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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Under the Skin review: sex as a weapon

Under the Skin red light

Scarlett Johansson is an alien serial killer who sexes men to death in a misogynist fanboy wet dream that also fails to satisfy as science fiction.
I’m “biast” (pro): I’m a big ol’ science fiction geek

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

I have not read the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Scarlett Johansson is an alien. A sexy sexy alien who seduces men and sexes them to death. In Scotland. Except the poor dumb idiots don’t even really get to have sex with Scarlett Johansson. They just go for a ride with her in her white serial-killer van and then end up kinda drowning in some black goo while watching Scarlett Johansson in her undies sashaying sexily toward them. The guys seem okay with this. It’s all very metaphoric. Also science fictiony, in an indie arthouse way. I think it’s supposed to scare men about how they should be careful accepting rides from sexy babes who are nice to them, because they might turn out to be alien serial killers. Because that happens.

Meanwhile, in the real world, real women are raped and killed all the time by actual human men. But we needed a cautionary tale about sexy lady alien serial killers who prey on unsuspecting horny men. If Under the Skin is supposed to make men sympathize with women’s experience of the world, where violence from men is an everyday possibility for all women and a reality for many, I don’t see how that can work when the opposite simply isn’t a likelihood. Fun fact! Did you know? All those scenes of the unnamed Scarlett Johansson alien driving around and stopping to talk to men and luring them into her van? Those guys aren’t actors! And yet none of them actually ended up raped and murdered. Instead, they ended up in a movie in which Scarlett Johansson is a sexy alien who chose them especially to be sexed to death by her. How cool is that for them? It’s awesome, dude.

“Argh” hardly begins to cover it.

There are a ton of ways in which Under the Skin rubbed me the wrong way, but this is a big one: it’s a very safe scare for (straight) men. They can watch this and get a little thrill from thinking about how sexy alien Scarlett Johansson might want to sex them to death, and then they can walk home from the cinema and not worry that somebody driving by in a car is going to slow down and ask for directions and ease them into dropping their guard and offer them a ride and welcome them into the vehicle and then rape and murder them before dumping their body behind a supermarket dumpster. It isn’t going to happen.

Look: I think Johansson (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Her) (no relation that I am aware of) is pretty damn amazing. I respect that she’s trying to do something different in the film environment of planet Earth that isn’t very kind to women. Except… this isn’t actually very different. I’m sure director Jonathan Glazer (Birth) thinks he is doing something different. And, true, it’s not the usual science fiction of laser blasts and spaceships. And it’s quiet — there’s hardly any dialogue here — and Johansson gets to pull a British accent when she does speak, which she manages fairly well; she’s just generally very good here. I like her as an actor and as a screen presence. But there are two possibilities for her alien character here: either she is doing her sexing and murdering under duress, or she isn’t. There’s a guy in black motorcycle leather and a helmet who follows her around and is either her partner in whatever evil alien plot they’re involved in, or he’s her boss or controller or pimp. So she is either a nasty predator using sex as a weapon because she loves it, or a helpless victim who is being coerced… neither of which is a deviation from filmic stereotypes about women.

Bonus! This is never really science fiction. We never learn what the alien sex plot is all about or why she’s killing human men, and only men. Science fiction requires at least one speculative deviation from reality for us to ponder. And without any pesky SFnal ideas to clutter up the film, there’s little left but metaphors about men and women, violence and sex.

So we’re left with additional and much more disturbing — and not in a good way — figurative implications to be taken from Under the Skin. Like maybe that women are “naturally” incomprehensible alien sex predators who target normal ordinary human men just going about their business, and please enjoy this sci-fi exploration of that “truth.” She might be a little bit nicer to men as she starts to learn a bit of “humanity” — which here could better be termed “manity,” because there are no human women to speak of in this film — but, never you fear, the bitch will still get the comeuppance she deserves in the end.

Argh.


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Under the Skin (2014)
US/Can release: Apr 04 2014
UK/Ire release: Mar 14 2014

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated ASB (contains an alien sexy beast)
MPAA: rated R for graphic nudity, sexual content, some violence and language
BBFC: rated 15 (contains infrequent strong sex and frequent nudity)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • E. Kohut

    Christ, what a load of horseshit. You are essentially a modern day reincarnation of insight-free psuedo-feminist critics who, say, attacked THE STEPFORD WIVES in the 70s for being “an evil promotion of misogynist fantasies”. Pathetic.

    Fun fact! This film is actually a devastating feminist parable about female objectification — and Glazer himself has said as much, and described the narrative arc as being about a character who tries to shake off her status as object as she goes “from an ‘it’ to a ‘she” — but gets raped and murdered by a man anyway, which YES does reflect that “in the real world, real women are raped and killed all the time by actual human men.” THAT’S THE POINT.

    For an actually insightful view of the film and its clear as day feminist subtext, here’s a good article (written by GASP a woman, obviously some sort of gender traitor!):
    http://screencrush.com/reel-women-under-the-skin/

    [other people’s content deleted –maj]

  • Please do not cut and paste content from other sites into comments. And definitely don’t paste it multiple times.

    (written by GASP a woman, obviously some sort of gender traitor!

    Please indicate where I said all women should or will agree with me.

    Glazer himself has said as much

    Whatever the director has said has nothing to do with how I took the film.

  • E. Kohut

    Disqus’s interface is not great with copy/paste’s it seems.

  • “Scarlett Johansson is an alien serial killer who sexes men to death in a
    misogynist fanboy wet dream that also fails to satisfy as science
    fiction.” I think this is the single dumbest piece of film criticism I’ve read in my entire life (including comments sections). Your interpretation would have some validity – were it even remotely connected to any of the content of the actual film. On what possible basis do you think that the film implies “like maybe that women are “naturally” incomprehensible alien sex predators
    who target normal ordinary human men just going about their business,
    and please enjoy this sci-fi exploration of that “truth?” What is it in the film which suggests to you that the viewer is meant to take the Johannson character as a symbol for “like maybe” what all women everywhere are really like? This is from Kristy Puchko’s review for the Mary Sue: “Under The Skin functions beautifully as a surreal and
    disturbing horror movie. But more remarkable is its efforts to make men
    comprehend how women feel within a rape culture that devalues them and
    blames them for their own objectification.” “Please indicate where I said all women should or will agree with me.” Nowhere, but the fact that virtually NO women seem to agree with you should possibly give you pause.

  • Bianca

    There’s a pattern in your reviews. You’re often singling out films that contain strong female characters and portray women in a good light. And you’re almost always missing the point.

    Perhaps you should try watching these films more than once. And only once you’re sure you’ve understood what you’ve seen should you attempt a review.

    It’s an insult to the filmmakers who actually create films that Hollywood clearly has a shortage of.

  • RogerBW

    While it’s an old trick, I think it’s worth considering how people would react to this film if all the characters were gender-swapped. I don’t think they’d be saying “hey, what a great character, a hunky alien serial killer”.

  • but the fact that virtually NO women seem to agree with you should possibly give you pause.

    What on Earth makes you think that all women — or all film critics — think alike? Or *should* think alike? Do you believe that a monolithic wall of agreement is useful in film criticism?

  • Since there is absolutely no reason why I would need to inflate my page views — there are no ads here — why would I engage in clickbait?

    And you had better take a look at my 16+ year history here before you accuse me of being a troll.

  • You’re often singling out films that contain strong female characters and portray women in a good light.

    I don’t get what you’re saying. Sure, I single out films that contain strong female characters and portray women in a good light. Neither applies to this movie, so what are you getting at?

    And only once you’re sure you’ve understood what you’ve seen should you attempt a review.

    What makes you think you’ve understood the film? What makes you think there’s only *one way* to understand a film?

  • I’m not looking for a monolithic wall of agreement. You argue that Under the Skin carries the clear implication that that women “are “naturally” incomprehensible alien sex predators who
    target normal ordinary human men just going about their business”; if this were a valid charge against the film, one would expect that at least SOME percentage of viewers would actually come out of the film with that interpretation. But what I am saying is that you are the ONLY critic I’ve read – and only viewer in my acquaintance – who came away from UTS thinking that it’s message to the viewer was that all women are incomprehensible and destructive predators who prey on harmless men. For this reason, it has to be questionable that any such message about women is actually contained in the film – that the interpretation may say more about your particular subjective sensibilities than the movie itself, just as Jay Weidner’s belief that The Shining implies that Kubrick was involved in faking the Apollo moon landings says more about Jay Weidner than it does about the actual content of The Shining. (And calling it a “fanboy wet dream” is just sheer, willful misrepresentation of such and downbeat and unsettling film, and pretty ironic considering that your complaint that it isn’t conventionally sci-fi enough is a particularly fanboyish one.)

