Before Cassie Jaye began making films, she tried her hand at being an actress. After arriving in Hollywood, she found herself playing damsels in distress and was subject to the advances of men in the film industry. Feeling objectified, she became a feminist and took a role behind the camera hoping to make a difference as a documentarian.
Her first film Daddy I Do, about abstinence-only sex education, was followed by The Right to Love: An American Family, about marriage equality for gender and sexual minorities. The next topic she was looking to explore as a documentary was rape culture and she soon came across the controversial website A Voice for Men while conducting research. The website is a platform for the derided men’s rights movement and is frequently described as misogynistic. She was repulsed by some of the things she read but was intrigued nonetheless. She then decided to instead make a film on men’s rights activists.
As a feminist, she was aiming for the film to take a more critical view of the movement. However, as she interviewed MRA thought leaders, she began to have her feminist views challenged and began to see the movement more sympathetically. As her feelings about men’s rights activists changed, so did the focus of the film. The result is the fascinating and thought-provoking The Red Pill, from a term MRAs have adopted from The Matrix to describe when one becomes aware of systemic transgressions against men in society. “You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes,” as Morpheus once explained.
Before viewing the film, I must say I was a little apprehensive. When I think about the men’s rights movement, I associate it with bloggers like Roosh V, whose controversial statements regarding legalizing rape forced him to cancel an event he organized in my fair city of Chicago. Jaye, however, interacts with mostly reasonable people who do raise valid concerns.
For example, the film explains women are generally awarded custody after a divorce, and there is hardly any legal recourse if a man is deceived into raising a child that isn’t his. Women are also rarely arrested for domestic violence, even if they are the aggressor. The film also explains that men generally work the most dangerous jobs, and that 93% of workplace deaths are men with more than 4500 incidents a year. This partially explains the wage gap between men and women.
The more Jaye learns about the issues she’s exploring, the more she begins to empathize with the movement. Perhaps they shouldn’t be easily dismissed as misogynists. Or maybe she’s being duped. Her evolution is highlighted with video confessionals she recorded of herself sharing her opinions during the making of the film.
Her most interesting subject is Dr. Warren Farrell. He was a very active member of the National Organization for Women and began speaking on women’s issues starting in the 1960s. He drifted away from the feminist movement and eventually wrote The Myth of Male Power, which argues that society throughout the history has viewed men as disposal. War is the health of the state; since I was compelled to register for the Selective Service upon reaching the age of 18, but not my sisters, I would say he is not without a point.
She also interviews the notorious Paul Elam, founder of A Voice for Men. He is calm in the film, which contrasts with the provocative writing that can be found on his website. When one writes things like “I am proclaiming October to be Bash a Violent Bitch Month,” it shouldn’t come as a surprise if they are labeled a misogynist.
The film did soften my overall views of the men’s rights movement, but I am still a little apprehensive of some elements, particularly Elam, who I find to be toxic and whose provocations embolden misogynists. While she does briefly critique some of the more radical MRAs, I expected Jaye to spend more time dismissing the crazies within the movement.
The Red Pill isn’t the most well-constructed documentary and runs a little longer than it perhaps should. It does, however, explore these issues that will keep the audience interested. The film does convincingly make the case that men are hindered by the state, particularly with regards to family law and war. Keeping that in mind, libertarians will have much to like about The Red Pill.
The Red Pill has been available to rent and download since March 7th.
Featured image: Paul Elam and Cassie Jaye. Credit: The Red Pill gallery.
* Justin Tucker is a writer and Libertarian activist living in Chicago, Illinois. He is a Staff Writer for URChicago.com and his work has appeared on The Libertarian Institute’s website. He is the Chair of the Libertarian Party of Chicago and serves as the Deputy Field Operations Director for the Libertarian Party of Illinois.