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Film / Powder

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Powder is a 1995 film starring Sean Patrick Flanery as Jeremy "Powder" Reed — a blindingly white, bald albino boy born with supernatural, electricity-based powers. Powder's mother, having been struck by lightning, suffered Death by Childbirth and his father disowned him upon seeing his odd appearance, so his grandparents cared for him instead, though keeping him in the basement with nothing but books for solace. CPS agents take Powder from his home and to bring Powder into the outside world after his grandfather is discovered dead.

This film was directed by Victor Salva, who had been convicted in 1988 of having molested a 12-year-old child actor. Salva's victim would eventually come forward to encourage people to boycott the film, a possible reason for its disappointing box office revenues (US$31 million). The controversy and low return is probably why Disney—owner of the film's release label Hollywood Pictures—has never re-hired Salva since.

Not to be confused with the Roguelike game of the same name, originally developed for Game Boy Advance.

This film provides examples of:

  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: At the end of the film, Powder vanishes after running into a field and being struck by lightning. Doug theorizes that he transcended the mundane world and turned into pure energy.
  • Albinos Are Freaks: Powder sticks out like a sore thumb. He gets picked on in school and has electrical powers, too.
  • Bittersweet Ending: It's clear that despite the efforts of those who care about him Powder is never quite going to fit in with the rest of the world, because humanity hasn't caught up with him yet, so he rushes out into a field as a lightning storm passes over, and manages to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
  • Bullying a Dragon: The bullies try to strip Powder naked after they catch him checking out other boys in the shower.
  • Cool Teacher: Donald Ripley is a physics teacher trying to be this but is slightly dorky in practice; in his introductory scene he's demonstrating a Jacob's ladder to his students to impress them with "entertaining stuff". He ends up playing the trope straight in a meaningful way: Upon witnessing Powder's affinity for electricity being accidentally triggered by the demonstration (and rescuing him upon realizing what's happening) he's not only fascinated by, rather than fearful of, his abilities but also concerned for his welfare. He's saddened to learn that Powder's grandparents were afraid to touch him, meaning the boy grew up with virtually no physical contact.
  • Death by Childbirth: Powder's mother dies giving birth to him in the wake of her being struck by lightning. This leads his father to abandon him (Powder being albino is also probably a factor).
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Because her father's a raging bigot.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • If the characters depicted are any indication, it would seem that the country's worst bigots have all been dumped into this small town. You can count on one hand the characters who aren't openly hostile!
    • Suggested to be a conventional racist, Officer Harley's reaction to first seeing Powder leads to this.
    Sheriff Barnum: I never thought we'd find a man too white for you there, Harley.
  • Gibbering Genius: Donald Ripley, the physics teacher who figures out and explains the nature of Powder's electricity-based abilities to the rest of the high school staff. For bonus points, he's played by the actor most associated with this trope, Jeff Goldblum.
  • Heel Realization: Officer Harley, after Powder makes him feel the pain of the deer he shot. However, while it causes him to never use a gun again, his appearance at the end of the film shows that he's still a Jerkass who hates Powder even more for having done that to him.
  • Humans Are Bastards: One of the overall themes of the film.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Because Powder's unique qualities, and even more so other people's response to them, have caused him so much grief since the day he was born, he takes little joy in them. Donald, who is fascinated rather than fearful of him, actually calls him out on his self-pity, pointing out that the world is a tough place and that he shouldn't feel more put upon than others (in part because he literally should know better than that).
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Harley mentions a medical report that claimed Powder's grandfather was electrocuted. Barnum scoffs it off. However, given his powers, it would appear he may have either accidentally or intentionally killed his grandfather. In fact it's implied that Powder tried to use his powers to revive his grandfather the same way he saves John later in the film.
  • Magical Defibrillator: With his powers, he is this. Played straight with one of the bullies late in the film, but also subverted in that his abilities failing to work on his grandparents made Powder an orphan.
  • Meaningful Name: Several critics at the time pointed out the obviousness of two of the few characters who are kind to Powder — Sheriff Doug Barnum and teacher Donald Ripley — having the surnames of people who made careers out of hyping/showcasing people who were born "different" (P.T. Barnum and Robert Ripley, the latter the creator of Believe It or Not!).
  • Mistaken for Gay: One point of the film has Powder stare at one of the boys at the gym washing himself in a drinking fountain, but envious of the more "normal" pigmentation of his skin as well as the hair on his head and body that Powder himself lacks, not that he's sexually attracted to him. The other boys catch him for this, assuming he's gay.
  • Raised by Grandparents: As soon as he was born, Powder was sent to live with his grandparents because his father wanted nothing to do with him.
  • Teens Are Monsters: John especially, although he's revealed to be like this because his step-father abused him. It's implied he became a better person after Jeremy restarts his heart.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: The fate of the titular character, who gets struck by lightning but disappears outright, leaving nothing behind.