**Trigger Warning: This article mentions sexual abuse and violence in Megan Is Missing (2011)**
A few nights ago, I was scrolling through TikTok in bed as usual. But then a TikTok mentioning the horror film “Megan Is Missing” (2011) appeared! I didn’t want to think about this film that traumatized me as a preteen, so I ignored it. To my dismay, more of these TikToks began to appear! The eery memories of the last scenes of the movie filled my head, along with the fear it caused me as a middle schooler. I ran to get my dog to protect me, checked all my doors, and didn’t use TikTok for the rest of the night.
For a few days, “Megan is Missing” was trending on TikTok. Many teenagers who had never seen the film before recorded their reactions at different parts of the movie. It was saddening to see some of the teenagers filming their teary eyes towards the end of the film. Upon hearing that his movie was trending on TikTok, the film’s director, Michael Goi, responded with his own TikTok about the movie. He gave a warning to people who may watch the film and suggested that one does not watch it alone or in the middle of the night.
Because the film started trending, I decided to watch it again and see if it was just as horrifying as I remembered. I was mostly disheartened by Megan’s backstory and scenes where she and other young teenage girls were taken advantage of. I was also concerned by the over-sexualization of young girls, ages 12-14, in the film. The party scene was honestly terrifying to me as a 21-year-old. There was even a part where Megan’s friend, Amy, gets slapped for not liking a guy’s creepy advances. The last few minutes of the film were even more horrific and deserved more warning. There was a lengthy rape scene that could be very traumatizing to young teens.
Banned in New Zealand
New Zealand even banned the movie because of its hypersexualization of minors and implicit scenes of sexual violence. The film depicts teenagers acting in sexual situations, discussing sexual subject matters, and experiencing sexual violence. As a result, many feel most of the content was excessive and unnecessary.
Furthermore, the intent of the film was to warn teens and parents about the dangers of the internet and meeting strangers. The film is not based on a real story but inspired by some real child abduction cases. Sadly, the danger of child abduction is still very real and reoccurring in our world. But if the rape scene was just to show that meeting someone online could end in sexual violence, why did it have to be so in-depth and graphic? Knowing that you could end up in that type of situation should be good enough.
In addition, some of these scenes could bring up past trauma to victims of sexual assault and violence. Because of this, the film may be more harmful than it is helpful to teens’ well-being.
Do scare tactics even work on teens?
With all this being said, does the film achieve its goals as a warning? The film does a good job of showing a possible outcome of not being careful online. But that doesn’t mean it will persuade its audience to be more cautious. “Megan Is Missing” exemplifies the scare tactic.
Scare tactics have been used to try to persuade teens to make better decisions. They can be seen in drunk driving and anti-drug commercials. However, their effectiveness is questionable. Studies have suggested that fear tactics are generally not effective for teenagers. They may have the “won’t happen to me” mentality or find this strategy to be over-exaggerated. Scaring teens is not the most effective avenue for changing their decisions. However, it is important that teens understand the reality of these situations, so they can make informed decisions. But eliciting fear is not the right tool.
Whether the film is harmful or not, is up to the individual. But I hope those who do encounter the film are aware of what the film entails. Especially, the disheartening depictions of sexual violence and abuse.
I was about 13-years-old when I first watched it, and it definitely scared me at the time. Although the images from the film were ingrained in my head for weeks to come, I don’t feel that it has influenced my behavior long term. From my perspective now as a young adult, the film mostly just made me sad. I feel a lot of empathy for Megan for having such an abusive backstory. And it was unpleasant to watch the end that Megan and Amy faced. I don’t object to people watching the film, but I wouldn’t recommend it. All I can say is to come prepared if you really wish to watch it.