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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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Nobinayamu
Nobinayamu
10 years ago

Further, there really is only two charities in existence today. You have womens charities and the women & childrens charities.

You know, apart from the fact that the grammar here makes my eyes bleed, I’m sick to fucking death of you lying about charitable organizations .You don’t know the first goddamned thing about charities and charitable giving, NWO. You think charities “advertise” with “flyers”. But I digress.

There are charities that support men. There are charities and programs that support men exclusively. When you deny this, you lie.

blitzgal
10 years ago

Don’t feed the off topic troll.

darksidecat
10 years ago

You’re far to generous in your evaluation of me as an idiot.

Truer words have never been spoken. XD

The atheism thing is also hilarious, because women are statistically more religious then men. Misogynist atheist men love to trot that one out to claim that women are irrational. As usual, misogynists can’t agree on even the most basic things, except that they think women are evil and at fault.

NWOslave
NWOslave
10 years ago

@ithiliana

“2. Am animistic pagan, not atheist.”

Pagan, atheist. Big difference. Do you take every thidr weekend off from self worship?
—————-
“3. Support for charities: Doctors W/Out Borders, local animal rescue, and local scholarships.”

Sounds about right. You’d probably trample a homeless man to save a doggie.
—————-
“4. Tend to think most corporations are structurally “evil” and need to be reined in.”

Then why give to charities? Who do you think owns them?
—————-
“5. Tend to think most corporations are dominated by men. Ditto government, legal system, etc.”

If all these bad things are owned and run by bad men, how is it there are countless womens only charities, organisations, entitlements, privileges, laws? I wonder what they’re up to? I wonder if those bad men are consolidating their power by reducing the power of individual men? And if that’s the case, isn’t feminism further stripping individual mens power? Why are the bad men funding feminism at every level of the Government, UN and corporations?

NWOslave
NWOslave
10 years ago

@darksidecat

Perhaps you missed the title of the article.

“Companies Less Evil When Women Occupy Board Rooms”

Note the side link of the manboobz antidote to boobery.

NWOslave
NWOslave
10 years ago

@darksidecat

If companies are less evil with more women at the helm, would they be bastions of glittering altuism if they were all women? And governments too? Is it a womans nature to be good?

Spearhafoc
10 years ago

…Mostly because I like to pretend Carmilla was tortured and angsty, and not *really* trying to eat her lover, but she must! And I pretend the book isn’t a warning tale against lesbians.

That’s how I read Carmilla too. She just seemed so sad to me.

There was a line from Baron Vordenberg where he said something about how vampires often engage a victim in a manner that resembles courtly love, but that it’s nothing more than the first stage in the feeding cycle.

I see the vampire as constantly falling in what seems like love – and for all intents and purposes is love – and then being overcome with a need to slowly kill the object of its affection, then repeat the same process again,over and over, for all eternity, all the while having no personal choice in the matter. It’s a horrifying thought.

Here’s my drawing of her, by the way.

KathleenB
KathleenB
10 years ago

NWO: Pagans believe in and worship multiple gods (as an omnitheistic pagan, I believe in all gods, but only choose to worship some). This is a rather direct contrast to atheists, who do not believe in or worship any god.

Whatever
Whatever
10 years ago

Hah, the guy in this film was obviously a novice at both taming wild animals and training a sex slave. He should have used both pain AND pleasure. Remember, carrot-and-stick, whips-and-treats. But first and foremost of all, he should have made sure to ensure to secure her properly by investing in quality equipment. Nowadays, we’ve got the internet and the free wisdom of the ages accessible instantly with a click of a button, so there’s no decent excuse at all for not being properly prepared with the right tools and correct knowledge. Being sloppy can get you killed, especially with the kind of hellcat he caught, which is what did happen in his case…

hellkell
hellkell
10 years ago

Pagan, atheist. Big difference.

The IS a big difference, you oaf.

Spearhafoc
10 years ago

Pagan, atheist. Big difference.

Yes, there is. I’m an atheist. You’re not and she’s not.

Both of you believe in and worship gods. I don’t. You both believe in the existence of the supernatural. I don’t.

