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Man Boobz review: Lucky McKee’s The Woman

World-class douchebag

I wrote earlier this year about the controversy swirling around Lucky McKee’s film The Woman. After a midnight showing at Sundance last January, one angry man in the audience stood up and denounced the film as a “disgusting movie” that “degrades women.” Given McKee’s nuanced treatment of gender issues in his previous films May and The Woods, I suspected that this outraged critic had completely missed the point.

Now I’ve finally gotten to see the film and, yep, he did. The Woman isn’t a misogynist film; it’s a film about misogyny. The Woman revolves around a cheerful , self-satisfied and and superficially charming country lawyer who captures a ferocious feral woman he spots on a hunting trip and chains her in the cellar in what he perversely sees as an attempt to “civilize” her. A patriarchal king of his castle, he introduces her to the rest of the family and assigns them all chores relating to her upkeep.

I don’t really want to give away much more than this; suffice it to say that as the film progresses we learn just how much of an odious psychopath this “family man” really is. But while the film offers a savage critique of his cruelty, and his misogyny, none of the women in the film are unambiguously noble victims, and when they begin to fight back the story is no simple tale of feminist empowerment. It’s a bit more subtle and unsettling than that.

While less overtly violent than, say, your typical Saw film, The Woman is a film that’s often, and by design, hard to take.  Yes, there are some grisly deaths, but this isn’t a film that glories in gore for gore’s sake; it’s really about cruelty and complicity and feeling trapped, the ways in which fucked-up families can ensnare even outsiders in their toxic dynamics.

Naturally, the film has drawn sharply mixed reactions from critics. It got a glowing review from Andy Webster in the New York Times, who described the cast as “remarkable” and praised the way McKee invests the film’s “a powerful parable with an abundance of closely observed details.”  Marc Holcomb of the Village Voice, meanwhile, dismissed it as “torture porn for people who’d never admit to liking torture porn.” (He also noted sardonically that the feral woman is “apparently tame enough to shave her armpits.” And her legs too, I might add; under the caked-on-grime, she’s what the PUAs would probably rate a HB10. )

But the strangest review I’ve seen so far is one by Rene Rodriguez in the Miami Herald, who perversely describes the film as, er, fun. While acknowledging the film’s feminist themes, she dismisses them as mere window-dressing:

[C]ome on: You want a feminist movie, go rent Norma Rae. The Woman is the sort of horror picture designed to make you throw popcorn at the screen, groan with disgust and shriek out loud when McKee springs a shock on you. …  Good times.

Really? Were you throwing popcorn at the screen during Antichrist too?

Of course, it doesn’t exactly help – as Rodriguez and a couple of other reviewers have noted – that the film’s publicists sent out the DVD screener  with a barf bag “just in case.” The Woman deserves better than that.

EDITED TO ADD: Regular Man Boobz commenters might want to check out this thread on the IMDb forums, in which a (somewhat oversimplified) discussion of the feminist themes in the film is quickly derailed by a dude who thinks it laughable that a mere woman could possibly overpower the family patriarch:

I feel sorry for you and any other woman who truly believes that they can physically overpower a man.

You know, if women are just as physically capable as men, I’d love to start my own inter-gender boxing league. Sign me up, baby! Equality at its finest. :)

The Woman: Official Site

And the trailer:

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Posted on November 20, 2011, in alpha males, cannibalism, douchebaggery, feminism, man boobz review, misogyny, patriarchy, violence against men/women. Bookmark the permalink. 498 Comments.

  1. I like capes.

    Me too. I got a nice synthetic fleece hooded cloak off eBay a few years back. Lightweight, and very warm. It’s great for winter. Like wearing a blanket, but far more stylish.

  2. Cuppa sounds good if it’s still cold and raining. I may not be up for anything much for the next few months, though, after a couple of rounds of oral surgery.

    (Just thinking of consuming booze with stitches in my mouth is making me wince.)

  3. I won’t be in SF earlier than March.

  4. Goons ruined TVTropes, Something Awful is a terrible source of information about the site.
    And they didn’t do anything to TVTropes (invasions are bannable there) other than quotemine the hell out of it (more or less the same as what happens here, really).

    They’ve got similar threads for Free Republic and Reddit, too, actually.

  5. ” I feel sorry for you and any other woman who truly believes that they can physically overpower a man.

    You know, if women are just as physically capable as men, I’d love to start my own inter-gender boxing league. Sign me up, baby! Equality at its finest. :)

    My response

    http://thoughtsofcrystaleye736.blogspot.com/2011/11/sorry-to-break-it-to-you-but-its-really.html

  6. I watched this movie last night and it made my heart ache with pain.

  7. Coming in way late to the discussion, so for all I know this has already been covered, but I have to say that I disagree with the notion that Antichrist is a film about misogyny. I think it’s definitely a misogynistic film with some flimsy pretense thrown in so it can claim otherwise. It’s not entirely the film itself (though the movie is problematic) as much as it taken into account with all of Lars von Trier’s other works. When has he made a movie that wasn’t about a pretty woman being physically/emotionally tortured? It’s like his entire filmography is dedication to the idea that bitches ain’t shit.

    Granted, I suppose the argument could be made that he’s using these films to explore women’s issues, but I don’t buy it. With his habit of torturing the ladies in his films, the awful things he said about the lead actresses in his Melancholia interviews (“We’re gonna make a porno next! Ha ha ha boobies!”), the fact that out of all the women he’s worked with, only one actress so far has been willing to make a second film with him, and that Nicole Kidman allegedly (I read this long ago and can no longer find the source, so I can’t verify it) had to ask him to stop laughing and take things seriously while filming the rape scenes in Dogville, I think the man just straight up hates women.

  8. I feel sorry for you and any other woman who truly believes that they can physically overpower a man.

    I can and I have. I’ve seen women who barely top five feet in their boots overpower and knock down six foot tall armored tanks. (the ladies were armored, too) Being physically powerful is nice and all, but it won’t do you shit in the way of good if you opponent is fast, or adept at some of the martial arts that are devoted to using your opponent’s momentum against them.

    I’m pretty sure that this lady, for example, would send you crying for you mommy in mere seconds:

    How about these ladies?

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