Documentary 'The Red Pill' uncovers the angry world of Men's Rights Activists

In modern sci-fi classic The Matrix, Keanu Reeves' character, Neo, is given the choice of taking a red pill, or a blue. If he takes the blue pill, he'll stay in a nice, safe, comfortable world where he knows of nothing else.

The red pill is knowledge, the understanding that life as we know it is an illusion. The red pill is freedom.

The simple, creative idea has been nicked by the fun chaps broadly known as MRAs (men's rights activists) to represent the idea that feminism is a falsehood, brainwashing good decent men into the becoming worst thing a man can ever be, a disempowered slave to women financially and sexually.

Personally, I would have liked it if the MRAs adopted the another Keanu classic, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, but they're not really big on humour.  

A history of violence

Despite some of the real concerns that they occasionally attempt to address such as male suicide and access to children after divorce, the history of the MRA movement is checkered at best.

The more I know about the men's rights movement, the more confused I am about everything.

Cassie Jaye

Back in the 2001, Mario "John Abbot" Abbotto began the Blackshirts movement – a group of men dedicated to protecting the sanctity of marriage by terrorising their former wives.

As to just how many #meninists there are in Australia, pulling together a finite number is hard since many of them tend to be content lurking in the darkweb of 4Chan and Reddit where they dole out grievances and the kind of dating advice that would get you a minimum of ten years at Her Majesty's leisure.

Hypergamous hotdogs

They sure are 'funny' though. Search a few Red Pill posts on Reddit and you'll chuckle away to this kind of thing.

"Women are, by nature, manipulative, attention seeking, inconsistent, emotional and hypergamous (like to marry/mate up). Accept this truth. Once you do, you can game them for what they are … not what you want them to be."

Here's another fave that really gets to the heart of the MRA issue. I include Mike F's freestyle grammar: "its stupid when girls say they can't find a guy, yet they ignore me. its like saying youre hungry when there's a hotdog on the ground outside."

I can see why his hot dog isn't getting a lot of female attention. It's been on the ground outside. It's simply a quality issue, I'd say. Hungry girls like hot dogs, generally, but they prefer them not covered in ants.

Addressing the issue

It's easy to poke fun at the MRAs. It's not so easy to poke fun at the other side of the spectrum, the far left "all men must die" feminist brigade, because there's a fierce belief men are not allowed an opinion on the issue. And they're kinda scary.

But they're right. Domestic and sexual violence, sexism, sexual harassment, the glass ceiling, pay inequality, the boys' club – it's all real and women have a huge entitlement to anger.

At the same time, in the MRA movement, there are decent, smart people who have a deep concern for the wellbeing of men and boys, where there's a crisis of suicide and mental illness, an inability to connect and find support.

MRA's deeply believe women still rule the family law courts and many men find themselves estranged from their children by a system, they feel, still has its roots in the stupid idea that kids are better off with 'mummy' than 'daddy'.

Into this maelstrom of opposing views marches 27-year-old filmmaker, Cassie Jaye, with the film-length doco, The Red Pill. With two successful films under her belt, she chose to attack this subject with clarity, intellect and balance.

A search for balance

It is the hallmark of extreme belief that it cannot tolerate the existence of any contrary views, no matter how valid or well expressed. The MRAs thought it was a hatchet job. The feminists thought it was a hatchet job. In the hours of video you can find online, Cassie Jaye describes her difficulty in securing funding for the film, eventually turning to Kickstarter.

The issue was there was lots of money available from backers on both sides, as long as she gave up creative control. They'd pay if the film supported their beliefs.

She didn't. In the end, the tipping point came two weeks into her campaign, not from the left or the right, but from people who believe in "balance".

As a young woman and feminist, Cassie Jaye's experience in understanding both sides of the story and making up her own mind is fascinating.

The conundrum is summed up by a moment in the film where a rally for "men and boys in crisis" in Toronto, Canada, is taking place in public. The speaker talks of men's and boys issues, and how we have "serious problems". He's delighted by the turnout. It's all calm, relaxed, happy. Then a feminist protest group turns up shouting "Racist, sexist, anti-gay … MRA's go away" and turn a positive into a stupid s--tfight.

That's kind of how the whole discussion plays out, on every platform, everywhere.

Two sides to a story

Talking to a senior MRA, Cassie Jaye's discomfort is obvious. "I … think I agree with everything you said," she says, "but there's still some kind of unsettling doubt and I don't know where that's coming from.

"The more I know about the men's rights movement, the more confused I am about everything."

That's what's great about The Red Pill. It shows both sides. It's kind of comfortingly analogue and old-school in its adherence to editorial balance, to telling a fair story. That's what great journalism is.

A spectrum of perspective

Anyone who sees The Red Pill, like Cassie Jaye herself, will have to at least think hard about where they sit on the spectrum.

Ultimately, it's a healthy society and a healthy individual who can accept another's point of view

My point is, both sides have a point. 

What do you think about The Red Pill? Let us know in the Comments section.

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