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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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10 years ago

NWO, whenever you get on again, what do you like? We’ve all told you our answers. We promise not to make fun of you. Even if you like talking to china dolls.

10 years ago

TV Tropes is your citation?! That fucking site is run by 75% feminist bitches, and the rest are mostly manginas.
As a goon who’s read all three of the threads about TVTropes on Something Awful’s forums, you’re wrong…

…you’d actually like it over there, I think, there’s a lot of people like you.

Moving on from that, and having mentioned final fantasy, I can’t be the only one who really enjoyed final fantasy 9, can I? I’ve played through 7, and I understand its iconic relation. But…. Vivi… <3.
I might literally be one of the few people who enjoyed FFVIII…

10 years ago


Well I can’t speak for others, but to me it really doesn’t matter who the victim is. Take shows like Criminal Minds for instance, love it. Even though in many episodes innocent people are tortured and murdered. I love it because it’s not ABOUT the torture and murder. They don’t dwell on it (mostly because of tv censorship, but still), it’s about the psychology of a person, what would lead them to do such a thing, it has detective mystery thrown in there when they find clues to catch them etc. They also go far in humanizing the killer, showing that there’s no satanic bad guy but that in the real world these things happen to people given certain circumstances. I don’t mind torture being alluded to or it happening. What I hate is when the movie is only about that. When the torture scenes are 5-10 minutes long and the gore is slow mo-ed and zoomed in to so you can really see that spike coming out of that person’s hand and hear the screams rattling the teeth in your head. If those scenes are few and far between and integral to the story I can take them, but when the movie is only about those scenes I think why the fuck am I watching this? This is not stimulating, there’s no point, fuck this shit.

I’m interested in this movie cause it micht be criminal monds-y, as in demostrates psychology of stockholm syndrome and control with a few death scenes integral to the story, but then again it might all be a silly ruse to present 1hour of pure sadistic gore which I can gladly do without

10 years ago

Argh, I keep coming late to Scotland discussions!

CassandraSays, as another Scot who’s also a fan of crisp, sunny winter/autumn afternoons, you’ll be pleased to know it’s absolutely glorious here in Glasgow today. I’m going to go for a walk through Queens Park later on before I start work at 4pm, I think.

I agree about the long, dark Scottish winters though. It can get you down a bit – I was working earlies last week and it was really annoying cycling to work in the dark and then cycling back in the dark. particularly when it’s raining as it tend to do here in the west…

10 years ago

I might literally be one of the few people who enjoyed FFVIII…

I loved VIII. One of the things I like about the series as a whole is the many female characters (even though some of their outfits are insane). You’ve got Rinoa, Quistis, Selphie, and of course Edea. 7-10 are my favorites.

Kollege Messerschmitt
10 years ago

Ack, I hope this isn’t way too late.
I very much approve of your list, Spearhafoc 😀 PINKIE PIE IS BEST PONY! (Though seriously, I like all of them)

Also, I thought FFIX was considered less popular than FFVIII? Personally. FFIX is my second favourite of the series after FFVII. But I agree with Blitzgal, FFVIII also had some kickass female characters! And your Aerith avatar is lovely! Do you perhaps have a bigger version?

Some things I like:

Artsy Fartsy Indie Games like Limbo, Braid and Trine
Survival Horror Games
Cats and Rats
Indie Comics (though I also like DC and some Marvel)
The Legend Of Zelda series
Beat’em Up games
Horror Movies
Military Uniforms
Playing silly board games or tabletop games with friends
WW1 and WW2 Militaria
Classic music
Neo Classic music
Military Music
Granny Smith apples
Art Noveau

Seriously, thinking of things you like can’t be THAT hard, Slavey!
I wonder who his favourite pony would be.

Hershele Ostropoler
10 years ago

Goons ruined TVTropes, Something Awful is a terrible source of information about the site.

Anyway, things I like (partial list, in no particular order):

They Might Be Giants
Black 47
Questionable Content
The Muppets
Rocky and Bullwinkle
Bob and Ray
The Ramones
The Clash
Peter Devries
Mediterranean food
the (real or virtual) company of clever people
The Marx Brothers
Mel Brooks

10 years ago

Since we are on the subject of Final Fantasy, I guess I have to give my opinion and out myself as a old school, “I liked FF back when it was on Nintendo, and PSX era sucked” grognard.


Kefka > Sephiroth

10 years ago

I had an original Gameboy, but didn’t get a console until I bought my own just after college. I did play and complete whichever FF was available on that hand-held. I just remember a bunch of Norse mythology in it. It was the first video game that I played all the way through.

Anyway, that’s why I prefer the Playstation FFs. That was my first console and the first ones I played. They’ve since re-released some of the earlier ones.

10 years ago

NWO: How could I possibly answer the multitude of questions, so earnestly put forth. </i.

One at a time.

Honestly would be too much to hope for.

10 years ago

Dying at his job, being maimed at his job, being financially responsible for the welfare of his family and shamed if he fails.

Because no one who wasn’t male died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Nor in the Bath School Disaster (a fire, set by a man, to protest taxes).

Nor were any women killed in the Our Lady of the Angels School Fire (non-intentional).

And no women showed any heroism in any of those events. They just waited for men to risk their lives to save them.

Right, or not.

10 years ago

Stuff I like.

Taking photos
Selling photos.
Teaching cooking
Teaching, in general
Sharpening knives
Walks with dogs
Walks with friends
Walks with lovers
Many parts of Army Life (though this is more reminiscence I liked it/them at the time)
writing commentary
keeping up on current events
Listening to music
Playing music
Fireworks (domestic, and commercial. I miss working fireworks shows)
Chopping wood
Board games
Evenings with friends
Literary discussions
Riding Horses
Walking in the rain
Walking in the snow
Riding motorcycles
My former Housemate
Most of my former girlfriends
Most of my former lovers
Guinea pigs
Breeding Snakes
Breeding Guinea Pigs
Baby Horses/Mules/Guinea pigs/Cats/Dogs/People
Well made things
A lot of other stuff

10 years ago

Bagpipes! I want a set of parlor pipes. I love the riff in “In a Big Country” where the lead guitar is being a set of bagpipes.

Cassandra, you would like, I think, George MacDonald Fraser’s, “The Complete MacAuslan”, which is a roman à clef of his years as an officer in the Sutherland Highlanders. Every time I read it it reminds me of some great times I spent with the Territorial Army, in Inverness; staying at Carlilse Barracks.

Scots wha’ hae, indeed.

I spent most of 30 years in Los Angeles, and deserts. I love the smell of new rain after months of none. The smell of hot earth/asphalt and dust in the humid air… paradise enow.

re dusters. I have one (see above, horseback riding). I also have an Inverness cloak. I like capes.

10 years ago

I might have to pick that up. My Grandad was in the Black Watch, after all.

Weird but awesome sensory memory – the one time it rained when I was in Saudi Arabia. The smell of rain hitting scorching hot pavement was amazing, as was watching all the kids who weren’t used to rain running around playing in it.

10 years ago

Next time I’m in SF we ought to get together for a pint, or a dram or a cuppa.

10 years ago

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.

10 years ago

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.)

10 years ago

I won’t be in SF earlier than March.

10 years ago

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.

10 years ago

” 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

10 years ago

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

10 years ago

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.

10 years ago

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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