I've heard about it for some time, wanted to watch it and finally reminded myself to get around to finally doing it... The infamous, controversial documentary The Red Pill. I'd like to start by saying I was massively underwhelmed, not for the reasons you may think.
I prepared myself for the most anti-woman, feminist-bashing, hateful propaganda movie, as it has been depicted in the media, particularly here in Australia. However, upon watching the movie for myself, I was stunned. It's well-known I'm no feminist, I'm not an MRA (Men's Rights Activist) and I'm definitely not radical on either side. So, I probably have a certain bias with the movie. It aligns well with my views, with many statements repeatedly drilling home the point that gender issues are double sided, as well as the fact that talking about one does not negate the other.
With the hype and controversy surrounding this movie, I can't help but feel this will become the next Bowling For Columbine. Much like Michael Moore, director Cassie Jaye speaks honestly, with balance and yet still is seen as radical or propagating a particular viewpoint. Anyway, on to the movie itself.
The first thing I noticed from the start was the wonderful production quality. For an indie production, this film is beautifully presented with excellent visuals, crystal sound quality and Jaye's narration is calm. Her voice plays over a flash of images, one of which comes up a couple of times, being the representation of "falling down the rabbit hole", a theme that Jaye plays with throughout the film. There are notes and thought boards throughout the intro, alongside shock imagery of radical MRA articles. Jaye begins by asking the audience if they have ever had a moment where they wonder "what just happened" and explains that this film is exactly that for her.
She starts discussing rape culture, using buzzwords like 'rape apologists' and explains how she stumbled across the website A Voice For Men, which inspired her film. She explains how as a feminist, AVFM shocked and disgusted her so much as a feminist that she felt the need to explore the issue deeper.
Throughout the film we are treated to snippets of Jaye's video diary that she kept throughout the year-long process of filming. In the first, Jaye explains that she is struggling to empathise with MRA's, as she cannot relate to the issues they've faced. She points out that perhaps this may be a part of the issue.
The film interviews a variety of different people, including the founder of AVFM, Paul Elam. It dives into discussing issues such as feminists equating money with power. The interviewees present a different perspective, such as workplace deaths, sacrifice and how while women are seen as sex objects, men are seen as success objects. It dabbles in the concept that male lives are seen as disposable and not as important as females, using evacuations of women and children before men to back up the point.
Jaye poses the question, "are men having their arms crossed listening to feminists talk" in relation to how she felt the need to be defensive listening to men speak about their issues. It is obvious that Jaye feels very out of her element being confronted with a different perspective outside of the feminist one she has held so dear.
Jaye speaks to Elam about where the term "red pill" originated and he explains it is a Matrix reference. He says the blue pill is patriarchy. Later in the film, he says, "the red pill is about looking at these things honestly, even if it's uncomfortable."
I thought it clever that this conversation was spliced into two separate segments, as Jaye's next video diary shows her feeling very uncomfortable and confused. She explains how she feels "confused" as she can't help but think "thank god I wasn't born a guy", yet this doesn't align with her feminist beliefs.
Jaye goes on to interview feminists, including Katherine Spillar, executive producer of MS Magazine. Spillar claims that the MRM is "backlash to the feminist movement" and claims MRA's distort data and misrepresent thing, saying they should "grow up". "Men are advantaged over women. No one can debate that," claims Spillar.
The film further explores issues such as father's rights, court bias, paternity fraud, male victims of assault, domestic violence and how feminism seems to constantly try to silence the MRM. Jaye shows statistics and data that back up what her MRA interviewees are claiming and in her narration and video diaries, often speaks about how confronting it is not only to hear these issues, but to have them validated.
In one of her video diaries, jaye says "I don't know where I'm headed with what I believed... I don't know where the truth is." She goes on to explain she "never anticipated questioned my feminist views" and that she "felt compelled to reminded myself I was a feminist". She shows that she went out of her way to gripe about her feminist issues, but they seemed trivial in comparison. This was perhaps one of the more striking scenes for me. Jaye admits to struggling to maintain her ideology and even when she attempts to reaffirm it, she is still stuck seeing things in a way that threatens it.
Jaye shows the infamous images of 'Big Red" (a.k.a. "triggered meme"), who laughingly says, "misandry for life", amongst trying to articulate her feminist perspective in an expletive and insult-laden speech.
Jaye is careful to include great particular quotes and thoughts from every interviewee. One thing that struck me was how balanced and, well, civilised, Elam is portrayed in the film. Elam is renowned for his shock tactics and brutal approach. He touches on this very briefly, but it is fairly ignored, as though this is how he normally behaves. I cannot say for sure if this is careful editing or if it is due to the way Elam chose to present himself. It was refreshing, although it did feel a little dishonest. Jaye does go on to point out that in one particular case of Elam being controversial, it is in retaliation to a feminist article. That he is portrayed as demon while the feminist website that laughs off violence against men is ignored.
There is quick bite about breast vs prostate cancer, male genital mutilation and a few more quotes from interviewees. "There are victims and perpetrators on both sides of the fence," Elam says. "How could I be agreeing with MRA's?" Jaye says in her narration.
The film ends with one final sentence from Jaye, "I no longer call myself a feminist". 2 hours of watching, taking notes, nodding in agreement, shaking my head and laughing at the fact that Big Red actually went by Big Red and it's over.
My first thought after it finished was, "what the hell was all the fuss about?" The majoirty of the film centres around being able to discuss both sides and how feminism and the MRM shouldn't be so at odds. Jaye presents both sides and honestly discusses how confronting it is to have her ideology challenged. She admits her bias, the further struggle with the bias and ultimately succumbing to having it challenged. She does not end saying she's an MRA and at no point is that perspective given. She simply says she is no longer a feminist.
This film is massively underwhelming if you're looking to get fired up. If you want controversy, this isn't the film for you. Just watch the circus around and stay there because the film itself is balanced, does not attack one view or another and simply presents evidence. If, however, you want to see things from another perspective, this a great place to start.
I for one hope the controversy continues and gains momentum, as it only gathers more publicity for the film that highlights such crucial statistics. I highly commend Jaye on this work. It was easy to watch, never got boring and was overall well presented. The more backlash there is against the film, the more I predict that it will be used to highlight exactly what the film aims to show - feminism tries to shut down conversation. I highly recommend watching this film!