The Red Pill combines a personal journey narrative with a thorough exploration of the contentious Men’s Rights movement, to make for an insightful and at times frustrating viewing experience.
What exactly is the purpose of a documentary film? Is it to educate? Instigate? Expose? Explore? Or a combination of all these things? What is certain in these post Michael Moore times that while documentaries have indeed become much more popular and much more slick, many documentarians are driven by ideology and activism, opting for safe subjects and obvious targets.
The Red Pill is not that kind of documentary. In fact, for many The Red Pill should not be seen at all, with screenings scheduled in Australia cancelled (and later rescheduled) due to an outcry from feminist groups who took issue with the films core subject: Men’s Rights activism.
If you are wondering what exactly is a “Men’s Rights Activist” (affectionately known as MRA), then you are in the same spot that The Red Pill director Cassie Jaye was several years ago. A former actress who turned to documentary filmmaking after having enough of the sexism within Hollywood, Jaye’s search for a new subject for her third documentary feature (following Daddy I Do and The Right to Love) led her to the MRA movement, which on the surface was an affront to her feminist sensibilities with MRA’s described as misogynistic, whiny and hate-filled activists that deserves little respect and no credibility.
Yet as Jaye dug deeper into the MRA minefield she found that there was much more to the movement then the toxic labels attributed to it. In turn The Red Pill becomes an exploration on two facets: the first focusing on just what is the Men’s Rights Movement and the people behind it; and the second Jaye’s own personal journey as once firmly held convictions about gender and feminism are constantly challenged.
Both narratives are fascinating but also have their flaws. At 117 minutes The Red Pill features a wide selection of voices that contribute to the debate as to whether MRA’s and men’s rights issues are bad or just badly reported, ranging from key figures in the movement such as Paul Elam (president of A Voice for Men), fierce critics such as Katherine Spiller (editor of Miss Magazine), and various protestors and YouTube activists who all have their say.
As an interviewee Jaye does a great job in letting her interview subjects have their say without filter. Their analysis and tales of personal experience are laid out on the line and often leads to insightful, confronting and often heartbreaking testimony especially from the Men’s Right’s activists themselves, whose stories of male suicide rates (extremely high), child custody battles, false accusations of rape, lack of services for male victims of domestic violence, and military conscription will and should give pause to those with minds open enough to view the issue of men’s rights without the filter of easy lambasting.
That’s not to say that some push-back from Jaye could have went some way in confronting a very visible ugly side within the men’s rights movement (examples of which are featured at the start of the movie). Perhaps Jaye found it enough to have critics of the movement (which there are many) state their own strong condemnation. It surely seemed that Jaye herself was searching for someone or something to take her back to the comfy confines of previously held views, that would no doubt be accepted within her industry and the mainstream in general.
Yet such is the power of The Red Pill, a documentary that explores and informs about a much talked about but little understood rising force in the eternal gender war. For those willing (or able) to see it, do so.