Men (2022) is a new folk horror film that has many viewers confused. Fitting well into our F*ck the Patriarchy series, this film tackles the issue of men. Gabe discusses victim-blaming, domestic abuse, how men be 'men'ing and more. Kat shares helpful makeup tips and how to protect yourself.
SPOILERS start at 32:14 Kat's Section starts (spoilers over) at 49:58
If you or someone you know is in danger of domestic abuse, please visit thehotline.org or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
Sources in this Episode:
Media from this week's episode:
A young woman goes on a solo vacation to the English countryside following the death of her ex-husband.
Director: Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation)
Interpreting and Discussing MEN
by Gabe Castro
RED: Quotes, someone else's words.
Harper seeks refuge in a tiny hideaway town to escape a recent tragedy. Her ex-husband has died and it’s complicated. It’s uncertain whether he killed himself but having bore witness to his death, Harper has a lot to work through. This beautiful country house should be the perfect place to find herself again.
Harper arrives and spots a blossoming apple tree. She immediately grabs a fresh apple (hello biblical allegory!) She meets the landlord of the gorgeous house, Geoff. He is a typical nice guy, stumbling over his words and working to overcompensate for his mundanity. He chastises her for eating the apple, “uh uh, we must’nt do that. Forbidden fruit.” Geoff is awkward and uncertain. He brushes off her offer to help him bring her suitcases inside. We see him struggle with the bags but still, he refuses her help.
There are a few moments of unsettling fear. A discomfort that comes from being stalked. Harper has an uncomfortable encounter with a strange person living in a tunnel. He is naked and pursues her through the woods as she frantically finds her way back to the house. The horror was in these next moments, with this man lurking outside. Having a woman so utterly alone and vulnerable in this unknown place while a nude man wanders around outside was upsetting. She doesn’t have the address memorized and hadn’t shared it with anyone.
When she does make her way to the town, she encounters more insidious men (and boy) all played by Rory Kinnear. Each man is more disgusting than the last.
Part of the horror and discomfort comes from the toxicity of these men in the town. Each man seems ill-equipped to interact with a woman. In their isolation, they’ve only had their limited view of women all this time. Geoff is awkward and performative. He performs what he is told is a good guy. The vicor she encounters applies misogynist beliefs onto her, assuming she must feel guilty for not having allowed her abusive husband the opportunity to apologize. The boy expects her to play with him, she must. And when she behaves outside of the perceived way of woman, she is made an enemy. These interactions are disquieting and sometimes sickening (looking at you vicor). It’s in these moments that I, as a femme viewer, was enraged or afraid. I’ve heard these lines and I have lived the experiences. It’s no surprise to me and other women that the men behave this way and ultimately betray her.
One issue I had with the film, was the lack of person Harper was. For a film exploring the female experience and complicated relationship between genders, having an empty protagonist makes connection difficult. I found myself wanting to know more about her relationship with her ex-husband outside of this moment that seeks to define her entirely. I know there is more to Harper and more to her life outside of that tragedy and that man. We spend so much time with the environment and we’re forced to see Harper through the lens of the men around her. It reminds me of William Faulkner’s The Sound & the Fury, the exploration and interpretation of one woman’s life through the lens of every man and never her.
Her Black Husband
Speaking of terrible men and the exploration of them. Let’s discuss that husband and why in the year of 2022, the only known, confirmed death in this horror film is that of a black man? The only for true villain, is this husband. We slowly piece together Harper’s trauma throughout the film. Learning that she is not a widow, persay, because she had intended to divorce her husband. We learn he is emotionally manipulative and in the few moments we get with him can easily label him an easy villain. Which is terribly complicated. Are we meant to hate him? Are we meant to hate any of these men? Or should we instead file this under nature?
A discussion on Slate.com, Men ending: Three critics attempt to explain the 2022 movie's twist., the critics explain, He uses his capacity for violence against a woman who’s made him feel emotionally vulnerable, and then he just does this (nongendered) hateful thing, which is threatening to take his own life as a purely manipulative gesture. And he’s Black. And he’s depicted as possibly an immigrant because of his accent, so he’s socially vulnerable in these other ways. And I’m not saying that’s not interesting. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. I’m just saying that it’s gestured to but not explored.
So you’re left with this person who inflicts this grotesque set of traumas on the woman he supposedly loves, haunting the entire film, even though he’s socially vulnerable, too. It doesn’t feel sympathetic. It just feels unresolved. Boy does it ever.
Not only does he die but his body is shown, brutalized and horrific. Are we meant to feel just in that moment? And later, when this brutality is reexplored it delivers even more questions. The biggest being why.
Green Man & Sheela Na Gig
(Folk horror really be white people like, “We have culture too!”)