  • Beowulf

    This movie is getting 85% at Rotten Tomatoes, a site I use very carefully for an overview of what many critics are saying about a film. I really like foreign films and overlooked oddities, but when they get a very high–or very low–ranking at RT, I get nervous. Too many coma-inducing films get (in my opinion and taste) praised way too much. Many good, solid popcorn flicks get dumped on too much as well. MaryAnn’s site is different. I get a pretty good idea what she’s about and whether or not I’ll enjoy the film. I like many films she despises and dislike many films she praises. But she’s smart, and she presents her arguments in a way that is helpful whether you agree or disagree with her. If I saw this film, I’m guessing I’d disagree with her about it–maybe I’m just a sucker for SJ. But given that films cost $7.00 to $9.75 here, I doubt that I will go see this particular film.

  • Danielm80

    MaryAnn justified her interpretation at great length, by describing events from the film, by comparing them to events in the real world, and by comparing them to stereotypes about women in other movies.

    Her interpretation might be a minority view. It wouldn’t be the first time she’s gone against popular opinion. But her review is a reasonable interpretation of the movie she saw, and it’s important to have someone offering an alternative to the mainstream opinion.

    If you think that her review is factually wrong, you can, of course, point out places where she’s described the film inaccurately. That would be more convincing that a vague assertion that she’s written something stupid. But if you just disagree with her, there are plenty of other reviews you can read. Apparently, a lot of critics agree with you, so you can’t say that your point of view isn’t being represented.

  • She provides no justification whatsoever for her assertion that the audience is meant to take Scarlett Johannson’s alien as a representation of what all women are really like – no argument, no justification, just assertion. And yet she is the only person – that I’m aware of – who actually took that from the film. Hence, this is arguably not a “minority view” (since a minority requires more than one) but rather just one person misinterpreting a film. “If Under the Skin is supposed to make men sympathize with women’s
    experience of the world, where violence from men is an everyday
    possibility for all women and a reality for many, I don’t see how that
    can work when the opposite simply isn’t a likelihood.” Her whole argument is this paragraph is beyond risible. She points out the non-actors in the movie weren’t raped and murdered. What in the name of almighty god is she trying to get across with this? If I can translate her argument into something coherent, it seems to be: “Under the Skin cannot make men sympathetic to the position of women with regard to the threat of rape, because it depicts a female actress as the aggressor, and males as her victims – but in reality the aggressor is male, and the victims female.” If this is her argument – and its very poorly expressed, so I can’t be 100% sure – then it’s obviously wrong, and utterly missing the point. By making the horny, objectifying males themselves the victims of callous objectication, the film illustrates to male audiences what it feels like from a female perspective to be preyed on by male aggressors – THIS IS PURPOSEFULLY A GENDER INVERSION OF WHAT THE SITUATION IS IN REALITY, IN ORDER THAT MALE AUDIENCES CAN IDENTITY WITH THE POSITION OF THE FEMALE VICTIM, RATHER THAN THE MALE AGGRESSOR. But the critic seems to feel that unless men are literally raped and murdered en masse, there is no way that a work of art can convey to men what the threat of rape might actually feel like – and that any claim that a film is attempting to do so is immediately false. Also, in terms of pointing out where the review is factually wrong, the reviewer claims that SJ “sexes her victims to death” – this being a crucial component of her spurious argument that the film is just safe titillation for straight men – but this simply factually inaccurate, as SJ does not have sex with any of her victims, nor do we see any of them dying. Nor does SJ “want” to do anything with the men – she simply indiscriminately leads to whatever harvesting farm the aliens have going.

  • heythere

    Interesting review. I think it’s worth noting too that in this alien narrative (fantastical), there is still the real-world presence of male violence. I’m thinking about her van being attacked by men, that the second victim she takes in had harassed her on the street before following her around a club, and, of course, the man at the end who attempts to rape her. Also worth noting that all of those real-world scenes are real violence, whereas her victims aren’t sexually assaulted, but kept in a (fantastical) holding cell.

  • heythere

    also, I do think this is a simplistic reading: “So she is either a nasty predator using sex as a weapon because she loves it, or a helpless victim who is being coerced… neither of which is a deviation from filmic stereotypes about women.” I think the victim part is way off and the predator only half-right. First, the character Johansson is playing is not “female”, but an alien portraying a female human. (this doesn’t negate any problematic issues you raised, but is an important distinction). We, as viewers, aren’t given enough information to understand the aliens or what their system is about or accomplishing (I think this is a strength of the film, but can understand why many might think it is a weakness) so predator/victim dichotomy is too easy. What I think Johansson portrays very astutely is a character struggling to figure out oneself. It doesn’t seem to have a (human) moral compass, but has the capacity to be confused and fearful.

  • Danielm80

    Her point–as I read the review, anyway–is that the male-female reversal deviated too far from real life to make men identify, in any deep way, with the victims. In the real world, women don’t commit sexual violence against men very often. So Johansson’s character is scary only in a fantastical, horror-movie-thrill sort of way. We know that men don’t consider sexual violence an everyday threat, because if they did, the real-life men who appeared in the movie–unknowingly–wouldn’t have spent time in the van with a stranger.

    MaryAnn didn’t think the movie worked as horror, as science-fiction, or as a parable. So, with nothing else to keep her interest, she started comparing the main character to other portrayals of women in movies. She saw a lot of parallels, and so she commented on them. She thought the character resembled the stereotypical, “unknowable” women in other films.

    If you got something else out of the film–as some critics did–your interpretation is perfectly reasonable, but that doesn’t mean her opinion is any less valid.

  • I think her opinion is invalid in this particular instance because it’s based on constant misrepresentation of what’s actually in the film. For example: “But there are two possibilities for her alien character here: either
    she is doing her sexing and murdering under duress, or she isn’t.
    There’s a guy in black motorcycle leather and a helmet who follows her
    around and is either her partner in whatever evil alien plot they’re
    involved in, or he’s her boss or controller or pimp. So she is either a
    nasty predator using sex as a weapon because she loves it, or a helpless
    victim who is being coerced…” As I’ve already pointed out, she isn’t doing any “sexing” – she doesn’t have sex with any of the victims. (She has sex only once in the film, and is largely indifferent to it.) I can only conclude the reviewer continually implies that SJ has a carnal relationship with her victims in order to make the film more into the misogynistic caricature she wants it to be – and to try to bolster her belief that straight males are titillated by the film, rather than unsettled by it. Also, the fact that in the quotation above, she psychoanalyzes the alien’s motivations as though the alien were a human being, rather than an alien imitating a human being, suggests a total misunderstanding of the film – we’re not meant to be able to apply human motivations to this character. Nothing that “she” does in the film suggests either that she loves what she’s doing, or that she’s been forced into in any conventional sense – this is again an attempt to shove misogyny into the film where it isn’t actually there. “Her point–as I read the review, anyway–is that the male-female
    reversal deviated too far from real life to make men identify, in any
    deep way, with the victims.” Don’t you think that’s slightly presumptuous, in assuming one can speak for how males will react to the film? And in terms of gender reversal, doesn’t it ignore the fact that at precisely where Johansson’s character begins to become a little sympathetic, a man attempts to rape and then murders her?

  • You argue that Under the Skin carries the clear implication that that women “are “naturally” incomprehensible alien sex predators”

    I argue no such thing. I said that it is a figurative implication of the film that it represents the erroneous yet prevalent male view that women are incomprehensible. (That “naturally” was in quotes for a reason: because there’s nothing natural or actual about it.)

    your complaint that it isn’t conventionally sci-fi enough

    Please show where I made such a complaint.

  • She provides no justification whatsoever for her assertion that the audience is meant to take Scarlett Johannson’s alien as a representation of what all women are really like

    Because I asserted no such thing. I don’t think the film is *meant* to seen this way. And yet that is the implication that arises from it.

    Nor does SJ “want” to do anything with the men

    Whatever the character wants or doesn’t want is a serparate issue from the metaphorical implications of a story.

    the film illustrates to male audiences what it feels like from a female perspective to be preyed on by male aggressors

    SPOILER

    In what way? We don’t see her victims suffering. Their last moments on this Earth consist of them, naked and erect, approaching her, clearly under the delusion that they are in for a good time. They don’t even seem to notice that they are being consumed by black alien goo.

  • I suspect that you do not understand subtext.

  • the character Johansson is playing is not “female”, but an alien portraying a female human. (this doesn’t negate any problematic issues you raised, but is an important distinction).

    Think about it this way: If the central character in this film were portrayed as a genderless (to human eyes) walking alien turnip, would it not have completely different implications and completely different subtext than a film in which the alien predator is portrayed a sexy human woman?

    Stories do not arise out of nowhere. The central character here is not a sexy-human-woman-looking alien by accident. Choices were made — by the novelist, by the filmmakers adapting that novel and making decisions about which bits to keep and which bits to leave out — and they made those choices for reasons both conscious and unconscious. We cannot simply say, “Oh, she’s not really human so it doesn’t matter.” It matters.

