Friday, October 18, 2013

Doghouse (2009): Men's Rights on screen

Doghouse (2009)
dir: Jake West

Sometimes, I don't know how to approach a movie, nor do I know how it is intended to be taken.  I can't tell if Doghouse is trying to be a satirical indictment of sexist tropes and thoughts, especially of those in the Men's Rights type movement. Or, if Doghouse is meant to be a brodude type movie that is all "LULZ, stupid feminist women are bitchy zombies that are out to kill all men.  Look at the men-hating she-beasts of this town called Moodley."  Try as I might to give the benefit of the doubt, Doghouse really seems to settle on the latter interpretation, even though I really wanted to take it as the former.  It just never quite makes it to satire because it is never searing of anything.

In case you haven't been alive for the past few years, the feminist movement has been making headway, and in some ways has been almost overextending their hand.  The seeming over-extension is viewed by men as being misandrist and that spurned a counter movement founded in men's rights. The men's rights movement has been against how men are frequently seen as less than women, that men are always portrayed as the aggressors, that men can be raped for humor or effect (see Super or Descent), and that castration is seen as hilarity.  It also has been about male superiority, in effect.  But, unfortunately, the men's rights movement is also steeped in a lot of misogyny and no small bit of conservatism.

Doghouse takes both movements and blows them both to hell for some generic Bros Before Hoes type movie making.  Did I say blows them both to hell?  I mean it impotently ignores the piss out of them and maybe makes passively snide remarks at them.  The movie opens with a montage of 6 guys.  3 of the guys have wives or girlfriends who are completely possessive and demanding.  One guy has a boyfriend who is also possessive. One guy is a dateless comic book guy, who has an antagonistic tween boy customer. Those five are all going out for a boy's weekend for the sixth guy who was recently divorced and is torn up about it.

These 6 brodudes are all on a boy's weekend to a cabin or small house near the town of Moodley, a town where the women outnumber the men 4:1.  Periodically voices of reason appear, such as the female who says intones that they're being self-centered assholes by assuming that the women will jump their bones because there's a dearth of men.  But, these voices of reason are sexually harassed away.  Go away, the brodudes are bro-ing out.

When we finally get to Moodley, the women there have all been infected with a zombie virus, and they have killed all of the men in town.  And, the remainder of the movie is just the 6 brodudes and one other surviving guy versus the litany of zombie women stereotypes.  Obviously, there will be murder, and many man-hating female zombies will be murdered in the course of the movie.  Fortunately, the women aren't sexually know, brutally murdered in the genitalia or breasts.

All this would point to a completely sexist male-good-female-bad make-me-a-sammich read, except the 6 brodudes are complete beta males.  They're all whipped, and one is even abused by a 10-year-old boy.  Their sexist musings are just as much a sign of their impotence as a sign of the larger-world sexism and stereotyping they participate in. They're also so fixated on the women that a 7th character, who has been fighting the women, has to tell them that all the men are dead...duh.  They're moderately oblivious and have to grow and mature as men in order to escape the zombie town.

Meaning that the men get a character arc of maturity by facing up to these women who are out to kill them or own them.  The divorced guy criticizes their treatment of women in a more universal sense, but that's about the only "you're not behaving right" moment in the movie.

As such, it's really hard to try to approach this as anything other than a brodude movie that's not even trying to be slyly political.  It's just a brodude-loving, woman-hating misogynistic movie. Which might be slightly forgivable if the movie was as innovative as the movies that came before it.  But, it isn't the be all end all of zombie horror-comedy movies that is made problematic by the terrible sexism in the movie.  It isn't even the funniest one where a woman wants to tie down and change a man, while he wants to remain in his childhood.  Instead, it's a rather mediocre movie that seems to be deeply sexist for little results.

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