Throughout the film, there is a statue/figure that seems to allude to some meaning. On one side, the face of a man with leaves growing out of him (we see this later in the flesh) and on the other, a womanly figure legs and vagina spread open. The leaf man is actually The Green Man and he is a legendary being primarily interpreted as a symbol of rebirth, representing the cycle of new growth that occurs every spring. (why a man symbolizes rebirth is beyond me but be envious I guess). The inviting woman is known as Sheela Na Gig, a type of stone architectural figure of uncertain significance, representing a naked woman gesturing to or otherwise flagrantly displaying exaggerated genitalia.
So we have this marrying of important birthing figures. And later, we have an intense, bloody visual representation of this marriage. What are we to do with this? Are these cismen jealous of the ability to birth?
Up for Interpretation
In an article on Polygon by Tasha Robinson titled, Alex Garland says the ending of Men is whatever you make of it, they explain that Garland’s intention for this film was to start a conversation. The has no interest in clearing the air or explaining his intention. The film is as much his as his cinematographer, Rob Hardy, and the audience’s.
“Many, many times, I’ve encountered people who say, ‘This film is clearly this,’” Garland tells Polygon. “And what they really mean is, ‘It’s clearly this to me.’ And that ends up being about them as much as it is about the film. It is about their response to it. It’s about their life history, it’s about their concerns about the world and their interaction with it.”
Ghouls have discussed how a piece of work transcends the original intent of the creator. In each step of creation, touched by another being, it is transformed. In the writing, the acting, the art direction, the cinematography, and in the reception of the audience.
Garland has said in the film’s press notes, “This film leans very hard into the idea that a story is a 50-50 split between the storytellers and the story receivers. More than any film I’ve worked on, this one was anticipating an audience would join the conversation.”
Do I agree with Garland’s Rorschach Test approach? Not entirely and do feel it helps to know the artist’s intent and sometimes the lack of input can come off pretentious and sloppy. Maybe Garland doesn’t even know their true intent. Which only begs the question, who else can we let find their vibe while filming? Perhaps, A24 should allow space for a woman director to make a Men.
SPOILERS!!!! Ending Scene Exploration
Okay, let’s talk about it.
The bulk of this film is quiet and unsettling. Looming on beautiful foliage. Listening to irritable, confused men. But then we get to the last like 15 minutes and the horror truly begins. Firstly, this piece is truly gory and has body-horror galore! So if you have a weak stomach, take my word and don’t watch - just listen to me.
In the end, after encountering far too many uncaring and judgemental men in the bar. An angry Harper rushes home. The film takes a turn into home invasion. Initially, Harper reacts as any horror final girl does. She screams and grabs a knife. She is shook, confused, and upset. A man runs at her for no reason. A young boy breaks into her home and mimics lewd humping with a dead bird. It’s an entire time. An attempt at breaking in results in Harper stabbing into the arm of the assailant who then, in an excruciatingly long sequence, pulls his arm back resulting in his arm being cut in half. Later, each iteration of the men of this town sports the same injury. We see each of them as they fin themselves in her home. Harper is more or less unamused, still shook but in a state of shock by the events unfolding. The vicor corners her in a bathroom and superimposes his lustful, disgusting desires upon her. Blaming her for his thoughts. It is her fault for existing as a woman. It is her fault he is wrestling with his own evil.
Eventually, our friend Geoff comes to help. He shares a too-personal story of his dad emmasculating him and sets off to redeem himself, painting himself a knight in shining armor. (poor Geoff). Eventually, the Green Man himself arrives. The naked, houseless man who’s been stalking her has gone full eco-crazy having cut his face and filled them with leaves and other foliage to transcend into the being. It is here that Harper, confused and muted to the events turns off her care. She is entirely out of fucks.
After our beloved friend, Geoff, also betrays us (Yes, all men?), stealing and destroying her car (breaking his leg in the process) and Harper returns to the house. The Green Man (with all the injuries) then horrifically lays upon the ground, spreads his ass wide to reveal a vagina beneath his balls and gives birth. If that weren’t nightmare fuel in itself, he gives birth to…another full grown man. Who then shambles forward, and proceeds to give birth himself from a different area of his body. So no, he was not intersex. Harper is entirely done at this point and walks away into the house. Desperately seeking validation (WITNESS ME), the man crawls, bloody, through the door. Harper turns, unamused, to him as he births again. The continues a few more times until eventually, they birth her husband. He has all the injuries we saw graphically from his fall.
Harper has gone into a room and grabbed an ax. But she’s already done. These men are nothing. They are so very pathetic. And she is so very tired. She asks him, plopping on the sofa next her dead husband reanimated, “What do you want from me?” to which he responds, “Your love.” And she simply nods.
