After years of waiting, I finally got the chance to watch Cassie Jaye’s documentary The Red Pill. Jaye’s documentary began as her examination of the men’s rights movement, and grew into her journey out of feminism.
The film received a great deal of backlash during its filming, post production, and initial release. All of the negative response, from people contacting Jaye’s financiers to cut her funding to people backing out of interviews to protests against the film, came from feminists. Most notably, they came from feminists who never saw the bulk of the footage or the completed film.
The reaction has been so overblown that it has likely increased people’s desire to see this horribly misogynistic film that gives a platform to rape apologists. Or something to that affect.
Is that Jaye’s film? Is it a love letter to women haters? Is it an attack on feminism? Does it excuse male violence against women?
But you already knew that.
Jaye is a competent director. Her style is engaging and informative. She does not editorialize. She presents the subject’s views as the subject sees them and then presents the counter argument.
She did a fantastic job with pacing and general editing. The film is about two hours long, but feels shorter. She does a good job of linking the various talking points of the men’s rights movement, as well as using men’s stories to highlight certain points. She is not gratuitous with the content either. While some of it is shocking, it is shown to emphasize a point, not for cheap sympathy.
The music score is fits with each scene. Of special note is her use of Moby’s music during the Boko Haram segment.
There is not much for me to critique about the film because in terms of film making there is little wrong with it. My primary fault with the film is not Jaye’s doing.
There is a lack of feminist counter points. That may seem like an odd complaint, however, I think it is important in these kind of discussions to add as much balance as possible. Jaye does an excellent job of citing statistics, articles, and studies, so no one can complain about her misrepresenting the facts.
What the film lacks is a counter to those citations, and the reason why is that feminists who agreed to interviews backed out when they discovered that Jaye was not doing a hit piece on the men’s rights movement. This left her with four or five feminists, none of who actually addressed the men’s rights activists’ arguments. Granted, that could be an editing trick, yet my prior knowledge of the positions held by people like Michael Kimmel suggest otherwise.
This is perhaps the biggest sin in the film, and again this has nothing to do with Jaye. Feminists simply did not take any of these points seriously. Jaye suggested such throughout various interviews as she edited the film. The feminists she spoke with had no counter points to the men’s rights position other than accusing them of sexism. How can anyone work with people who hold this much contempt for their political opposites?
As for the presentation of the men’s rights movement, I thought it was fair. Jaye does not show much of the more hostile responses some men’s rights activists have towards feminism, which one can consider one-sided. However, it is present at the beginning of the film, and she does the same thing with feminists. Her approach is to show what people think of themselves and how their critics respond to that, not expose every crazy statement made by a self-professed member of said group.
Jaye instead allows the men’s rights activists to state their opinions without any editorializing. She then digs into their claims to see if the evidence supports what they state. She takes those findings to feminists to get the other side. She takes that back to the men’s rights activists for their response. She finally gives her understanding of the information presented. That is about as fair as one can get, and it causes her problems.
This was something Jaye hinted at during interviews before the film’s completion and release. She began the project as a feminist, yet had many of her views challenged not only by the men’s rights activists’ comments, but also by their data. Perhaps most poignant was the scene involving circumcision. It only took her watching a five-minute video of a newborn being circumcised to no longer support it.
Jaye is unique in this experience as most feminists are not swayed by evidence, statistical or anecdotal. The ideology trumps everything, and this was something Jaye discovered during the process. She focused primarily on father’s rights and domestic violence, sharing the data and the stories of men involved in these situations. Again, she presented it in as unbiased a manner as possible and then reacted.
She also highlighted the feminist response to these stories and data, and even with editing tricks I do not think the feminists could have come across less callous. No matter how generous and unbiased Jaye tried to be, there was no way feminists would come out the exchanges looking good. The antipathy towards men’s rights activists and their concerns was obvious.
My only other criticism of the film was the absence of the backlash Jaye received for making the film. Since about a fourth of the film is about Jaye’s journey, I hoped that she would include how feminists treated her because I think that experience more so than the data and stories influenced her break with feminism. But perhaps that is another film.
Overall, this is a solid documentary. Jaye tries to fair and balanced, and she succeeds as much as a person can considering the circumstances. The film is not a hit piece against feminism nor is it a propaganda piece for the men’s rights movement. Rather, the film shows what men’s rights activists think, why they think it, and what they attempt to do to address those issues.
This makes the feminist reaction to this film infinitely more confusing. I am left trying to figure out why feminists reacted as they did to what is ultimately a harmless, well-rounded film.
I hope that Jaye is able to get the film on more platforms and possibly into more festivals. I think this is a must see film for anyone concerned about men’s issues.