  • I suspect that nobody else on the planet seems to understand the subtext you see in this film. Which makes me feel a little less gauche for
    having missed out on it. But just to clarify, the idea that what Johansson does to the male characters (use them callously and indiscriminately as objects, and then move on to the next victim) might be sorta like
    basically what they (and male predators in general) want to do to her, we’ve ruled that out as possible subtext, right? But in terms of
    legitimate subtext in the film, we’ve agreed upon: when inscrutable alien unenthusiastically and indiscriminately feigns interest in men in
    order to lure to them into organ harvesting captivity/whatever, the subtext is CLEARLY: horny vixen just can’t resist sexing YOU up to
    death! When you see those terrified guys floating around in a Stygian, Lovecraftian abyss, that’s clear SUBTEXT for being sexed up to death by an insatiable Scarlett Johansson. Ain’t but nothing turns me on more than misogynistic sexy times subtext masquerading as powerless body horror in downbeat experimental sci-fi films.

  • I suspect that nobody else on the planet seems to understand the subtext you see in this film.

    I know this is not true, but even if it were, so what?

  • bronxbee

    *Opinions* cannot be invalid. the reviewer never hides the fact that all her opinions — and the opinion of ALL reviewers and critics — comes from personal experience, outlook and philosophy.

  • heythere

    Are you angry AT the mirror, or what is shows? I think this films articulates everything you’re critiquing. “The central character here is not a sexy-human-woman-looking alien by accident.” Of course, and if we as viewers suspend our belief to believe there are aliens pretending to be humans, than we also have to believe they would study our misogynistic culture and play to that. I think you think the viewers of this film are very stupid and don’t give them enough credit to work out the layers of the film.

  • heythere

    ***it shows and ***then we
    Sorry for the typos. What I’m getting at is that I’m not arguing with any of the points you are making about our culture or about movie culture, but I also think the film is talking about those issues too and is in a very considered way playing to them (to make the viewer think about them and critique them). I think the metaphors of the eye being created at the beginning and the mirror in the decrepit house are very potent.

  • E. Kohut

    “I know this is not true, but even if it were, so what?”

    Care to share any articles you’ve come across — other than your own screed — that accuse this film of being a misogynist manifesto? Preferably by other female writers. Because as one peruses, say, all the other female critics on RT (the majority of whom lavish praise on the film), it becomes apparent that you are indeed completely marginal in your view, even by the standards of other female film critics. So either pretty much every other female critic and op ed writer is actually too stupid to be blessed with your own self-appointed “cinema expertise” and probing insight into the mind of Jonathan Glazer, master misogynist, and poor puppet ScarJo who clearly set aside her “no nudity” contract clause to commit to a project about how evil and alien women are — OR you just completely missed the point of the film.

    I think it’s pretty obvious which one is more likely.

  • Tonio Kruger

    If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.
    –Anatole France

  • too stupid to be blessed with your own self-appointed “cinema expertise”

    Oh, for Christ’s sake, I’ve neither said nor implied any such thing. There’s more than one way to see a film.

    Jonathan Glazer, master misogynist,

    Again: For Christ’s sake. Do you understand how subtext works? Glazer could have all the best intentions in the world. He doesn’t have to be a “master misogynist” for me to see his film as misogynist.

    There are negative reviews of the film easily found on Rotten Tomatoes. And there are other people on the planet besides critics… there are even critics who haven’t written reviews yet, whom I’m spoken to, who agree with me.

    Why does it bother you so much that I have minority opinion on this film? How does it affect you?

  • I’m not even saying the critics who’ve praised the film are foolish. They’re just seeing different things than I am.

  • Are you angry AT the mirror, or what is shows?

    What is this supposed to mean?

    I think you think the viewers of this film are very stupid and don’t give them enough credit to work out the layers of the film.

    That sounds like a response to someone else’s review.

  • Bluejay

    How strange that you’re using the numbers argument. If everyone in the world agreed with MaryAnn and disagreed with you, would you value your own reaction to the film any less? This isn’t climate change, where consensus forms around measurable data, and any deniers are objectively wrong. This is one critic’s subjective opinion of a film, and it’s not made any more (or less) valid by the number of people who agree with it.

    Preferably by other female writers

    Women don’t ALL have to share the same opinion on movies, social issues, or anything else — just as MEN don’t all have to agree about everything.

    So either pretty much every other female critic and op ed writer is actually too stupid

    You seem to think that she believes that anyone who doesn’t share her opinion is a blind, stupid idiot. But that seems to be more how you regard anyone who doesn’t share yours.

    Is there a rule on the Internet that if you disagree with a writer’s position, you have to be a rude jerk about it?

  • E. Kohut

    It’s not an “opinion” — you are outright slandering the film, and by extension the people who made it, as “misogynist”, implying the film and its makers hate women. You can’t just sit there and say something so loaded with so little to actually back up your assertion and then retreat behind the “It’s just my opinion!!!” dodge.

    “There are negative reviews of the film easily found on Rotten Tomatoes.”
    We’re not talking about whether someone didn’t or didn’t like the film. We’re talking about the entire crux of your argument being that it is a film that is hateful of women, which is a completely false and a ridiculous statement to make. You bang on about “subtext” when the irony is you completely missed every piece of actual subtext in the film, and then fabricated your own ignorant, paranoid rubbish to fill in the blanks for yourself.

    The absolute only person spewing bile, for example, about the rape and murder of Scarlett’s character at the end of the film (as she holds the newfound human identity she tried to claim for herself in her hands as it WEEPS — more subtext you obviously missed) being because she “deserved it” for being a whore or something, is a disgusting opinion espoused by only one person so far: you. We have met the misogynist, and it is probably more Maryann Johanson than anyone involved with the film.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Libeling. Slander is spoken. Libel is by written word.

    Also, the fact that you’re resorting to pseudo-legalistic arguments suggests that you’ve run out of new ideas to present, and are now just trying to “win”.

    I think you should consider it maybe time to move on. Perhaps even consider just never coming back, if you’re this angry over a film review.

  • Bluejay

    The absolute only person spewing bile, for example, about the rape and murder of Scarlett’s character at the end of the film … because she “deserved it” for being a whore or something, is a disgusting opinion espoused by only one person so far: you.

    Wait, what? Where are you getting this? Are you talking about the end of the review, where MaryAnn says, “never you fear, the bitch will still get the comeuppance she deserves in the end”?

    That’s not her saying SHE thinks that. That’s her saying she thinks THE FILM says that. You may disagree that the film says that, but you can’t say that MaryAnn is the misogynist here. That’s like the “if you complain about racism, you’re the one who’s racist!” argument. It’s just bizarre.

    It’s not an “opinion” — you are outright slandering the film, and by extension the people who made it, as “misogynist,” implying the film and its makers hate women.

    How many times does she have to say that the subtext she sees in the film doesn’t have to be intentional on the part of the filmmakers? Works of art can say all sorts of things that its makers never intended. The original Star Wars trilogy had only one named black character; that reflects an underlying and unquestioned racism in the general culture, but pointing it out is NOT the same as accusing George Lucas of being part of the Ku Klux Klan.

  • because she “deserved it” for being a whore or something, is a disgusting opinion espoused by only one person so far: you

    Ah. You think *I* believe that?

  • heythere

    “What is this supposed to mean?”

    It truly is not that difficult of a concept. I’ve been arguing that the film is keenly aware of sexism and misogyny in Western culture and is speaking about it by using its language. I think the film functions as a mirror – it is what an alien race would try to mimic in our culture because it permeates everything. It’s an ugly view, but truthful. I think you are angry at the vehicle (this film) rather than what it is portraying.

    Once again, when watching this film where is the only real, tangible violence? It is male violence in a rape culture. Despite being this empty, “sexing” vixen-monster you described, the character cannot escape the realities of women in our society even if it is simply mimicking a woman.

    “That sounds like a response to someone else’s review.”

    Well, it doesn’t matter what it sounds like: It’s a response to your review.

  • We agree on one thing, at least: This is an ugly film. I just don’t see any value or point in its ugliness.

  • bronxbee

    i just heard an interview with the director where he talks about how they *actually* lured men –non actors, just guys walking on the street — into the van. this disturbed me intensely.

  • LaSargenta

    That is bizzarre. And dreadfully creepy.

  • Tonio Kruger

    True.

    However, I was getting just as impatient with the numbers argument as Bluejay apparently was and I have always considered that quote to be the most concise and logical retort to such an argument. Then again, I do tend to be a bit of a contrarian…

  • SuzieTampa

    Thanks for your review! I now read spoilers whenever there is sex and violence in movies so that I’m not disgusted in the theater. The femme fatale is an old trope, also known as the temptress, witch, siren, succubus, even the bad girl. Men have abused, killed, locked up, etc., these women even if the women never actually physically harmed them. Many girls and women are blamed for their own abuse. A sci-fi film with a beautiful alien/monster/cyborg using her sexuality to lure men to their death breaks no new ground.

    The director didn’t need a woman as young and beautiful as Scarlett Johansson for the part. Many men are quite happy to have anonymous sex with average-looking women. But casting Johansson will bring more male viewers who want to see her partially nude in sexual situations. What ends up happening to her is just an added bonus for all the men who enjoy seeing beautiful, sexual women hurt.

