Saturday, June 8, 2019

Walking on Eggshells: Gen Z & “Swept Away” by Shayna Sengstock


I believe that the new generations are not taught to be prepared for what the world will throw at them. They are only told that people will change and that they should not have to face the problems that occur in the world.

— Kyle Thompson, “Are Millennials Too Sensitive?”

As a member of Generation Z growing up in the twenty-first century, I and many of my peers have encountered that famous saying, “I am a balloon, filled with emotions, in a world full of pins” (Unknown). This phrase has crippled the newer generations and caused us to act like fragile, overly sensitive humans who view everyone with different opinions as the enemy. As Kyle Thompson infers on the Millennial generation, born from 1980 through 1994, they have not been able to adapt to the real world. As well, my generation, 1995 through 2015, has also not been given the proper tools to solve problems; instead, we are coddled by our helicoptering parents who protect us from all harm. We expect others to walk to the same beat of the drum that we do, and when our homeostasis is upset, we curl up in a ball of self-pity. Barbara Lilley states in her article, “Why Are so Many Millennials Emotionally Fragile?,” “The world seems to be overrun with snowflakes whose fragile beauty dissolves as soon as they land on solid ground” (par. 1). We are so affected by everything we see and look at that when we have to view something difficult we break as easily as eggshells being walked on. I refer to our class discussion on who walked on more eggshells: deckhand Gennarino or the once shrewish but now subdued Raffaella in Swept Away?

Lena Wertmüller’s film evoked many emotions in me, some of which were most overwhelming. The way the characters treated one another made me feel indignant; the sexual harassment uneased me; the mistreatment disgusted me, and the abuse launched on both characters made me feel empathic. Unlike some of my peers, I was fortunate to be able to discuss the film with relevant people because I had built friendships with other students from last semester as well as with my peer teacher, Benny, and my coach, KP. In the basement of Axinn Library I discussed the film’s grotesque characteristics with Benny. I ranted to him about how the film trapped me and made me feel like I could not move forward into written self-expression. Through him I was able to calm down and I was able to see that by talking to someone it is easier to unpack the intensity in certain situations. I was used to watching fluff piece productions where everything ends in a happily ever after and Prince Charming rides off into the sunset. However, Wertmüller uses characters that really show what it is like to be a human being: Gennarino Carunchio, a short-tempered, lower-class man who was a leader of the communist party and Raffaella Pavone, a stuck up, highly opinionated lady of the upper class. These characters were meant to show the tension between Northern and Southern Italians during this time period and draw awareness to the corrupt political system that Italy was experiencing. “Swept Away observes a clash through two human manifestations of contrasting political systems who are in disagreement over the sexual politics of the time period” (Marking, par 3). The film shows how the main protagonist Gennarino sticks to a machoistic view of women, regarding them as “an object of pleasure for the working man” (Wertmüller, 1:24:34). Anger blinded Gennarino because Raffaella once held a higher position over him. He was someone whose views of the world did not permit women to have equal or higher rights than a man. He yearned to achieve the same level of respect and power that Raffaella evoked on a daily basis. Just like my generation, he was brainwashed by the cultural standards. Gennarino’s communistic views were challenged by Rafaella’s outspoken spirit; instead of humbling himself and realizing there are other ways of viewing life, he got wrathful and lashed out at her.

This brainwashed approach to life relates to Plato’s allegory of the cave. Gennarino was like the prisoners who just saw shadows of things and not the whole picture. When one of the prisoners was let go and saw what the world was really like, his eyes were opened to new ideas. The prisoner tried to go back to the others and tell them of his discovery. However, the other prisoners did not want to hear his point of view and therefore, ridiculed and abused him. Gennarino’s views were skewed by his pride just like the prisoners. When Gennarino finally had it with Raffaella’s constant nagging and criticism, he was seen chasing her around a deserted island abusing her for the “crimes” of the wealthy. “You are going to pay for everyone [. . .] that is for causing inflation and not paying taxes [. . .] and that is for the hospitals where the poor cannot even get in” (Wertmüller, 1:08:53). Raffaella struggled underneath him as he ripped her clothes off and whispered, “You are finally going to know a real man” (Wertmüller, 1:10:48).

This scene proved highly controversial among my classmates. We all were not used to watching films that made us uncomfortable and dared us to think too deeply about unsettling topics. Swept Away caused some of us to relive moments that we were trying hard to forget and caused others to be infuriated. Enraged, we argued about whether this film should have even been shown to us in the first place. In essence, we were all blinded by our anger. However, how are we supposed to stand up and make a difference if we are too afraid to watch something that shows us the corruption previous generations have experienced? How are we supposed to change the world if we cannot look at the problem head on? We all have been babied by the cultural climate we live in. “We know violent things are happening around the world, but we play a blind eye to them” (Thompson, par 3). We think that not showing these images will make them go away when in reality we are just sweeping everything under the rug creating more of a mound. “These problems will keep happening until we talk about them and bring awareness to the subject” (Solaimani).

So, what now? How are we supposed to open the eyes of our culture and make others realize the corruption that is happening around us? What we should not do is let our oppressors walk all over us like Rafaella did. She was afraid that if she spoke out against Gennarino that she was going to be harmed by him. This caused her to fall into silence. Gloria Anzaldua wrote in How to Tame a Wild Tongue, that we need to “Overcome the tradition of silence” (Anzaldua, page 40). “We are given tongues to be able to speak the truth and to stand up for what is right” (Schofield, par 5). We need not be scared or afraid to discuss these unsettling topics and show others our views on them. Rafaella was not allowed to voice her views on the island and was told by Gennarino to be submissive — women should be seen and not heard. “If that damn bitch doesn’t keep her mouth shut I’ll murder her” (Wertmüller, 7:15). Gloria Anzaldua was taught by her mother that, “Flies don’t enter a closed mouth.” Both of these women were forced into not using their voice. They were afraid that if they spoke they were either going to be deemed wrong or abused. It was only until both of these women realize that they “will no longer be made to feel ashamed of existing. [They] will have [a] voice” that they were truly freed from their oppressors (Anzaldua, page 40). That is why we need to learn to discuss these difficult topics instead of walking on eggshells and being afraid. If we keep our mouths closed nothing is going to change. “The world suffers a lot. Not because of the violence of bad people, but because of the silence of good people” (Napoleon).

Works Cited

Anzaldua, Gloria. (2019). [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 April. 2019].

Lilley, Barbara. “Why Are so Many Millennials Emotionally Fragile?” Intellectual Takeout, 1 Dec. 2016,

Marking, Alexis. “Boys Will Be Boys’ until They Turn into Abusive Men.” Taking Giant Steps, Kirpal Gordon, 4 Feb. 2019,

Schofield, Sadie. “How Identity Works: Without Pain How Can We Know Joy?” Taking Giant Steps, Kirpal Gordon, 27 March 2019,


Solaimani, Shadie. Class discussion. 1 April 2019
Thompson, Kyle. “Are Millennials Too Sensitive?” The Athenaeum, 9 Aug. 2017,  

Wertmüller, Lena. Swept Away, Youtube, 19 Feb. 2017,

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