Last night I subjected myself to Bruce LaBruce’s gay male-gazed horror movie, The Misandrists. It wasn’t meant to be a horror movie, so much as a satire of some kind, but if you’re a lesbian or a feminist, it’s definitely horrifying. My first thought was, you couldn’t PAY me to cover this kind of trash. My next thought was, honestly, I’m bleeding, raging, and feeling like a dead-ass misandrist. Rant as self-care.
1. The Struggle Is Incoherent
The movie is set in a German police state, where a small group of militant lesbian feminists has set up a separatist school under the guise of a nunnery. Two of the students come across a communist dissident who is fleeing the consequences of direct action against the corporate state. The fugitive is gravely injured, and one of the students, Isolde, drags him back to the nunnery and hides him in the basement, against the advice of her compatriot, Hilde. Men are not allowed in the lesbian separatist commune (obviously).
So The Misandrists starts with one of the women betraying her sister-comrades on behalf of a man she sees as her political comrade against capitalism. How sad, yet true to real life. So often women betray their sisters in order to caretake and coddle a dude.
2. Men Push Women’s Boundaries, the Women Comply
Later, as that dude regains his strength and heals from his injuries, he gets real pressure-y, demanding a romantic relationship in addition to the caretaking one he’s come to expect. He never thinks of the danger to his caretaker; he just wants to fuck. Isolde ought to offer him up to the cult as a ritual sacrifice at this point, and perhaps she would if this movie were a much-needed revenge-against-the-patriarchy flick, or the story of an organized militia of women who’ve learned to prioritize their own autonomy and personal safety.
3. Pornography Is Presented Uncritically As a Crucial Political Action
While this is going down, the ring leader of the lesbian separatist commune is planning to profit within the corporate state by making lesbian pornography. While she grooms the students to believe that pornography is the most effective means of dismantling gender norms, her real motivation is money. She’s a cult leader, not a lesbian feminist. Cool, an entire movie where a gay man portrays lesbian feminists as scruple-less sex cultists with no coherent politic.
This film is sooo meta: not only do the characters intend to make porn, they wear pedophile-fetish schoolgirl uniforms, and their bodies are shown in semi-contorted poses, tits and ass available to the viewer whenever possible.
4. Gender Essentialism and Lesbianism Are Presented as Intertwined
The cult recites prayers to different goddesses, and its members spout off aphorisms about feminine stereotypes like they’re Bible verses. What else would you expect from a director who’s obviously never spent any time with actual lesbian separatists? While there are plenty of goddess worshipers among us, one of the essential components of lesbian feminism is that there is no essential womanhood. Outside of being born and raised female, we hold no universal truths about what it means to be a woman. We celebrate differences in behavior, modes of dress, cultures and languages. We know that womanhood is socially constructed differently across time, geographic region, class, and race.
5. Homophobic Trash Abounds
The character Isolde is a transwoman. The captive soldier dude (I’m sure he has a name, but I must be an actual misandrist because I already forgot it a few hours later) is also a male. When soldier dude comes on to Isolde and finds her “cock” (to which it is exclusively referred), he says “I’m not gay!” Later, the lesbian sex cult collectively performs gender reassignment surgery on the soldier dude, as a sort of re-programming method, and because Isolde could ‘never love a man.’ Wild reversal, since she hella already did love and fuck that man she betrayed her commune in order to protect.
But Isolde, who was born male, is supposed to be a lesbian! Bruce LaBruce shows he is a religious adherent to the Church of Queer Theory, since he bully-pulpits the idea that homosexuality refers to same-gender-identity attraction, rather than same-sex attraction. Why expect anything else from a man whose films (according to Wikipedia, cuz I will never again subject myself to this male’s fetishizing gaze) run the gamut from prostitution to gang rape to paraphilias of all sorts. The kids called it queercore back in the 90s, and it’s just pastiche. But shock and transgression for its own sake is neither an aesthetic nor political tool belonging to the Left, as we’ve seen in its widespread adoption by internet trolls and incels. I’m bored.
6. This Movie is 8 Years Long
Everything about the pacing is wrong. There’s an extended scene featuring two characters watching gay male porn (which is a whole ‘nother thing, like not to kink shame, but wow nothing ruined my Thursday like watching y’all manually stretch each other’s hairy assholes). There’s a 10-minute pillow fight. Most of the movie’s conflict didn’t feel like conflict. For a separatist cult whose mission includes annihilating men, the only thing that remotely came close to terrorism was the non-consensual gender reassignment surgery. There was no righteousness, no furtherance of a feminist agenda in mutilating this person as he screams in agony for what felt like 10 solid minutes. We don’t see his face or form, we see actual surgical footage of penile inversion.
This movie is not about armed resistance. This is not the women of the Kurdish Resistance Army. This is fucking Manson family shit. It offers no catharsis for a female populace living in rape culture. It is rape culture.
7. The Lesbian Predator Trope Is Ever-Present
Women in this film use emotional manipulation to try to get sex out of each other. They use the religious aphorisms of the cult leader to encourage sexual contact with women who are not offering enthusiastic or any other form of consent. At one point, the women literally use verbal coercion to try to bully two of their own into having sex on film.
The cult leader is the ultimate lesbian predator, extracting sex from her adherents for personal financial gain under the guise of a patriarchy-smashing agenda.
8. The Sound Engineering Sucks
The balance in loudness/clarity of background noises vs speech is wrong. Not being an audio technician myself, what more can I say than ‘if you like sounds, you won’t like this movie.’
9. The Acting Blows
Lead Kita Updike can’t decide what her motivations are throughout the film. Her face does many things, but producing an expression consistent with the character’s presumed internal thoughts and feelings does not seem to be among them. It could just be the bad script, incoherent direction, or endemic conceptual inconsistency, IDK, but she’s not the only one. In general, the acting is underwhelming.
Hopefully this film will not complete a festival circuit, will not be forced on gender studies students by postmodernist, patriarchal-loyalist professors, and will die quietly. While usually, I think it’s good to ‘know what the enemy is up to’ as it were, this movie cannot be unseen. Shield yourselves, sisters, and find a copy of Born In Flames.