'I Care a Lot' slickly promotes ugly tropes
But do you care a lot, particularly if people you know didn't see a misogynistic, homophobic film?
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Last night I watched the Netflix original, “I Care a Lot,” starring Rosamund Pike — and yes, a spoiler alert on this piece if you plan on watching it. Some of you will have heard of it or seen it — particularly since Pike won a Golden Globe for her performance last night — but many of you won’t know anything about it. There’s so much content now that none of us can even remotely know everything that’s on, and we’re often picking and choosing very selectively.
It’s thus become easy to believe that a particular show or film can’t really have any impact — especially if no one you know has seen it and you never heard about it. We’re all in our bubbles, and so much else is out of sight and out of mind.
And yet, Netflix is streaming films like “I Care a Lot” in the U.S. and globally. It goes to all of Europe, South America, Africa, and to India, Russia, and Japan — among 190 countries worldwide. So even if you never heard of something being streamed chances are tens of millions of people have.
I don’t even know what drew us to the film, but there we were, watching this very slick and hip film — great sets, very cool music and fabulous clothes — about evil scam artists who rip off seniors by entrapping them using doctors who declare them legally unable to care for themselves, putting them in the hands of unscrupulous legal guardians.
It was fun for a while, and very stylish. Of course Dianne Wiest is terrific as Jennifer Peterson, the wrong old lady that the scammers tried to screw with. But it soon became clear that Pike’s character — Marla Grayson, the lead con artist — and her cohorts were stand-ins for all women who seek power by using, or rather, abusing, feminism, becoming as evil as men within a callous, capitalistic society. If that doesn’t sound like too much of a generalization and a bit cliché, Pike is also a very fashionable lesbian, with a sexy hot girlfriend, who basically says “fuck you” to the men who try to take her down. There’s actually nothing wrong in all of that — it just depends on which way it goes.
But by the end of the film, “I Care A Lot” reveals itself to be a Trumpian narrative about a vicious, valueless, urban world where young, sexually immoral women are hellbent on using power they’ve grabbed to prey upon baby boomers and white working class men. Early on, Marla tells a chubby, bearded man in a red hat — yes, what looks like a MAGA hat, except it doesn’t say that — who spits in her face outside a courtroom (because she scammed his mother) that if he does that again she’ll rip out his dick and his balls.
But the film ends with the same character getting his revenge — after Marla has conned the world, made billions and is basking in the glamour of it all, doing television interviews — coming upon her as she exits a TV studio, pulling out a gun, calling her a “bitch” and shooting her dead.
Yep, that’s how the film ends. Thrilling and satisfying to many, I’m sure, who came to absolutely hate this evil she-devil. And very manipulative.
In the past, when widely-watched films like this raised issues regarding how gender and sexual orientation were portrayed —I think back to the 80’s and 90’s, and “Fatal Attraction,” “Silence of the Lambs” or “Basic Instinct” — there would be wall-to-wall reviews, furious debate and sometimes even protests on the streets.
But now it just gets lost in an avalanche of online streaming, seemingly going no where to many — or if there are critics, they’re accused of trying to “cancel” it for speaking out — but meanwhile, tens of millions of people are seeing it worldwide. It gets talked about only in siloed online communities, within targeted demographics and age groups — even if it gets a Golden Globe nomination.
But it’s not really taken seriously by a larger audience, as there’s little debate or discussion — or any real criticism — just a lot of people thrilled by something that I’m not sure they even understand or who connect with it deeply in a way that’s disturbing. It gets categorized on Netflix as “LGBTQ Movies” — when it is anything but that, just using identify as a superficial device — and also under “Comedies, Dark Comedies, Satires, Thriller Movies, Crime Thrillers, LGBTQ Comedies.” So it’s an “LGBTQ Movie” in the U.S. but also in India or Russia — kind of universalizing this take on queerness, and not one with which a homophobic society could have a problem.
Meanwhile, most people you know won’t see it or hear about it, probably, while millions are getting satisfaction from it (even as the problematic aspects really don’t get exposed). And that satisfaction is derived from the revenge of a MAGA-like guy finally taking down the “bitch,” who is positioned as all that is wrong with the world. It may not get a lot of attention, but it’s hard to believe that it doesn’t have an impact.