Luckiest Girl Alive is an adaptation of Jessica Knoll’s best-selling book of the same name. It stars Mila Kunis as TifAni FaNelli, a successful journalist looking forward to a bright future with her wealthy fiance. Behind the veneer of success lies a dark past and unresolved trauma – she is a survivor of sexual assault.
Ani was gang-raped by a group of boys at a private high school years ago. Somehow, the community didn’t see her as a victim – they portrayed her as a willing participant. The experience forced Ani to suppress her story and look for other ways to deal with her trauma.
Jessica Knoll was gang-raped in high school and shouldered the blame for the event
After Luckiest Girl Alive hit bookshelves, many readers wondered how Jessica depicted rape and its aftermath so accurately. They wondered whether she’d spoken to rape victims or was a victim of such a cruel act. However, many shied away from asking outright whether Knoll was a rape survivor.
It was just as well that they didn’t ask since Jessica wasn’t ready to answer. Knoll finally opened up in 2016 when a woman approached her at a book event in New Jersey. The woman praised Jessica for her accurate depiction of rape and said something similar had almost happened to her. Knoll wrote in Cosmopolitan:
“Fuck it. ‘Something similar to what happened to Ani happened to me,’ I responded for the first time ever, and she grabbed my wrist and held it tight, blinking tears, while I smiled brightly, insisting in a foreign falsetto, ‘I’m fine! It’s fine!’”
Kroll wrote that at a party over a decade ago, three boys took advantage of her inebriation and gang-raped her. She wrote:
“I had no idea where I was and whom I was with, but that if it had to be anyone, at least let it be A Boy. Please let it be A Boy. Then he turned over. He wasn’t A Boy. He was Another Boy, A Third Boy, one I didn’t like or find the least bit attractive.”
The boy told Jessica that she couldn’t find her underwear because it wasn’t downstairs. Knoll had walked before everyone wearing nothing below the waist, with her hand bleeding due to a cut from a broken bottle.
“I know I laughed, because laughing was easier than tending to my heart, which felt like a hot coal in my chest, on fire with shame,” Knoll wrote.
Through scriptwriting, Kroll has learned that she doesn’t need revenge
Kroll, then a 15-year-old, described the events of the previous night to a female doctor, who said she wasn’t qualified to answer whether Kroll endured rape. Nobody, it seemed, wanted to call it rape. “I know my classmates called me a slut,” she wrote.
The two boys who comforted Jessica died within years of each other. “I must acknowledge that they were the ones to comfort me when it wasn’t the cool thing to do,” she wrote. Jessica confronted one of the rapists, but he flipped the script, and she found herself apologizing to him. “I apologized to my rapist for calling him a rapist,” she wrote.
The experience forced Kroll into silence. She survived high school and embarked on a journey of reinvention. Kroll thought that by becoming successful, she would prove to those who ridiculed her – and to herself – that she’d moved past the ordeal.
“I was never going to be one of them, so I spent my twenties fashioning myself into someone better,” Kroll wrote in Vogue. “At that point in my life, I blindly subscribed to the adage that living well was the best revenge.”
Opening up through the Cosmopolitan article had the desired effect – over a decade later, people believed her and shared their experiences with her. “This was ‘revenge’ – a multimedia platform on which to flaunt my success and issue a retraction,” she wrote.
However, ticking off the revenge box and opening up did little to assuage the anger inside Knoll. “I had no idea how much work it would take to finally begin the long, overdue process of healing, how ugly things would get,” Knoll wrote.
Jessica clashed with everyone, including her therapist and husband, as she tried to figure out how to heal. Mila Kunis presented the solution: she prompted Knoll to alter Ani’s ending and, by extension, Knoll’s fixation on revenge.
Through searching for an alternative ending for Ani, Jessica embarked on personal soul-searching, which made her realize that revenge wasn’t her solution. She wrote:
“That’s what I have now—insight into my anger that has allowed me to whittle it and wield it more effectively, to know when to set it down so that I don’t dull the edge. Smart anger, I like to think of it.”
Knoll concluded her Vogue article: “The self is the first thing these guys take from you, but I don’t need revenge anymore because there is nothing left to avenge. I reclaimed what is mine. That is better, and so am I.”