    You only have to read the comments to this review to see that most men are not going to walk away with any new insight about the rape culture that we live in. For that, I recommend “Freeway,” “Hard Candy” or “Teeth,” none of which got the same glowing reviews from male critics.

  • Yeah, *Hard Candy* is incredible. Truly a film that reverses the usual gender dynamic.

  • I mentioned that in the review.

  • Ane

    I think it’s a cheap shot to largely ignore the end of the film and sarcastically write it off as the bitch getting what she deserves.

    ***SPOILER*****

    A very sinister, very believable male tries to rape her and then burns her / it alive. Despite the fact she isn’t a human, I think the scene is so disturbing precisely because we know this happens to women every day. I don’t believe that anybody watching this would think “justice” is occurring here. I also don’t think the writer or director saw it that way. If you’re going to write a piece about how this ignores the reality of male abuse of women, you can’t really just gloss over that ending.

  • Ane

    I think it’s a cheap shot to largely ignore the end of the film and sarcastically write it off as the bitch getting what she deserves.

    ***SPOILER*****

    A very sinister, very believable male tries to rape her and then burns her / it alive. Despite the fact she isn’t a human, I think the scene is so disturbing precisely because we know this happens to women every day. I don’t believe that anybody watching this would think “justice” is occurring here. I also don’t think the writer or director saw it that way. If you’re going to write a piece about how this ignores the reality of male abuse of women, you can’t really just gloss over that ending can you?

  • I’m sure you’re correct about what the writer and director thought. And yet, they managed to make a film that looks awfully misogynist anyway.

  • cinephile69

    So are you definitely recommending this film to fans of beautiful, sexual women getting hurt? I don’t want to spend any of my hard earned, 25% more a year income and only see a couple of well-deserved love taps. I’m looking for some good old-fashioned “I’ll teach you to burn the casserole, send the kids to mother’s and have to wear sunglasses for a week because of that clumsy ‘stumbled into a door knob’, he has a stressful job I shouldn’t have provoked him” kind of physical humor.

    After all, I didn’t happily grow up and contribute to this “misogynistic rape culture” just to watch preachy fem-lib propaganda disguised as decent sci-fi rape porn.
    Thanks for your review!
    It’s quite refreshing to find opinions from a fellow “film-fanatic” that really gets it.

  • Such is the state of the world that it’s impossible to tell if this is satire. Is it?

  • Marc Esadrian

    “What ends up happening to her is just an added bonus for all the men who enjoy seeing beautiful, sexual women hurt.”

    Except it wasn’t a woman who was hurt: it was an alien. I seem to recall several men dying in gruesome ways as well. As if it even matters, anyway. I really think there comes a point where one goes a bit too far with their feminist politics while watching a movie. They read all sort of things into a movie that happens to feature a beautiful, sexual woman…things that are put there by their own bias and “rape culture” paranoia.

  • Marc Esadrian

    ““Argh” hardly begins to cover it.”

    “Argh” hardly begins to cover this fretting review, in fact.

    I can just as easily say this film was degrading toward men in that it painted them as all too willing victims driven only by their base desires—desires strong enough to invoke temporary cortical hiatus—and further, how this movie was just another MISANDRIST commentary about the nature of female sexual power…a theme that is not exactly in short supply in popular media these days, if you haven’t noticed (thanks, of course, to the very politics you seem to support so strongly).

    Aside of all that, I can choose to put the conspiracy theories down and simply enjoy the movie’s story and the *many ways* it can be interpreted. I have my opinions about the sexes too, and they are markedly different from yours, I can assure you, Mary. Trust in that a movie about a woman/alien luring men with her sexual mojo and killing them violently is not ever on the top of my “must see” list, but after having heard Scarlett Johansson was starring in it, and having read the rave reviews and seen glimpses of the film, I got over myself, opened my mind, and enjoyed the film immensely.

    After having read your review (and several thousand others like it droning on over everything from video games to comic books that support the supposed “rape culture”), I find myself saying, “when will feminists stop beating this dead horse already?” Writing off the ending of the movie as “the bitch will still get the comeuppance she deserves in the end,” tells me you’re fanatically steeped in seeing everything as a misogynist conspiracy. I think it has colored your ability to appreciate things at face value and consider other interpretations/possibilities.

    I, for one, was grieved at the alien’s death at the end of the movie and found myself wanting to see the rapist burn himself. There’s nothing misogynist in the message I came away with at the end of the film. I find your review completely…alien, to say the least.

  • LaSargenta

    But, why did the alien needing human stuff (blood? flesh? semen? bones reduced by some alien acid?) have to be made ‘female’? Consider Audrey II…from the musical and movie, not the original Roger Corman flick…who/which was supposedly an alien and ate people and was in the form of a plant.

    There’s plenty of good ways to be an ‘alien’ here on earth. The act of putting that alien into a sexy female human is a decision that doesn’t get some kind of crazy pass of ‘it can’t be sexist because she’s really an alien!!!’

    FFS.

  • LaSargenta

    Dude, you can at least get her name right. It’s right there at the top of the page.

    Also, I’d like to propose that your noting that ” several thousand others like it droning on over everything from video
    games to comic books that support the supposed “rape culture” ” maybe could give you a hint that there’s a whole other part of the world that has a different experience of the so-called ‘dead horse’. Usually when people talk about something, it’s because they have to deal with it.

  • Marc Esadrian

    First, there were actually more MALE aliens in the film, if you noticed—or so it seemed. It’s hard to know how big this operation was, judging by what we were shown. How many aliens were there, walking around on different parts of the globe? However, if an alien were to masquerade as a human for the sole purpose of obtaining other human “skins,” it might make sense to use the form of a woman to attract prey. No sexism required.

  • Marc Esadrian

    Dude, trust that there’s a “whole other part of the world” that’s getting nauseous dealing with the whining of paranoid feminists with too much time on their hands.

  • LaSargenta

    Hey MarK, that part of the world had always thought that a woman being anything other than silent is “whining”.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Boooooooooring

  • Marc Esadrian

    And sometimes, they *are* just…whining.

  • The wonderful thing for you is that you can ignore feminist “whining” and it will impact your world not one little bit. And women will still be living in a misogynist world.

  • I can just as easily say this film was degrading toward men

    It absolutely is. Funny thing, that: gender stereotypes are just as bad for men as they are for women.

  • Marc Esadrian

    The funny thing is I didn’t see you bemoaning the degradation directed toward men in this review. Instead, you consistently reminded us why this film was so hurtful to women.

    Honey trapping works not because it’s based upon a conspiracy of synthetic “gender stereotypes.” It works because it taps into a common dynamic between the sexes.

  • Marc Esadrian

    Your victim politics perpetuates a misogynist world, actually, and finds boogeymen where there are not. The last I checked, modern Western culture at large is helping women along fairly well. The statistics seem to agree.

  • Bluejay

    She talks about the film’s misandry here.

  • Bluejay

    Your victim politics perpetuates a misogynist world, actually

    What does this mean? Do you mean that her feminist stance is MAKING the world more misogynist? When a woman asks for her rights, it makes you hate and mistreat her MORE?

    The last I checked, modern Western culture at large is helping women along fairly well.

    Yeah, and since slavery was abolished, everything is just peachy-keen with African-Americans now, right? Just because the West treats women better than some other corners of the globe doesn’t make it a perfect paradise with no further inequities to address.

    Here’s a thought experiment. Suppose that Hollywood, video games, comic books, etc, all took feminist concerns seriously. What is it, exactly, that you think you’re going to lose? What is it that you’ll miss? How, exactly, will a world that treats men and women with equal respect hurt you?

  • Bluejay

    droning on over everything from video games to comic books that support the supposed “rape culture”

    Uh-huh. And when Anita Sarkeesian spoke out against sexism in video games, I suppose her criticisms were warmly welcomed by the respectful and understanding gaming community, thereby proving that rape culture doesn’t exist.

    Think again.

  • Marc Esadrian

    Anita Sarkeesian? You have got to be kidding me. Her cashing-in criticisms were debunked by several in the gaming community, not to mention Internet community, overall. Think again, indeed.

    RAINN on your so-called “rape culture”:

    “Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the
    conscious decisions, of a small percentage of the community, to commit a
    violent crime.”

  • Bluejay

    “Cashing-in criticisms.” Right. She deliberately provoked online harassment and rape threats so that people would donate to her cause. If only those poor innocent gamers weren’t fooled into harassing her! It’s her fault!

    debunked by several in the gaming community

    Citations, please.

  • Marc Esadrian

    @Bluejay

    I wrote “misogynist” instead of “misandrist.” Apologies.

    Regarding society overall, if you think women are not befefitting in spades from the feminist political power grabbing and goddess worship so evident in our society, I’d suggest you step away from your fem lib university classes. Women are doing very, very well this day and age.

    A particularly timely bit of research emerged not so long ago from MIT noting an unexplainable male recession from median income earning and
    educational success/attainment. During a time when feminists have become particularly proud of their policies for sexual equality, David Autor and Melanie Wasserman give us a sobering analysis of an increasing rift between the sexes in Wayward Sons: The Emerging Gender Gap in Labor and Education. It’s not the only report to do so, either.