In terms of belief-systems, there’s more in common between the two of you than there is between me and her.

Spearhafoc
10 years ago

Can we please go back to talking about vampires now?

Moewicus
Moewicus
10 years ago

Owly, if you read some older threads about jezebel on manboobz you’ll find that commenters here have a mixed opinion about it, and evaluate it as sensationalist. I realize nuance is not in your vocabulary but having a link here on manboobz is not unqualified endorsement by Futrelle or “da crew.”

Perhaps you missed the title of the article.

“Companies Less Evil When Women Occupy Board Rooms”

Perhaps you missed the style of the article, which talks about how women are all boy crazy and bad at math and insane because of their periods. Gee, I wonder if the author might be engaging in a little bombastic hyperbole.

Moewicus
Moewicus
10 years ago

Speaking of vampires, I just recently read Dracula for the first time for a class. It’s interesting how the vampiric characters wind up punished for their sexuality–Lucy Westenra being the most obvious example. She gets proposals and love from three men and is later ritually killed (as a vampire) by that same group of men through penetration of her body by a stake. It seems the horror trope of characters being punished for teh sexyness goes back a long ways.

The predation of the vampires is also sexualized, or rather gendered, in an interesting way. While I was reading it I had assumed that Dracula preyed on men, but afterwards I was not so sure. He is only ever depicted physically attacking men, but makes predation on women a priority in an obviously lecherous manner. The female vampires, on the other hand, are depicted as being interested in preying on men, and the male human characters are indeed strongly affected by their beauty even though they’re probably just as disgusting as Dracula, but the only actual feedings they engage in are of children.

Rutee Katreya
10 years ago

Remember, folks, in addition to thinking he knows how to train a sex slave, Whatever is for the rape of children. Because Trolls always have to double down.

Dracula
Dracula
10 years ago

It’s also been suggested the bodily fluid exchange (blood transfusions) between Lucy and the men trying to save her had a sexual connotation.

My feeling is that the feeding on children in the book was perhaps intended to portray a perversion of the supposed ideals of motherhood, just as the victimization of the women was portrayed as a perversion of sexuality.

NWOslave
NWOslave
10 years ago

@blitzgal

“Don’t feed the off topic troll.”

Such a saintly avatar you have, almost Christlike. Do you require much worship?

Anyway I really don’t watch much TV/movies. Rots the brain. And horror certainly ain’t in the cards. If ya wanna be scared shitless, walk down the poorest section of town flashing a roll of cash. My guess is, since they all have the same theme. There’s a pretty girl, (she lives) and the bad man, (he dies). He’ll probably stalk and try to rape her, (ya know ya gotta be indoctrinated to fear men, it’s soo much easier to justify your hatred that way). In the end, against all odds the good woman will prevail against the bad man and kill him.

I mean every drama I guess you’d call it follows the exact same pattern. Ya got like a dozen CSIs, a dozen law and orders, and every other drama follows the same script.

Here, I’ll lay out this weeks line up. There is a bad man, he will rape and assault/kill an innocent good girl. The investigative team will consist of extremely strong, intelligent, beautiful women, one of the men, (the alpha) will be in charge, aaaaand a bunch of loser men who can’t tie their shoes. Thru the efforts of the genius of the women, of which the alpha male always turns to for their brilliant conclusions, they catch the bad man.

The final scene will be of one of those brilliant, beautiful women sitting in the one way mirrored room. She quite safe due to the fact that the animalistic bad man is chained and there are Big Daddy thugs guarding her. She’ll be wearing the smugest of looks as she explains how she defeated him with her superior brain. The bad man might rage a bit, but eventually he’ll slump over chewing his cud like a stupid farm animal.

The beautiful, brilliant woman will then be walking down the hallway and the good victim woman will happen to be walking the other way. They’ll exchange looks of empathy and justice. The brilliant, beautiful woman might possibly reach out and squeeze the arm of the good victim women to reinforce her empathy and sisterly solidarity.

Then on to the next show which’ll be the same damn thing. Fear and hate men. Love and protect women.

