Amanda Young - Characterization


Several of the film crew behind the Saw film series have commented on the extent to which Amanda's character had been written to be one of the most important in the franchise. Marcus Dunstan, writer of Saw's IV-VII, stated that "Shawnee Smith's character represents a tremendous viable, emotional thread throughout the narratives." Fellow writer of Saw's IV-VII, Patrick Melton, further stated that "I don't think we could have effectively told the story of Hoffman and John Kramer without including Amanda." Kevin Greutert, the editor of Saw's I-V and director of Saw VI and Saw 3D further stated that " did a great job, and such a peculiar aspect of the Jigsaw character, with the fact that he had these tender feelings for this weirdo."

Through interviews with Shawnee Smith, it was revealed that Amanda's evolution into the killer she was at the end of Saw III was in part due to a horrible childhood. Smith stated on numerous occasions that Amanda was severely abused and neglected when she was a child. This had been confirmed by Saw series writer and co-creator Leigh Whannell, who also commented on Amanda's past in a commentary for Saw III. In the original script of Saw III, dialogue between Jigsaw and Amanda made references to her past; in a scene she explains to Jigsaw that "When I was a little girl, my father would lock me under the stairs. I was terrified of the dark, and he would leave me in there alone. For hours." The scene had explained Amanda's emotional turmoil with the Bathroom Trap.

Because of her childhood, Amanda had never properly learned to deal with stress and emotional pain, and thus turned to self-injury as a way of dealing with her problems. While in prison, her abusive tendencies were replaced with heroin use. However, after surviving the Jaw Splitter device, she no longer used heroin and returned to cutting, burning, and other forms of self-injury. Her frail emotional state and somewhat mental instability made her quick to anger, and she would often act purely on impulse or emotion (such as trying to kill Eric Matthews, and her emotionally and physically abusive behavior towards Lynn Denlon).

A scene in Saw III explores Amanda's self-injuring tendencies, and shows her cutting the inside of her thigh. The scene was not in the original script, and instead there was a brief scene in which Amanda is shown squeezing a razor blade (which was later replaced by a scene of Amanda squeezing a leather cutter), only hinting at Amanda self-injuring. Prior to filming, Smith had been reading A Bright Red Scream, a book that explains the reasons one would turn to self-injury. It was Smith who insisted that a self-injury scene be filmed and put into the movie, believing it was necessary to show Amanda's tendencies for character depth.

Amanda displayed indications of guilt and remorse in her actions, as she had a nightmare of one of her victims in a deleted scene in the director's cut of Saw III. In her dream she was confronted by Adam for what she had done to him, thus further revealing the emotional turmoil that her character exhibited.

Jake Huntley wrote of the complexity of Amanda’s character in the Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies. Huntley noted that although Amanda sets herself as notably different from the Jigsaw killer, her attachment toward him and her desire to be like him are central to her character's state of mind. Huntley stated that:

The difficulty Amanda has in locating herself within the symbolic order is evident in the dénouement of Saw III. In a flashback scene she commits a mercy killing of Adam and is then attacked by the maimed Eric Matthews. Her face running with blood from their fight (reminiscent of Jigsaw’s blood mask as he lies prone throughout Saw I), Amanda walks away from the injured detective until he begins shouting after her that she’s “nothing” and “you’re not Jigsaw.” These taunts are what provoke a response. In the present of Saw III Amanda confronts Lynn and Jigsaw whilst brandishing a gun, angry and jealous over Jigsaw’s apparent fondness for the physician, demanding to know why Lynn is so important to him, complaining that Lynn is “nothing” and “worthless” and crying that she (Amanda) doesn’t mean anything to Jigsaw. “Nothing”, “not Jigsaw” and “not important” become the signification closing in around Amanda – yet her demand “Fix me, motherfucker,” is a mimicking of Jigsaw’s continual ambiguity of speech as it carries the implication of her past drug addiction before she knew Jigsaw. Even at such a critical moment, jostling a gun between the terrified Lynn and the terminal Jigsaw, Amanda’s desire to identify with her mentor remains.

Huntley further points out that the biggest dilemma that Amanda’s character faced is that she lost her sense of ‘self’ following her jaw splitter test in the first film. This is characterized by her claim to have been ‘reborn’, symbolizing her neurotic desire to be somebody else other than herself. The viewer is confronted with a character who grapples with trying to understand her own identity as she simultaneously attempts to emulate Jigsaw’s characteristics, while also setting herself apart as different from him. It is claimed by Huntley that it was this predicament that caused Amanda’s gradual emotional break-down. Huntley stated that:

What seems to be consistent thematically through the Saw films is that ‘Jigsaw’ is a part for various players, an identity composed of pieces and despite John’s preparations and Amanda’s willingness it is a puzzle into which Amanda is, simply, unable to fit. Her addiction to drugs and her self-harming are ‘helped’ via the games she plays by something that proves to be far more pernicious, as Jigsaw comes to stand not as the object of her desire but the cause. Far from achieving a sense of self, status and stability through her role as Jigsaw’s disciple, Amanda is not ‘reborn’ and ultimately loses her sense of identity. Amanda is reduced to nothing or, as Matthews accurately and devastatingly phrases it, “not Jigsaw.” Amanda Young grows out of her original place of signification and cannot occupy the space she desires, nor can she regress to fit herself back into the position of the signifier "Amanda". The inevitable pressure of this untenable negativity is what causes Amanda’s dissolution. Unable to express her desire for Jigsaw, unable to be Jigsaw and ultimately unable to be, she is squeezed out of any position within the symbolic order and caught in a horror of a hollow point of signification – which is the subtlest trap of all.

To add to this, some film critics have interpreted Amanda's character to have suffered from Stockholm Syndrome in regards to her complex relationship with Jigsaw.

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