    There is no grand patriarchal conspiracy to keep women oppressed. In fact, society, overall, is very pro-female.

  • Marc Esadrian

    We can start with Thunderfoot here:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJeX6F-Q63I

  • Marc Esadrian
  • Dr. Rocketscience

    That’s not RAINN debunking rape culture. That’s RAINN debunking the notion that men are culturally conditioned to rape. That they have to point out that rape is caused by cultural influences is evidence for the idea of rape culture.

    Jesus, if you mansplain any harder, your penis might actually explode. Don’t you have to be at the gym in like 26 minutes?

  • Bluejay

    Again: “better than in the past” and “better than in some other countries” does not mean “everything’s now fine, so stop complaining.”

    No one is denying that men and boys have their own challenges in modern society, and those challenges deserve to be studied and addressed as well. But that doesn’t negate the challenges that women continue to have. It’s not zero-sum; “men have problems, therefore women are doing great” is a pretty weak argument.

    Here’s another “particularly timely bit of research” for you. “Wayward Sons” may point out that men are falling behind in educational achievement, but that doesn’t negate the fact that after schooling, it’s women who tend to fall behind: women may earn 41% of science/engineering PhD’s (still not at parity, I might add), but they make up less than 25% of the STEM work force. And while men’s earnings may have declined at a steeper rate than women’s since the late 70s, that doesn’t negate the fact that in absolute terms women are still generally paid less than men, and generally find themselves in positions of less power.

    women are in a very good spot, politically, financially, and culturally.

    When women make up half of Congress, rather than the current 20%; when women make up half of Fortune 500 CEOs, rather than the current 4%; when women make up half of the directors in Hollywood, rather than the current 6%; when women account for half of all roles in film, rather than just one-third of all speaking roles and just 15% of all leading roles last year; when women achieve parity in all these areas and others, MAYBE then you’d have a point.

    Until then, I suggest you entertain the idea that maybe you’re the one who needs to take some classes in feminism.

  • Why are you so deeply offended by feminism?

  • LOL. His main argument is that “Stories have always been about men, therefore this is not sexist.” And then he goes on to explain why men placing women on a pedestal is a good thing.

    This is NOT a refutation. Sorry.

  • I am not a victim. But that doesn’t mean the world is working in the best and fairest way it could, and I am going to keep shouting about it. I don’t know why you want me to shut up, but I’m not going to.

  • Dr. Rocketscience
  • Bluejay

    And lest you think that I’m only concerned with narrow statistics on CEOs and other powerful positions, let me also point out that, in the US, women make up two-thirds of minimum-wage workers, and disproportionately constitute a majority of single-parent households living in poverty as well as a majority of the elderly poor.

    You want to tell the over-40-million American women living in poverty or on the brink of poverty that “women are in a very good spot financially,” and expect them not to laugh you out of town? Be my guest.

  • LaSargenta

    Reading your words “the whining of paranoid feminists” in the context of the commentary that came up with a brief scroll through your Disqus profile and a websearch of your name doesn’t given me the impression that this whining whereof you write would fit into the category “Everybody whines sometimes”. No, your use of these words make me think that you are trying to enforce your kink on the world…which doesn’t really coincide with the philosophy of ‘consent’, however you decide to throw the word around over on humbledfemales.net

    Not every hetero male dom behaves like a wordy, misogynistic whiner, but, some do, present company included.

  • Dear god. If Marc Esadrian is turned on by “humbled females,” then I’m definitely going to make sure I keep on as a mouthy, aggressive broad.

  • Bluejay
  • Sure it. And it also applies to movies.

  • LaSargenta

    So do the comments.

  • I too was a little puzzled by how far off the mark this review was. It’s not just wrong in that I disagreed with its judgment of the film, it’s wrong as to the facts of what actually happened in the film.

    The victims weren’t actually “sexed up” before they were drowned, they were merely lured into the goo-room and that’s it. As we discover later in the film, the alien doesn’t even have the equipment to engage in sex. Far from being a misogynistic “cautionary tale” about predatory females, the film (like the aliens’ plot it describes) exploits the conventions of a misogynistic society for its operation. Long after the alien abandons the kidnapping plot and decides to use its costume to invite intimacy instead of catch victims, it’s still subject to the violent predations the costume attracts in our world.

    I think the film deserves better than to be derided as a “misogynist fanboy wet dream,” especially when the reviewer appears to have misconstrued the message of the film so completely.

  • they were merely lured into the goo-room

    Lured *how*?

    I too was a little puzzled by how far off the mark this review was

    I don’t pretend that my interpretation of the film is the only one possible. But it *is* my *honest* interpretation. Perhaps it’s worth considering *why* I interpret it as I do.

  • Marc Esadrian

    …Which is a key thesis of rape-culture, if you cared to notice. RAINN is critical of the idea that we need to focus on “teaching men not to rape.”

    As for the rest of your comment, no one can question the extent of your intellectual contribution.

  • Marc Esadrian

    And an overwhelming majority of the homeless are male. http://usich.gov/population/chronic

    That means *no* income.

    My point was that women have the ability to do anything they want to do, if they set their minds to it, (especially now with the Fair Pay Act of 2009). Women in society have proven this opportunity exists by starting businesses, entering congress, and becoming CEOs. College admission is 60/40 in favor of women, the last I checked. They are now outperforming men in median income, too. We may very well have a female president in the next election. Give it more time, and women will occupy more positions you want to see them in.

    Or not. That they choose not to or cannot occupy some fields heavy in math and science or tech is not evidence of some massive conspiracy against the female sex, for goodness sake. The reality is that being a software engineer or CEO of a corporation may not be a particularly attractive idea for many women.

    Where single-parent households are concerned, what’s to blame for that? What cultural force pushed traditional families to diverge and devolve? It’s always an interesting question to explore. We could always start with the mass integration of married women into the labor force, spurned on by Betty Friedan—though I’m sure you’ll find some reason not to.

  • Marc Esadrian

    @MaryAnnJohanson:disqus

    “Why are you so deeply offended by feminism?”

    What makes you think I am? I have no problem with feminism, in general (that is, the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes). I do have a problem with the religion of radical feminism and its tendency to still find a patriarchal boogey man behind every corner in a Western culture that is increasingly more advantageous for women in this day and age.

  • Marc Esadrian

    @MaryAnnJohanson:disqus

    I’m not trying to get you to shut up. I am inviting you to consider enjoying a movie (especially as a movie critic) beyond the tunnel vision of your extreme feminist politics.

    Even I was able to. Why can’t you?

  • Marc Esadrian

    Enforce my “kink” on the world, eh? Darn, you figured me out. ;-)

    I had no intention of advertising here, but thanks for the plug, I guess.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    No, chief, the key thesis to rape culture is that, as a culture, we’re not all that upset that women get raped. We excuse it, and rationalize it, and blame the victim for it, and make light of it. That’s the key thesis. Man, you are Dunning-Kruger in action there, sparky. Get right the fuck out.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    MaryAnn, this [redacted] is just gonna keep reading his bullshit cue cards until you show him the door.

  • Marc Esadrian

    AKA teaching and permitting men to rape, turbo.

    Which is absolute nonsense, of course. “We” as a society, last I checked, find rape quite abhorrent.

  • Marc Esadrian

    @The redoubtable Doc

    Let’s let RAINN say it another way:

    “By the time they reach college, most students have been exposed to 18 years of prevention messages, in one form or another. Thanks to repeated messages from parents, religious leaders, teachers, coaches, the media and, yes, the culture at large, the overwhelming majority of these young adults have learned right from wrong, and enter college knowing that rape falls squarely in the latter category.”

    So I ask again to get back on track: where’s your rape culture?

  • I think you’re done here. You’re not going to find any sympathy for your attitudes here, so it’s best if you quit now.

  • No, this is now way off track. You will find no agreement with your perspectives here, so it’s time for you to stop dragging the conversation in your direction.

  • Bluejay

    Give it more time, and women will occupy more positions you want to see them in.

    Good! But it doesn’t just take time. It takes active work to make sure women’s issues are heard and addressed and not ignored. That’s why it’s important to not shut up about the challenges women still face.

    And just so we’re clear: sexism won’t end just because a woman may be elected president, the same way that racism didn’t end when Obama was elected president. It’ll be fantastic when women make those gains, but that doesn’t negate the need to call out and push against the reactionary forces that would roll back those gains if they could.

    That they choose not to or cannot occupy some fields heavy in math and science or tech is not evidence of some massive conspiracy against the female sex, for goodness sake. The reality is that being a software engineer or CEO of a corporation may not be a particularly attractive idea for many women.

