barb and her relationship with Sheba in Notes on a Scandal (2006), which was written as an unrequited Sapphic love story.
Barb is a much older woman who preys on the mother-needing quality in some younger women to control them in a kind of twisted seduction.
Barb is Rebecca, all grown up: bitter, lonely, willing to do whatever is necessary to “save” women from their lives and preserve the perceived connections.