Spearhafoc
10 years ago

I’m not so sure about Lucy being punished for her sexuality per se. She’s usually played up as a temptress in adaptations, but she came off as pure as the driven snow in the book – at least to me. Sure, she received proposals from three men, but it’s not like she led any of them on. She rejected, in polite terms, two of the proposals and accepted the other.

Of course, with the way it’s written (as diaries, correspondence, etc. of the main characters, rather than an omniscient narrator), we can’t necessarily take anything they say as fact within the fiction of the book.

While I was reading it I had assumed that Dracula preyed on men, but afterwards I was not so sure.

Definitely. Dracula lusts after Jonathan’s blood near the beginning of the book, but that’s only because Jonathan had cut himself. He only goes out of his way to feed on women. When it came time to kill Renfield, Dracula just beat him to death.

Dracula is sort of the bogeyman evil foreigner who comes into “our” country, rapes (metaphorically) our women, and transforms them from pure angels into sex-crazed harridans. That’s how I read it anyway.

Men's Rights Activist Lieutenant
Men's Rights Activist Lieutenant
10 years ago

NWOslave, thank you for bringing Jezebel’s misandry front and center. No way around this one.

Spearhafoc
10 years ago

It’s also been suggested the bodily fluid exchange (blood transfusions) between Lucy and the men trying to save her had a sexual connotation.

That part amused me. In my head-canon, Van Helsing’s blood transfusions were the immediate cause of Lucy’s death.

If the book had been written just a little while later, Stoker could have found out about blood types.

Kyrie
Kyrie
10 years ago

Is it a womans nature to be good?

No. But that does not mean misogyny does not exists. Any more trick questions?

Whatever: that’s what shocks you in the movie, that he did not rape her enough? Unless that’s not what you mean by pleasure? So what, offer her a puppy, a cake, smile at her?
How does one stop to be a novice at training sex slaves? Is this your case? Are you proud of it?
About the not-escape-proof material. Duh. Prisoners almost always escapes in stories, by themselves or with help. (especially if they’re the hero, or if the warden is evil) Because stories need this little thing called a twist and someone who stay in a cell for the whole time, that’s boring.

Viscaria
Viscaria
10 years ago

Oh gosh, hey there Whatever! A week ago, you suggested that a person’s worth as a human being is tied to how much sex they have, and golly, if I’m not still curious why! If you were to mosey on back to that comment thread and explain it I would just be tickled pink.

Dracula (the book, not you, Dracula) does a really good job of preying on a lot of the fears of the people of the time, including immigration and syphilis. To be fair, if I had lived before it was curable, I would have been pretty terrified of syphilis too.

Spearhafoc
10 years ago

It’s always a striking image to me when a vampire kills someone without feeding on them.

A vampire drinking a human’s blood feels natural (for lack of a better term). It’s like a human eating a hamburger. But to just kill someone without even getting any sustenance out of it crosses into the territory of a human killing a dog for fun. It makes them seem that much eviler.

I do like the occasional broody angsty vampire, but complete monsters like Dracula are more fun for me.

Whatever
Whatever
10 years ago

Heh, and here I thought a lot of women on this board were into BDSM, tsk tsk tsk. * And I’ve never advocated real rape, as I believe that statutory rape is for the most part absurd legal fiction invented by prudes i.e. “It’s not rape-rape” as a famous WOMAN herself put it. After all, you can’t rape the truly willing, what an oxymoron.

Dracula
Dracula
10 years ago

Dracula is sort of the bogeyman evil foreigner who comes into “our” country, rapes (metaphorically) our women, and transforms them from pure angels into sex-crazed harridans. That’s how I read it anyway.

In short, I agree. By the way, I highly recommend reading The New Annotated Dracula to, well, basically anybody.

http://www.amazon.com/New-Annotated-Dracula-Bram-Stoker/dp/0393064506/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1321908217&sr=8-1

It has many fascinating insights into Victorian culture and technology, plus an intro by Neil Gaiman. (Which is awesome.)

By the way Spearhafoc, that drawing is fantastic. Both in the literal and superlative sense.

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