As emotionally riveting as it is, Todd Phillips' Joker has garnered some backlash for its controversial plot about a failed comedian, Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), turning into a murderer after being rejected by society. Some critics felt Arthur's devolution into the Clown Prince of Crime played into toxic masculinity and stigmatized mentally ill people. However, while the pitchforks came out for that movie even before it premiered, one upcoming film's already proving to be more toxic and dangerous, if it's first trailer is any indication: Universal's The Invisible Man reboot.
This film revolves around Elizabeth Moss' Cecilia Kass as she's haunted by the ghost of her dead ex, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). The first trailer reveals the abusive man slit his wrists and committed suicide after she fled their violent relationship, leaving her $5 million from his fortune to make things right. The one condition he stipulates is she can't be deemed mentally unstable. This turns out to be part of his game, as he figures out a way to become invisible and repeatedly attacks her to erode her sanity.
That's pretty messed up, not to mention misogynistic for a couple reasons. This is a movie about controlling a woman and gaslighting her to the point where she thinks she's insane. It's very tone deaf given the male-dominated, and at times chauvinistic, society we live in where some men do seem to think they have ownership over women's bodies. We see it in brands, the corporate and business world, and the entertainment industry, which is known to objectify women's bodies. So why should a man like Adrian own Cecilia's mind? It's another distasteful plot of a man wanting to have power over an innocent woman.
Faking a suicide to create an situation where everyone starts viewing the female protagonist as insane is a pretty extreme direction for the studio to take the movie. And one has to wonder what joy or artistic merit will be gained watching her squirm her way through incidents like being violently slammed around or spied on in the shower.
Not to mention, Cecilia having to fight being deemed crazy by the authorities in order to pocket the inheritance means she's basically selling her mind and safety for the sake of a bank account.That's a very toxic spin, and it's anti-feminist because men shouldn't be looking at women like possessions in this manner. Universal has reduced Cecilia's intelligence and very being down to a figure on a check book. It's way worse than what Arthur's love interest, Sophie (Zazie Beetz), endured in Joker when she uncomfortably let him know he didn't have any right to invade her private space.
That said, the concept of the Invisible Man has always been problematic, most notably in the movie Hollow Man from 2000. The character stalked victims, even committing sexual assault, so why should a man who wants to subjugate a woman and make her his mental slave not be treated with the same disdain in this day and age's more politically correct times. After all, Adrian's not obsessed with heists that lead to him stealing physical objects, but he is violating a woman's mind and stealing her freedom in more ways than one.
This is a very dangerous example Hollywood is setting for men who harbor anti-female biases. By making a woman's inheritance contingent on her sanity, Universal's not just being disrespectful to the female gender, but to those who struggle with mental health on the whole.
The Invisible Man is written and directed by Leigh Whannell (Insidious: Chapter 3). The film stars Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Aldis Hodge, Harriet Dyer and Storm Reid. No official release date for The Invisible Man has been announced by Universal, but it is expected to arrive in February 2020.