“Well, actually…” is the shortest and scariest horror story when you’re a woman: The daily encounters with men full of conspiracy theories about aliens, big brother, and the government secretly poisoning our food, dudes who call us sweetheart and princess, despite any evidence that we’re sweet or royalty, in an effort to demean our intelligence. The guys who think we adorably picked up a book one day when our sewing machines broke and got funny ideas about life and thinkin’ for ourselves. They’re mansplainers, and damn are they exhausting.
And then one day you get into a car wreck and end up questionably kidnapped by one, chained to a wall and told that no one will be looking for you; in more of a doomsday-has-arrived kind of way than a no-one-will-hear-you-scream way. But, c’mon, you’ve met these dudes. At the very least, you’ve seen Criminal Minds and you know this guy is delusional and thinks he can get away with some Jim Jones, John Jamelske shenanigans. Not today, satan, you say. Every woman knows that a mansplainer’s masculinity is ever so fragile and that a simple, innocuous sign of affection to the other imprisoned man will send him into a wild rage. So you grab the keys and make a really badass break for it only to discover something truly horrifying: the mansplainer was right.
Aside from the fact that 10 Cloverfield Lane is objectively great: fun, clever, inventive, J.J. Abrams manages to make a movie that is surprisingly aware of how women move about in the world. The mistrust we inherit from a lifetime of sexual harassment, condescension, and violence (so effortlessly nodded to in the early scene with Michelle at the gas station) can be our saving grace, but where does that leave us in times of apocalyptic crisis? Are we to believe that a man has chained us in an underground bunker for our own good or is it possible that there has been an alien invasion or nuclear meltdown? Without giving away spoilers, I can safely say that Abrams has given us women the agency we so often lack in films like this.
Michelle kicks ass: she’s intelligent, strong, and a leader who waits for nobody to save her. The film only features three characters and two are men, so the Bechdel test isn’t passed, but it seems relatively purposeful to put Michelle in a position of power. In a production team once again dominated by men, there is one female producer, which shouldn’t be as exciting as it is, but sometimes you have to celebrate the little victories. I’ve long-respected Abrams as a master of character development and mystery, and as a decently socially aware white dude, and in all of those respects, the film does well. Unless you were hoping for any indication that the world is anything other than white people… Then you’re screwed. With that in mind, I’ll leave you with this: Feminism is necessary and badass female protagonists in self-aware films are important, but the struggle has always been pioneered by folks of color and when we leave them out of the equation, we’re doing everyone a disservice. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a great movie, but if you got to the end without noticing anything alarming, you’re probably white, like me. Privilege, checked. Mac out.