The Perpetuation of Female Pleasure in Don’t Worry Darling
*Content warning for brief mentions of sexual assault and sexual content*
On Sept 23, 2022 the long awaited psychological thriller Don’t Worry Darling starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles was released to the masses. The reviews for the film have been just as chaotic and sporadic as the drama surrounding this film.
The movie is set in the utopian town of Victory in the 1950’s and follows the life of Alice Chambers (Pugh) as she uncovers the secrets of the “town” she calls home with her husband Jack Chambers (Styles). From the beginning of the movie the audience is made aware that despite its “perfectness” Victory holds dark secrets that if uncovered could very well cost you your life. In the film the audience is introduced to Margaret Watkins(Kiki Lane) a woman in Victory who recently went to the forbidden Headquarters and in the process lost her child and in all senses her mind. As the film progresses, we watch Alice venture out to headquarters and seemingly suffer the same fate as Margaret. Her perfect life with Jack seems to collapse upon itself in the most unfortunate of ways. It isn’t until the end of the film we learn the true twisted nature of Victory and its inhabitants.
I want to discuss two scenes that stood out to me while watching the film and left a rather disgusting feeling after the true nature of Victory was revealed. In the beginning of the film we watch as Jack Chambers and Alice share a particularly passionate moment on their dining room table and beyond being mildly awkward initially this scene seems like an entirely consensual and special moment between the married couple. It isn’t until the second scene where Jack fingers an incredibly uncomfortable Alice in the bedroom of his boss Frank (Chris Pine). The discomfort of this scene paired with the true realities of Victory left me feeling particularly uneasy.
Director Olivia Wilde has come under controversy for claiming this film is about female pleasure and female pleasure only. In an earlier interview, Wilde shared “Men don’t come in this film, only women here!” A grossly misrepresentative statement post watching the film. At the end of the film we learn that truly nothing in Alice's life in Victory was consensual and she’s been held prisoner there by her delusional husband Jack Chambers.
Prior to her life in Victory, Alice was a doctor who worked long tireless hours to ensure that both her and Jack could survive. An unemployed Jack, desperate to find a “better” life than the one he shares with Alice in their dingy apartment, turns to Frank, the leader of the Victory project to make a better life. In the process, he entraps Alice within this simulation and takes away the life she worked so hard for.
This film left me with two major unanswered questions. Is female pleasure truly defined as the loss of personal will in order to satisfy the wants and needs of one's partner? And what standards do films like this teach people about the right to give and take consent in both sexual and non-sexual situations? Everyone regardless of gender deserves to feel love and pleasure on the grounds that they are most comfortable with. I want to see more than No means No campaigns and half written apologies from rapists who say they did it because the other person “liked it”. Films like “Don’t Worry Darling” further perpetuate the standard that if an individual seems to be “enjoying it” even if they did not give consent, that it is okay, We need to see more films that condemn these behaviors instead of putting Global superstars in roles that bring out peoples inner rape apologists.
By Rachel Van Horne, Associate Editor