Harper is me in the theater. Watching the performance, the pretentious artistic expression unfold. I am no longer enraged or disgusted, I am simply bored.
Mask 19 & Makeup Tips with Kat
by Kat Kushin
RED: Quotes, someone else's words.
For today’s episode the resources are going to be centered on domestic abuse. For this reason, the title of this section is going to be different, in response to the really terrifying things I learned about spyware. That way if people end up sharing this video with the goal of sharing resources, that it doesn’t put anyone in danger in how it shows up in browser history. I’m not really gonna talk about the film because 1. I didn’t really like it, and 2. I thought it did a bad job exploring these issues. When you get to the end you’re not even sure what you watched, or what it was trying to tell you. My goal for this is that you don’t leave our show feeling that way.
The bulk of the information I’ll be conveying is from the National Domestic Violence Hotline. You can reach their services online at thehotline.org or by phone at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). You can also text their services at 88788 by texting “START”.
A big piece of really even recognizing whether or not these resources may be useful to you, is through learning about the different kinds of abuse that take place, and recognizing that abuse is much more than just physical. Another really important thing is that ANYONE can be impacted by domestic abuse, and abuse in general. Just because you think it will never happen to you, doesn’t mean that learning this stuff now isn’t useful to you. It could one day save your life.
Recognizing the signs of possessive and controlling behaviors:
Many abusive relationships don’t start that way. It’s kind of like testing boundarie, these smaller behaviors stack until you’re in a situation you don’t want to be in. In fact many abusive relationships can start out appearing very positive and loving. In the early stages many abusive people present themselves as ideal partners. The crab or lobster analogy fits here, in that you start in a nice pool of water that’s very pleasant, and then slowly, it starts to boil, and you don’t realize until it’s too late. The National Domestic Violence Hotline makes a point to highlight that every relationship is different and domestic violence doesn’t always look the same. Most, but not all, start with the abusive partner trying to establish or gain control over their partner using different methods, over time.
Domestic violence (also referred to as intimate partner violence (IPV), dating abuse, or relationship abuse) is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.
Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate. People of any race, age, gender, sexuality, religion, education level, or economic status can be a victim — or perpetrator — of domestic violence. That includes behaviors that physically harm, intimidate, manipulate or control a partner, or otherwise force them to behave in ways they don’t want to, including through physical violence, threats, emotional abuse, or financial control.
Multiple forms of abuse are usually present at the same time in abusive situations, and it’s essential to understand how these behaviors interact so you know what to look for. When we know what a relationship looks like and means, we can then take steps to get help for ourselves as well as better support others who are experiencing abuse.
SAFETY ALERT: The interactive guide to safety planning requires you to enter information into an online form. Before you begin, be sure that the computer you are using is in a safe location and is not being monitored by your partner. Click here to learn more about how an abusive partner can monitor your computer.
If you are using a school or work computer, remember that the information you enter may be monitored by your school or employer.
If it is not safe for you to enter information into the computer, you can still read through the safety plan and think about your answers to the questions.
When you exit the safety plan, your information will not be stored on the website. If you need to exit the safety plan quickly, click on the "Escape" button at the top right of the page. If you are in danger, call 911 immediately.
WHAT IS A SAFETY PLAN?
A safety plan is a set of actions that can help lower your risk of being hurt by your partner. It includes information specific to you and your life that will increase your safety at school, home, and other places that you go on a daily basis.
HOW DO I MAKE A SAFETY PLAN?
Take some time to go through each section of this safety planning tool. You will be asked a series of questions to help you identify your safety options. You can use this tool on your own, or you can use it with a friend or an adult you trust.
Click on the to see additional safety tips and other helpful information.
At the end of the process, you will have a printable version of your personalized safety plan that you can reference whenever you need it. You can read it online, print it immediately, or have a link sent to your email. The link will be active for 24 hours; after that, your information will be deleted from the website.
You will also be given a pocket-sized emergency contact card that you can fill out with phone numbers and keep with you at all times so you always know how to contact the most important people.
KEEP IN MIND:
For this safety plan to work for you, the information you fill in must be honest and accurate.
Once you complete your safety plan, be sure to keep it in an accessible but secure location. You should also consider giving a copy of your safety plan to someone that you trust.
If you don't feel safe keeping the printed safety plan or emergency contact card with you, then you can still use the safety tips. Try to memorize at least one phone number of someone you can call any time.
You know your situation better than anyone else; trust your judgment and weigh your options before taking any steps.
Ways to Help??: Domestic Abuse Support
I really didn’t like this source, but it’s possible someone could find the financial resources helpful. Specifically the language used makes it feel very much like they don’t actually care about victims safety.