    Have you been under the impression that feminists believe there’s an actual, coordinated conspiracy against women? That there are actual specific men sitting in shadowy boardrooms and rubbing their hands gleefully at their Master Misogynist Plan? Please. What we’re talking about here are ingrained and sometimes unconscious cultural attitudes, and the unexamined ways in which society has been set up to make the playing field harder for women. If a STEM career is something most women choose not to pursue, then we have to examine the cultural factors that may have influenced that disproportional choice. If being a CEO is tough on someone who’s raising a family, then we have to ask why it’s always the woman who’s expected to mind the kids. And so on.

    Before you can say “well, women just naturally don’t like doing these things,” we have to do our best to make sure society isn’t unfairly setting them up to make those choices. And the same, by the way, is true of men, who are experiencing unfair societal pressures of their own.

    Where single-parent households are concerned, what’s to blame for that? What cultural force pushed traditional families to diverge and devolve?

    Interesting. My criticism was about single-parent households being in poverty, not about single-parent households themselves. Apparently you feel that anything different from a “traditional family” has, in your words, devolved. And that married women being able to work is a bad thing. If we’re going to profoundly disagree about such fundamentals, then this is where I should end the conversation. Have fun stewing about the direction society is going.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    No fair commenting on someone who’s been invited off the thread, no matter how cogent your rebuttal may be. :)

  • Marc Esadrian

    @Bluejay,

    “Have you been under the impression that feminists believe there’s an actual, coordinated conspiracy against women?”

    Are you attempting to pretend that many feminists do not still believe this—even partially? Granted, we’ve entered the realm of amorphous “gender bias 2.0” theory, but to deny this is more than a little intellectually dishonest.

    “Interesting. My criticism was about single-parent households being in poverty, not about single-parent households themselves.”

    You mentioned poverty and single-parent households…of which single mothers make up a great percentage. Surely you’re aware of this.

    “Have fun stewing about the direction society is going.”

    Pot and kettle, there. Ditto.

  • Marc Esadrian

    @MaryAnn Johanson

    It’s interesting how you keep framing my contributions here. First I’m trying to make you “shut up” and now I’m “looking for sympathy.” I’m not looking for that or expecting it, believe me, but I’ve noted that I’m not the only one to have called you out on your review. Anyway, I’ll respect your request to “go away,” I suppose.

  • Bluejay

    You mentioned poverty and single-parent households…of which single mothers make up a great percentage. Surely you’re aware of this.

    And nothing you’ve said above remotely addresses MY pointing out what you’ve clearly revealed as your opinion on “non-traditional” families and on married women in the work force. Nice try.

    Pot and kettle, there. Ditto.

    No, actually, the long moral arc of the universe is bending the way *I* want it (albeit more slowly than it should), not the way *you* want it. So you’ll be stewing more in the long run. Enjoy.

  • Marc Esadrian

    And what way do I want the long moral arc of the universe to go, my psychic friend?

    Most are at least dimly cognizant of the parallel between broken homes, single mothers living in poverty, males receding from participating in household relationships with women, and the politics of modern feminism. There are admittedly articulate yet nonetheless misguided exceptions, of course. I never ruled that out.

  • Bluejay

    You told MaryAnn you’d go away, but it seems you just can’t quit me. I’m flattered.

    But really, you should go now. You’ve laid out enough of your argument that I know I’m SO not going to agree.

  • Marc Esadrian

    “But really, you should go now.”

    Question not answered. So noted.

  • Danielm80
  • Bluejay

    Aww, you’re a “must have the last word!” kind of guy. How sad.

    AND you’re still here. Surprise surprise.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Pro tip: not answering != concession. Claiming so is an asshole rhetorical trick right up there with quote mining.

    Oh, wait…

  • What makes you think I am [offended by feminism]?

    It’s your attitude. And the words you say.

  • Bluejay

    Also:

    Question not answered. So noted.

    …says the man who failed to answer the final-paragraph questions in the very first comment I made to him. I really don’t think you want to play this game.

  • Anyway, I’ll respect your request to “go away,” I suppose.

  • Eddie

    So let me get this straight … you read this as a cautionary tale for men against women? With all due respect, I think that’s a complete misreading of this movie. If anything, it’s a critique of male (or societal) obsession with skin-level beauty. We’re so obsessed with what’s on the surface that we miss the black heart that often lies beneath. It might not be a feminist message per se … but who ever said it had to be?

  • So let me get this straight … you read this as a cautionary tale for men against women?

    No, I did not. That’s a complete misreading of my review.

  • clara candle

    maryann

  • Jim Wolfson

    I’m a straight man and this wasn’t any kind of fantasy for me.
    It was just stupid, disconnected, extremely boring, repetitive and one of the very worst films I’ve seen since ‘Eraserhead’.

    I was surrounded by the usual artsy-fartsy types, leaving the theater, trying like the dickens to find some meaning, some plot, some reason it didn’t suck. That was the best part of the film: artsy-fartsies tied in knots.

    Awful, nasty, excruciating stuff. Stay far away.
    Even naked Johannson is a big let-down.

  • Drave

    I saw this yesterday, without having read your review. My interpretation of it was identical to yours.

  • asimovlives

    My dear fair lady, you have truly lost it. So Under The Skin is a bad movie because there’s women raped every day? So you cheappen the plight of those women to justify lazy film criticism? You have become such a slave to mainstream commercial movies you have lost the edge. Completly lost. I’m sure there must be some JJ Abrams movie for you to glorify somewhere, go give him your services..
    How the mighty have fallen! I used to be quite a fan of yours. you know? The girl who had no quals in trashing the latest dumbed down Michael Bay movies. And now this, a mere mouthpiece for studio movies while hating on more challenging daring ambitious movies. Disapointment about you barely even begins to discribe my feelings. Such a pity.

    To call this movie as a some sort of male sexual fantasy is beyond stupid, it’s demented!

  • asimovlives

    Then you didn’t even bothered to watch the movie. Too boring for you? Go rewatch Star Trek Into Darkness, that crap insults women even worst but i feel you might like it better.

  • asimovlives

    JJ Abrams makes movie for you, go watch them instead and leave challenging ambitious cinema to those who can appreciate it..

  • Bluejay

    I think we’ve heard enough from this guy, MaryAnn, don’t you?

  • Your abuse will not be tolerated. Nor will your attempts to derail the comments here into your tedious anti-JJ Abrams tangent.

    Behave yourself or go away.

  • Esuphorea

    Here we have Bluejay continually recurrently passing his tongue within the reviewer’s asshole. She’s got mind of her own you know, try aiming for her Newyork-taxi-driver’s mouth.

  • “Long after the alien abandons the kidnapping plot and decides to use its
    costume to invite intimacy instead of catch victims, it’s still subject
    to the violent predations the costume attracts in our world.”

    That was how I viewed the direction of the storyline, too. No “misogynist” conspiracy here. Instead, a very poignant statement on the evils and vulnerabilities of the world—especially at the end.

    After returning to this thread, I’m glad to see others take this review to task.

  • Bluejay

    You said you’d go away, yet here you are. No surprise there.

    And you have nothing to add except “Others disagree with you too, so there!” Which is also something you’ve already said. So really you’ve come back to say nothing new at all. No surprise there either.

  • The whole world can “take me to task,” for all I care. Do you imagine I’m going to cave and change my mind if enough people disagree with me?

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Couldn’t stick the dismount, eh? Yeah, lot’s of guys have that problem.

  • FeministFilmBuff

    Really? That’s what you saw in this film? That makes me sad for you.

  • SPOILERS:

    I liked the part where even in a movie about a woman as a sexual predator of sorts, she was still the victim of sexual violence, culminating in being immolated by a would be rapist.

    I watched this movie in a packed theatre, and when the rapist guy first showed up, the guys I was with as well as guys in the general audience found his interactions laugh out loud funny, like he was just another blundering idiot, whereas all the women in our party immediately were like “creep alert,” myself included.

    I found the first half of the movie to be much more successful than the last half, but not enough for me to say I’d ever watch it again.

  • LaSargenta

    Hey! You posted on Goon only a couple of years ago, plus/minus…it’s been less than a decade. ;-) Welcome back.

  • Haha, I used to access this site on AOL dial-up waaaay before then, but let me avoid dating myself!

  • This site *started* on the tiny bit of server space AOL allowed its users! (I quickly outgrew it.)

  • LaSargenta

    Hon, I probably still have a user account on The Well…that’s like saying I was on the Ark in computer-years!

  • LaSargenta

    I’ll bet you did!!

  • I had Compuserve and Prodigy accounts. But not anymore.

  • Well done – I’m not sure your perspective is the “last word” on the movie, but it needed to be put out there, that there is definitely a troubling level of misogyny in this film. Cheers.

  • My own reactions to the film – written before I read your review: http://alienatedinvancouver.blogspot.ca/2014/06/under-skin-review.html

  • Maybe give us a hint?

    (I don’t mind if readers post links to their own work here, but I would prefer that you not use a comment here to do nothing but promote your own work.)

