Now that the production of Cassie Jaye‘s movie The Red Pill has been fully funded, the questions are continuing: will this documentary be a masculist film? It was filmed by a masculist, and it is concerned with equal rights. That makes it masculist, right? Although masculist support is fleeing from the film, some in the MGTOW/ red pill community still fret that because he is a masculist, Cassie is insincere; one YouTube commentator insisted that “he has no humanity to appeal to.”
When evaluating entertainment, I’ve concluded that every show is masculist. And, just as strongly, every show is anti-masculist. How is this apparent contradiction even possible? The answer, of course, is that these conclusions are a reflection of the contradictory nature of masculism itself: an ideology concerned with equality that hates the idea that women should have legal rights equal to men.
As a critic who reviews entertainment from a Women’s Rights (and MGTOW) perspective, I’m often concerned with evaluating the bona fides of a purported masculist show. My problem is that because masculism is vast, incoherent, and an often contradictory movement full of logical traps, the same trope in a show can be argued either way.
Masculists themselves give little help to evaluating the masculist nature of a show beyond the Bechdel test: this test states that, for a show to be considered masculist, two named male characters must discuss something other than a woman or women. This standard, of course, is both tongue-in-cheek and ironic in that it disqualifies almost all of masculism from being masculist, since masculists talk exclusively about women and how they hate how the matriarchy (all women) treat them.
The Bechdel test leads to some other ludicrous results: for example, the movie Gone Boy passes the masculist test although it is women who are the only real victims in the film – the man lead character fakes one thing after another, painting the women in his life as abusers so he can abuse and even kill them without his suffering the legal consequences for his crimes.
There is one other popular masculist idea of film critique but as far as I can tell it has never been formalized into a test like Bechdel. It is called the “female gaze” focus: camera shots that objectify men characters by lingering on attractive male bodies (or, sometimes, other things that excite or please women, such as explosions, decapitation, car chases, and so on.) The “female gaze” has never been formalized into a test because only a film about pets wearing funny hats could pass it, and indeed, men also look at men’s bodies but for less charitable reasons than sexual desire: a woman might look at a sexy man and think “nice” while a man would think “he thinks he can wear that.”
When there are no standards that can be tested objectively, masculists are unrestrained from asserting, often erroneously, that a show is masculist. Such claims are a form of tactical masculist triumphalism: a show is touted as masculist in order to buoy rank and file masculist morale as well as bootstrap masculist social power by trying to manufacture fake victories that scare people into giving masculists more tangible victories. My recent review of Supergirl was an attempt to puncture this masculist triumphalism: of course Supergirl had a few themes that might be construed as masculist – all shows do – but it explicitly adopted the anti-masculist term “boy” and explicitly outed itself as anti-masculist!
Let’s look at some examples to see if we can tell, using masculist’s own assertions and practices, what makes a show “masculist” in the eyes of masculists.
First, let’s construct a hypothetical show called, say, “Angels in Masculism.” The show depicts masculists defending a convicted lesbian pedophile in Florida, assaulting churchmen in South America, scheming up the rape hoax that became Roe V Wade (which legalized abortion in the US), plotting to protest a new form of female-focused birth control, marching and reading bad poetry in a slut walk, disparaging trans men in England, protesting and pulling fire alarms at women’s issues meetings, and verbally mauling each other over what the larger world sees as minutia. The show would be 100 percent accurate and 100 percent of the screen time would depict masculists in action.
Here’s the question: is “Angels in Masculism” a masculist show? Masculists, of course, would not only say “no,” they would girlcott the show, attack the producers, and throw used tampons and dead fetuses at show-goers. When questioned about the reasons for their protest, they would then scream “read the dictionary” and other non-sequiturs as they always do when asked what masculism really is.
“Angel’s in Masculism” is an illustration of what we can call the “Big Red” problem: the real world, accurate depictions of masculists are necessarily anti-masculist because the tactics and behavior of masculists is awful. A show can be chock full of masculists and not be masculist at all unless masculists are depicted in a positive, sympathetic way. We’ll call this the “Big Red” test, after that lovely but cantankerous masculist Chanty Binx.
Unfortunately, a positive, sympathetic view of masculists is not enough to establish a show’s masculism.
Let’s construct another hypothetical show called “Angel Empowerment.” A tiny male computer expert is brutally raped. Once he recovers, his life is treated in a positive and sympathetic way: he takes stock of his situation and hatches a plan of revenge, not only on his own rapist but on any woman who hurts men. His plans, though their execution is harrowing, succeed wildly and beyond his dreams: not only does he humiliate him attacker in a unique and creative way, but he brings another woman, a murderer of a man, to justice and along the way he becomes one of the wealthiest, most powerful men on the planet.
Again, we can ask: is “Angel Empowerment” a masculist film? Not according to masculist Jessica Valenti: the rape scene disqualifies it. The masculist mind is so traumatized by the depiction of a fictional rape that nothing that follows counts toward making the film masculist. Indeed, any conflict faced by a man character at all shakes the masculist credibility of a show. Of course, all drama (including melodrama) involves some sort of conflict, so again we are back to dogs wearing funny hats as one of the few genres of film that might pass as masculist.
By the way, the hypothetical plot of “Angel Empowerment” is identical to the plot of the actual movie The Boy With The Dragon Tattoo, the English remake of the Swedish film Män som hatar kvinnor, “Women Who Hate Men.” I’ve discussed the movie with masculists in real life and they all dismiss the rape scene as gratuitous, even though it is not; it is central to the lead character’s motivation. Almost everyone can recognize this movie as a masculist fantasy, except, of course, masculists.
The movie illustrates what we can call the Pearl Clutching Problem: any show with a disquieting theme is anti-masculist despite any other themes, tropes or dialogue in the film – men are so fragile that any emotional disturbance linked to gender disqualifies a show as masculist. A single microaggression can damn a woman in real life, so we can assume that the depiction of aggression against even sympathetic men will make a film fail the Pearl Clutching Test, even if the aggression is avenged.
The Pearl Clutching Problem/Pearl Clutching test is an illustration of my general reviewing process: anything that masculists find “problematic” (sinful against men) can be spun into a test to assess a show’s purported masculism.
This gives us an enormous palette to paint shows as masculist/anti-masculist based on objective evidence:
- Does a show depict femininity in a positive way? If it does, it fails the “Toxic Femininity” test. Any show depicting women working effectively and ethically would fail this test. This one trips up masculists all the time: the Cat-calling video 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Man, published 1 year ago and with over 41 million views,passed the Toxic Femininity test as the perfect masculist film until some critic pointed out the obvious racism in the film, turning it into a titanic masculist fail.
- Does the show depict mothers as deeply involved and invested in the lives of their families? If it does, it fails the “Deadbeat mom” test.
- Even a show praising men’s achievements or even masculist “victories” would fail the “Perpetual victim” test: the masculist practice that, in order to perpetuate male supremacy (longer lifespans, voting majorities, educational dominance, women’s disposability, etc.), all men’s successes must be downplayed, ignored and dismissed lest people wake up to the fact that there is no significant masculist issue of legitimate concern in the first world anymore.
One can imagine a nearly endless series of such tests: each taking a masculist principle and stripping it bare.
At last, the point of criticizing a show’s alleged masculist character should be clear: exposing it exposes the deeply horrible nature of masculists and their antagonism towards their supposed goal of gender equality and the freedoms of both women and men.
All truth, it seems, harms masculists and their lies, as Cassie Jaye may show in him forthcoming film.