Now that “The Invisible Man” is out for everyone to own, it’s time to have a frank discussion about the misogynist criticism the film has faced.
When Leigh Whannell’s take on The Invisible Man debuted in February of this year, it received lots of well-deserved praise. It’s an important movie that takes domestic violence and gaslighting to task in an inventive way. The film has been used to discuss the real life horrors that many women go through with their domestic partners. It’s a shining achievement for Whannell, his cast and crew, and Blumhouse.
Elisabeth Moss also gives one of the best performances of her career, empathetically and wholly stepping into the skin of a woman who is suffering from the mental ramifications of being abused.
However, with the good always comes the bad.
The discussion that the movie has stoked has been mostly a positive one, but there are viewers out there that take issue with Moss’s Cecilia and everything from her appearance to her tattered mental state in a wholly problematic and misogynistic show.
Because Cecilia doesn’t fit their perfect idea of a victim, they have decided to deride the film — and thus, in many ways given power over to real abusers just because their victims don’t fit the idea of what makes an ideal victim.
Moss’s Cecilia is a triumph, a beautifully crafted character.
Cecilia could easily be our friend, our sister, our neighbor, our co-worker, or even us. She’s an intelligent woman with loads of potential and a caring heart. She’s got a great sense of humor, and she’s giving. Cecilia possesses many admirable qualities, and she’s vibrantly portrayed.
Above all, Cecilia serves as a reminder that domestic abuse can happen to anyone and doesn’t discriminate.
Some women state they would never be stupid enough to get into an abusive relationship. They act like it’s a trap that only women they consider less intelligent could fall into. This is a falsity. Abusers are often master manipulators and actors, thus making it easy to fall in love with the mask that they display to the world.
Instead of focusing on Cecilia’s finer qualities, a good deal of viewers found themselves honing in on her physical appearance.
One user review on Amazon reads:
Another user review says:
These are just two reviews out of many where the movie goer took their time to point out just how awful they thought Moss looked. This writer will not subject you to anymore of these inane takes, due to the fact they all basically repeat the same ideas over and over. It’s literally maddening — in addition to being extremely tiresome.
In a film with lots of amazing and laudable qualities and facets on display, certain viewers purposefully chose to single out Elisabeth Moss’s appearance as Cecilia.
Is a woman who just got out of an abusive relationship supposed to look runway ready? Do these audience members expect someone struggling with their mental health in the wake of a traumatic event to feel like putting makeup on and doing her hair? Sufferers of chronic depression and other serious mental illnesses often struggle getting out of bed, let alone dressing to the nines.
That handsome rich guy? He made Cecilia like that. Everything the audience sees in the film is a result of Adrian’s abuse. He’s the only one to blame for Cecilia being a “basket case.”
This kind of criticism reveals a state of cognitive dissonance for such carping viewers.
They would rather have abuse and trauma laid out to them on a silver platter, they want the subject to be made pretty and palatable to them.
They wanted Cecilia to represent their idea of a victim, of the sort of woman a handsome successful man would fall in love with. They ignored the realities of the situation, that anyone can become a victim, and the fact that this is the Cecilia after Adrian’s abuse.
Adrian’s stalking and obsession had nothing to do with Cecilia’s looks. Adrian wanted to control Cecilia because she was the only woman who hadn’t needed him. It oversimplifies the issue at hand and purposefully ignores the overall powerful message of the film as a whole. Not to mention, it’s extremely rude since Moss’s performance is exceptionally beautiful, and her physical appearance shouldn’t even be brought up in the conversation unless one is praising the realness and rawness of the performance.
Reducing women to their looks in any capacity is harmful and frankly, stupid. Moss isn’t here to be ogled. She’s here to act.
Certain reviewers took time to mention how good looking Adrian is and juxtapose his beauty against Cecilia’s melancholic physicality. What they don’t know is they fell for Adrian’s greatest trick themselves.
Some reviewers allowed themselves to be suckered in by Adrian’s appearance, genius, and wealth — thus equating these surface attributes to goodness.
Beauty is not an indicator of a person’s goodness. And it is sometimes difficult for people to reconcile that an attractive exterior doesn’t always equal an attractive interior.
Beauty is often used to symbolize purity and morality, but Whannell flips the script by having Adrian be classically handsome as well as a complete monster. Most evil geniuses in media are not portrayed with that standard of good looks, but Adrian is not most evil geniuses in media.
No film will be for everyone; that is a universal truth. No one has to like The Invisible Man.
But the important takeaway here is to critically evaluate the film without adding to the culture that fuels the silencing of people who have been abused.
We should be careful not to perpetuate a culture that tells a woman to shut up and take whatever abuse they experience and to just be grateful that their abuser is handsome, rich, smart, well liked, etc.
As a society, we can do better than that.
We can choose to not reduce women to their looks and focus instead on the power of the performance. We can look beyond such insignificant surface critiques and hone in on the message a film painstakingly tries to convey to its audience.
It’s time to drop this kind of oversimplified and misogynistic criticism altogether as viewers, whether we be professional writers or just fans of movies.