  • Sure. From the conclusion: “the man whom she encounters in the woods, who ultimately attempts to rape her and kill her… is her encountering him some sort of ‘justice?’ The former predator, in rejecting her role, becomes prey to a different sort of predator? That’s where I start to have doubts about the content of this film. If this whole alien conceit were not used, I ask myself: if the film were straight-up about a cold sexy narcissistic bitch who uses men left and right, who suddenly has a change of heart, and then gets is raped and murdered – which provides us what we need for closure, since there is presumably some sort of ‘justice’ (or at least irony in it), would we not see this film as a misogynist text? The woman is BURNED ALIVE at the end of the movie, when the rapist discovers that she is not human, for chrissakes. What are the politics of that, exactly? (Or of the woman-as-alien; it’s like some female-bashing Burroughs rant).”

  • johnnyhenry

    You do see at least one of her victims suffering if not two

  • johnnyhenry

    What???? That seems to be a huge leap you’re making

  • johnnyhenry

    Don’t see this movie as a “misogynist fanboy wet dream” at all. We’re all entitled to our opinion of course, but I saw this with my wife and we both enjoyed it as a dark sci fi nightmare. The scene where the second victim sees the first one shrivel up before his eyes was chilling especially in that you see him suddenly aware of the horror of his situation. It also shows that the film is not as you characterized it in your title. It MAY speak to issues of rape,but it seems both inaccurate and unfair to vilify the film in such a manner. It’s one thing to have an opinion, but while I respect your right to say it, it sounds awfully short sighted and narrow minded.

  • johnnyhenry

    I find it hard to believe that men got a thrill after watching the movie from thinking how Scarlett Johansson might sex them to death. And if you think it isn’t possible for a man to be fooled into letting down his guard by a woman looking to commit some type of evil then you’re a bit ignorant to what is possible in the world.

  • Mog

    It’s pretty clearly a feminist work…

    The creature initially does nothing but emulate human women. Think of this as self-objectification and adherence to hyper-sexualized gender norms. In the course of this, men are entirely depersonalized; all that matters is that she attract them. She’s wearing a sexy costume, posing as a beautiful woman. Get it? Get it? This is what women are taught to do in our society.

    It’s only after she has an encounter where she seems to experience sympathy (the disfigured man she lets go) that she stops emulating this cartoonish ideal of a woman and tries to actually BE a woman (symbolized by the encounter which leads to love-making which is portrayed in a very sweet, tender way), but the nature of the costume is such that she isn’t equipped to do it. If we follow the metaphor, the implication is that sexual objectification interferes with real intimacy, which is really true. Not just the objectification of others, but self-objectification; it’s hard to feel anything when you’re worried about the quality of your performance in the role of “sexy woman”.

    Finally the costume/sexualization attracts sexual violence (GET IT?), and the creature underneath (“real” womanhood, in this reading) provokes even more extreme violence and revulsion on the part of the man who was attracted only to the costume. “You mean women aren’t just barbie dolls? KILL IT WITH FIRE.” The fact that the real woman under the plastic skin is seen as alien is self-explanatory.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s a great movie or anything. But the main problems it has are that it’s a narrative that could have been related in a short film stretched to almost two hours and it has absolutely no characters. Like, at all.

  • The creature initially does nothing but emulate human women.

    Really? The creature does *nothing* but emulate human women?

    If we follow the metaphor, the implication is that sexual objectification interferes with real intimacy, which is really true.

    I might buy this if the alien metaphor, the “cartoonish ideal of a woman,” did not also include *luring men to their deaths.*

    Is this something that human women typically do?

    How does this behavior of the creature, which you have curiously omitted from your explanation of the film, fit in with your theory? And — perhaps more importantly — couldn’t the point you’re saying the film makes have been made without also including in the “metaphor” of female sexualization her deadly predatory side? Or are you suggesting that women are taught to be deadly predators, and if so, how does that manifest in our culture?

  • Mog

    It’s part of the stereotype of sexualized femininity. The whole femme fatale schtick. You reference this in your review. The idea that there is a hidden threat in female sexuality is an old one. You can’t interpret the rest of the film symbolically and then insist on the literalness of that one element.

    It’s worth noting that not only does she never perform an act of overt violence, she never displays any malice. She behaves like a robot until she discovers her ability to actually relate to men outside of this seduction routine, at which point her costume falls apart.

    Your comment about how the presumed attitude of the viewer at the end of the film is that she deserved it is off the mark; you’re supposed to be sympathetic to her. The only people in the film who are actually shown committing violent acts, the only people who show malice?

    Men.

  • Ah, so now women are robots who only accidentally inflict violence on men?

    Got it!

  • Mog

    Uh, no.

    I can’t tell if you’re being deliberately obtuse on that point because you don’t want to back down or if you actually don’t understand this. She’s robotic because she has no agency; she’s playing a part. No, that’s not because women lack agency, it’s because the the social construction of woman-as-object (which is what the skin represents) lacks agency. Does that make more sense?

    Women as a class of people don’t inflict violence on men, nor is that what the film is asserting. The construction of female-bodied persons as sexualized, feminine objects which are both alluring and dangerous is being contrasted with the “alien” but authentic form beneath the mask which poses no threat, but is in fact a victim of masculine violence. Pretty straightforward. Not ambiguous.

    I don’t know how to make this clearer. I’m not sure if it’s just that concepts like social construction of gender are something you’re not familiar with or what.

  • It could not possibly matter less whether the author of the book this is based on considers himself a feminist. What matters to me if what I see in the film, and yes, thank you very much, I DO understand social constructions of gender. I’m just not seeing it reflected in this film in the same way you are.

  • Montana

    Sorry, but I think this review is way off the mark. The majority of the criticism revolves around the fact that taking a literal interpretation of the first half of the film (Johansson as predator) is pointless because it has no connection to the real world. The irony is that the same review points out that the film is wholly metaphoric.

    True, the predatory phase isn’t a scare for men, nor does it force men to empathise with the feelings of vulnerability that women go through. But who said it was supposed to? Unless you funded the film and provided a framework the director and writers were supposed to stick to you’re not really in a position to dictate what the film lacked in terms of it’s purpose….

    As others have alluded to, the film is about the negative consequences of the way we treat female sexuality. I think Mog is on the money,esp with regard to the final scenes: The black ‘alien’ represents the sexless essential being within us all. The rapist, so disconnected from his own and other’s humanity is disgusted when confronted with the humanity of the victim such that his only comfortable response is to destroy it. The rape does happen- the immolation is an artistic representation of the rapist willfully destroying the human within as his only means of coping with the reality he forced to face. Rape is partly an act of self denial. The final scenes are not meant to be comeuppance. The film is not misogynist. Those who are “fanatically steeped in seeing everything as a misogynist conspiracy” (Marc Essendon) would likely see it as such, of course.

    However, I’m not sure I agree that it is, on the other hand, feminist. The reviewer asks;

    “I might buy this if the alien metaphor, the “cartoonish ideal of a woman,” did not also include *luring men to their deaths.*

    Is this something that human women typically do?”

    In a metaphoric sense, this is mainstream culture. The men don’t actually die if you think about it. They are lured into a kind of ambiguous liquid in which they become transfixed. In time they become weak and ‘decay’. To carry the analogy, this is symbolic of how, in mainstream culture (particularly at night), female sexuality is artificially accentuated and promoted such that men are very much inappropriately ‘lured’ and aroused. ‘Inappropriate’ because most of the time, women are not looking for a sexual partner, at least not without real intimacy (and the premature arousal of men through this unnatural over-promotion of female sexuality prevents real intimacy from forming). The peril in this for men is that, in having their libido unnaturally raised and then thwarted, men will suffer internal imbalance. In fact, any kind of artificial augmentation of a full natural process is going to lead to imbalance. Repressed expression of arousal leads to frustration and over time, chemical imbalance and obsession (transfixed by and decaying due to their internal chemical imbalance). It’s very artistically done. So the film portrays the role both women and men have in the abuse of female sexuality and the negative consequences on both men and women.

    On a personal level, the film (particularly the final chapters) made me think very deeply about how I treat women and their sexuality. Which is a good thing. The film is very good.

  • Danielm80

    Unless you funded the film and provided a framework the director and writers were supposed to stick to you’re not really in a position to dictate what the film lacked in terms of it’s purpose….

    Am I misreading your comment, or are you saying that MaryAnn isn’t entitled to analyze what the film is about unless she produced it? Because you’ve just spent several paragraphs analyzing what the film is about.

    Your interpretation seems perfectly reasonable, but that doesn’t mean that another person can’t–just as reasonably–interpret the film in a completely different way.

  • Montana

    No I’m just saying if a film isn’t meant to do something, then it’s not really a fair criticism to say it’s not doing it.

  • But by your own argument, *you* cannot know what the film is “meant” to do, either! Or did you fund the film?

  • Montana

    Reread the text. It doesn’t say:
    “not really in a position to determine what the purpose is”
    That’s obv not my argument.

  • Danielm80

    What is your argument then?

    It’s difficult for someone to determine what a film is “meant to do” or what it “lack[s] in terms of it’s [sic] purpose” unless they have an opinion on what its purpose is.

