Olivia Wilde’s dystopian cautionary tale about relationships that look idyllic on the surface, Don’t Worry Darling, was the top movie in box offices this week. One man isn’t happy about this. In fact, he’s crying.
If you haven’t seen Don’t Worry Darling and are concerned about spoilers, then I am sorry to say that in order to explain this controversy I must spoil the movie. It turns out Wilde’s film doesn’t take place in a mysterious 1960s planned community, as is suggested by the trailers. Instead, it takes place in a computer simulation of a mysterious 1960s planned community called Victory, inspired and run by the patriarchal Frank, played by Chris Pine. You see, all the men in this community are incels who have kidnapped and brainwashed women to roleplay as their wives, and the men have all been radicalized in the outside world by Frank’s podcast, which we hear inside of Victory as a kind of radio broadcast.
Wilde recently said in an interview that Frank’s character was inspired by Jordan Peterson, which is extremely evident in the movie even before you learn the twist. He’s non-stop spouting the sort of “consider the lobster”-esque catchphrases to the men in the community that Peterson became so famous for. In one scene, Frank asks a man in Victory what the opposite of progress is, and he replies “chaos.” In his lectures, Peterson consistently defines femininity as chaos, sometimes a “dragon of chaos.” In another charged scene, Frank pointedly asks Jack, played by Harry Styles, if he is the kind of man he says he is, with such a specific emphasis that you can practically see that phrase in your mind as a chapter of a book title. Later on, the phrase is repeated in the real world as part of Frank’s podcast.
Wilde described Peterson as “this pseudo-intellectual hero to the incel community,” and went on further to describe how Peterson’s aesthetics work to legitimize his anti-feminist stances and radicalize his fans.
“They believe that society has now robbed them—that the idea of feminism is working against nature, and that we must be put back into the correct place,” Wilde said in Interview. “This guy Jordan Peterson is someone that legitimizes certain aspects of their movement because he’s a former professor, he’s an author, he wears a suit, so they feel like this is a real philosophy that should be taken seriously.”
(Peterson’s ostensibly traditional sartorial style is a fitting subject for a blog post in its own right, and indeed has been.)
Upon hearing Wilde’s assessment of him on Piers Morgan Uncensored, Peterson did what any strong, masculine figure would do: cry. This is far from the first time Peterson has been in the news for crying, which he does with a startling regularity.
“It’s very difficult to understand how demoralized people are, and certainly many young men are in that category,” Peterson said, bursting into tears. “You get these casual insults, these incels—what do they mean? These men, they don’t know how to make themselves attractive to women who are very picky, and good for them. Women, like, be picky. That’s your gift, man. Demand high standards from your men. Fair enough. But all these men who are alienated, it’s like they’re lonesome and they don’t know what to do and everyone piles abuse on them.”
Peterson said later in the interview that he was crying out of a sense of empathy for these young, disenfranchised men.
“It’s really something to see—constantly how many people are dying for lack of an encouraging word and how easy it is to provide that if you’re careful,” he said.
In the course of Wilde’s movie, Frank’s character does a lot more than just give men like Jack an encouraging word. He convinces Jack and his cohort to see the women in their lives as not knowing what’s good for them, as agents of chaos trying to distract from progress, and ultimately not as human beings, but as props and rewards in men’s lives as they pursue their manly pursuits. In fact, the only real issue with Frank as being played by Chris Pine in Don’t Worry Darling is that he gives the denizens of Victory too much concrete ideology, as opposed to Peterson’s feel-good pablum about cleaning your room. Frank is just much cooler than Peterson; while Peterson had to be put in a medically induced coma for a benzo addiction and more or less looks like a walking corpse, Frank throws swinging parties in his virtual reality pad. He’s not crying. He’s having fun.