    You appear to be saying that only someone who “funded the film and provided a framework the directors and writers are supposed to stick to” has the authority to comment on the message of the movie. That would, of course, eliminate a large portion of film criticism and film study–including your analysis of the film in this thread.

    If that’s not what you meant to say, then your original comment was extremely unclear, and your follow-up comments have been just as confusing. Please explain what point you were trying to make.

  • Montana

    Obviously everyone is entitled to and, to varying degrees, able to elucidate the message and the metaphor- as you say, that’s what film analysis is all about and that’s what we are all doing right now. So, I’m not contradicting that.
    To create an extreme example of what I’m resisting, as an analogy; if someone were to discredit Fight Club and rate it 5/10 because it did a poor job of demonstrating the dangers of unregulated fighting (there was little show of the pain after most fights, despite visible injuries! Shock horror!) then you’d have to point out that Fight Club obviously wasn’t intending to do that in the first place, and so to discredit the film for not doing so would be to miss the point.

    The crux of the reviewer’s expressed contempt is; women are attacked every day and men don’t have to worry about that happening the other way around. But this isn’t a issue with the film, this is an issue with reality. I, as well as many others evidently, see that she has let this issue colour her opinion of what is actually a neutral and very well done film. The reviewer misses the point of the initial chapters of the film, and in missing the point, unfairly discredits them as pointless.

  • Liz Winsor

    Wow dude, you found an actual lady who actually writes who thinks a different thing than this lady? Touché, man!

  • Liz Winsor

    Great comment. I’ve seen sections of this film (I left) and in reading reviews have noted a number of reviewers praising the film for the amount of time SJ is nude. They don’t even bother to conceal that male masturbation factor is a real weight for mainstream (or in this case, supposedly “alternative”) films. It’s getting so hard to find a film that doesn’t require eating shit to some degree as a female viewer.

  • Sylf

    This guy’s reaction is a typical reaction from someone who doesn’t understand sexism in all it’s different forms (some more subtle or naive than others), and who is completely oblivious to the fact that there are a lot more films not portraying any women as real or interesting characters that people can relate to, than that there are films who do. I think this is an important issue. He seems to be angry because he feels personally attacked, but he has no reason to. Or does he? :D

  • sylf

    Well said.

  • jho

    Its a boring nonsense movie not worth a penny! What a waste

  • vidzero

    You are a crazy person. That is all.

  • vidzero

    You sound like a 70 y/o redneck with two brain cells to his name. Why would you even waste your time trying to understand anything above a fourth grade reading level? Go back to crushing beer cans on your forehead and blaming Obama for all your woes.

  • Ivan

    Given that in the real world 99% of times it is men that rape women, and not the opposite, if you make a movie about an alien that in the first portion of it uses its appearence as a female human to kill male humans, you just made a misogynist work and proved we live in a society dominated by men that hate women.

    How dare you make a SCIENCE-FICTION movie in which you don’t show things as they are in the real world, Mr. Glazer? How dare you not underline in every single dialogue of the movie that men are bad and women are good, but unfortunately we live in a world dominated by men, and that is indeed very very very bad?

    What a load of nonsense.

  • What you wrote is indeed a load of nonsense.

  • only1Indrajit

    I like reading the criticism in this site. This is actually the only movie review site where I have created an account. The point of view of the author is almost always tinged with some pungent liquor of cynicism but it’s refreshing. Now I personally think this movie attempts to do something different from the mainstream sci fi movies, but has failed mostly because the hole is too big for inserting any meaningful subtext with any significant implication. I was almost lured to compare this with another movie Irreversible. But i think this one has failed to achieve anything impactful in terms of delivering any powerful serious message on victimisation of women, flesh trade/any feminist formula. This movie scores good by adopting an unconventional mode of story telling/visual representation of uncanny and eerie themes. But it ends in a depthless fashion. We were promised in the beginning to be greeted with some powerful ending with dark deep undertones but instead end up falling in a wideand gaping hole which is not deep at all only dark and full of confusion

  • Evan Tangum

    I do not think a feminist message is or was intended to be the central message. While it may attempt to make some feminist points, the central message is a humanist one. *Spoilers* I will go over some of the symbolism to make my case. 1) The alien (Scarlet) picks up the ant and examines it, symbolizing her own alien body trapped within the human shell. She is not ready to be human at this point. 2) We see a “human” act of kindness where the man at the beach attempts to save the drowning woman and her dog. The baby left alone on the beach is meant to make us uncomfortable and demonstrate that being “human” is to help other humans. Taking advantage of other humans is purely inhuman. 3) This symbol is repeated with the deformed man, as he is the first person to be visually uncomfortable with the alien’s advances. The alien, by realizing it has done wrong, releases the man and becomes human. The rest of the movie sees her exploring her newly found humanity.

    The conclusion of the film certainly attempts to use irony to drive the humanist point home. It is not meant to be a punishment. The man in the woods attempts an inhuman and alien act, rape. Upon seeing that Scarlet’s inner body is alien, he ironically fears and kills her. “Under the Skin” the man in the woods is an alien.

  • Yeah, the sacrifice of a woman (or in this case, a character who reads as a human woman) for ironic purposes is so beautiful. Yeah.

    I’m sick of the onscreen abuse of women being rationalized away and deemed “art.” Fuck this shit.

    Humanism that does not include feminism is some shit that can go fuck off, too.

  • Evan Tangum

    I was simply stating the message I got out of viewing the film as being, “to be human is to help one another, and taking advantage of other humans is bad” and displayed how I arrived at that message. *That* message is a beautiful one, to me. I will acknowledge my bias here in that I have been struggling to battle depression and, as such, negativity in media upsets me a great deal. This battle has lately prompted me to cherry pick positive content out of the media I consume. However, I do not think that entirely invalidates how I view a film.

    I concede to your point about the sacrifice, you are right. Too many films use that trope. I do, however, think this film offers a slight spin on it. Most films use it to empower a male protagonist (the good guy’s wife/daughter is taken/murdered and it begins his power fantasy) whereas this film uses it to complete a female protagonist’s story arch. It literally ends through her eyes, in her point of view. That may or may not be an incredibly meaningful difference. Again, as a male, I’m not here to try and argue that the film is positive towards women. You are certainly more credible in that regard and I have no way of viewing the world through your lens. Women are harassed daily, and I will never experience that nor fully grasp how the media effects women. I certainly do not wish to be an obstacle against equality.

    When I said the film wasn’t feminist but rather humanist, I did not mean to undermine feminism. I never asserted that humanism is bigger than feminism, and only intended to go so far as to say that the theme of the film seems to be about determining what it means to be human. I suppose I’m just not sure what prompted such a negative and scathing response from you, but I do apologize if you thought I was in any way attempting to invalidate your view. I do not tout my view as the only view, nor wish others reading here to take my interpretation in place of yours.

    Take care.

  • Carmen Damocles

    Well, she (Johansson) could have at least played a real-life female serial killer.

  • ruth

    In the book she kills the (attempted) rapist, also when she dies it’s due to a car crash, she hits a trigger to get rid of herself as ‘evidence’ of aliens, but by that time she’s began to empathise with humans (as we might decide to become vegetarians for example!) made peace with herself and our planet, which she finds extraordinarlily beautiful – she feels a poetic justice in becoming part of it as she dies. In the film you get the visual hints of this, but I wasn’t feeling the ‘magic’ – apart from anything else he shoots that final scene in an industrial forest not a natural one, (I’m a landscape artist from Scotland so the landscape was familiar, yet made deliberately dreary by Glazer)

    Quite a different message from the film though eh?!
    I tend to read this sort of film as male sexual guilt syndrome, certainly in this film it’s reduced the impact of content and form, I really liked his film ‘Sexy Beasts’ – less pretentious, very sharp and funny, striking visually. Ah well..

  • I haven’t read the book, but apparently it works as a metaphor for factory farming. Which suggests a very different sort of story than the one the film presents.

  • This article sucks

    DEAR GOD. I loved the movie and this article is horrible. People will complain about anything and everything these days.

  • Nicola

    Dear Maryann Johanson – you are a grade A moron. I mean, you say you understand the film? Did you even watch past the hour mark, or any of it, for that matter? Were you watching a different film? You have not grasped anything that Glazer has tried to do here. It’s not exploitative, it’s not anti-feminist and it’s not anything you say in your review. Go stick to your Transformers. And Transformers 2. And Transformers 3. Is there a third? Who knows, because only idiots watch them. Also, I’m a woman, so there’s that argument out of the window.

  • Nicola

    Not enough Spider-Man in it for you, then.

  • Bluejay

    Hey, sincere question: Do you think you can say “I disagree with the reviewer, and here are my reasons” without going straight to personal insults? We try to keep things civil around here, even when we disagree, but that gets hard to do when you start right out the gate with “grade A moron.” Wanna try starting over?

    (By the way, she didn’t like most of the Transformers movies.)

  • kooky katt

    Cool. How many male aliens got raped in the woods then set on fire?

  • kooky katt

    And you’re here …why??!

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