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Vol. 20, No. 3, 2021
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emerald fennells's

reviewed by




Men, all men, serve as the antagonist in novice director Emerald Fennell’s “Promising Young Woman.” While the woke indoctrinated will seal clap the victim porn that confirms their noxious bias, the movie nevertheless makes a damning confession on behalf of a generation eschewing achievement to wallow in the victim’s narrative.

© Promising Young WomanThe heroine, Cassandra or ‘Cassie’ (Carey Mulligan) dropped out of medical school after her best friend and co-medical student, survived a sexual assault. Since then she has dedicated her life to her true passion: scolding and shaming men who try to have sex with her while she pretends to be drunk.

While her classmates went on to become doctors and start families, Cassie collected entries in her grievance diary, recording the name of every man who took the bait. When asked why she doesn’t pursue marriage or a career, she scoffs that she could have all of those things in 10 seconds. Instead she chooses a dead-end job as a incompetent barista while continuing to mooch off her disappointed parents.

The movie begins with Cassie sprawling immodestly in a nightclub booth while pudgy, unattractive men cast predatory looks at her long legs and seemingly half-unconscious eyes. A particularly twerpy man moves in to coax her into a car and then to his apartment. When his pawing and groping approaches the point of no return, Cassie snaps into full sobriety with a speech scolding him for his date-rapey intentions.

NBC observed the movie “demands to know why we protect so-called promising young men.” Rolling Stone called the movie a “rape-revenge thriller” and an “unabashed skewering of rape culture.” Of course, the movie is not a thriller, or a horror movie. If we’re going to be honest, it’s Oscar-bait narrative fulfillment. Cassie’s hairstyle resembles the unruly serpentine locks of Christine Blasey Ford. She even captured Ford’s girlish, uptalking voice. The man who assaulted her friend in medical school has the same hair and polo shirt as the young Brett Kavanaugh. One can even hear uproarious laughter from attack spectators as recorded in a video that later surfaces.

The movie villainizes the very nature of men, all men. Can Cassie trust that non-threatening beta-male with the soft androgynous body who has the potential to become a servile but highly affluent doctor boyfriend (Bo Burnham)? Yes, even him. He’s a man, isn’t he? Spoiler alert: It turns out that he was the source of the uproarious laughter, caught on the implausible smoking gun party video.

In the climax, Cassie playing a stripper costumed as a Harley-Quinn-style nurse, infiltrates the attacker’s bachelor party. Cassie entices him into the upstairs bedroom and into handcuffs before producing a medical bag with sharp scalpels and threatens to carve her friend’s name into his skin. But he frees a hand allowing him to kill her before she can exact her revenge. The scene calls to mind the narrative conjured up when an African-American dancer accused a group of white Duke University LaCrosse players of sexually assaulting and humiliating her. The story wasn’t true and the LaCrosse players were exonerated.

Cassie’s revenge plots become as much about punishing women who refuse to believe her friend’s accusations as they are about attacking the alleged perpetrators. She stages not one but two date-rape scenarios to punish a non-believing former classmate and a college dean. We’re meant to cluck with outrage when the dean uses ridiculous excuses like, ‘presumption of innocence,’ and ‘lack of evidence,’ to justify inaction in response to the medical-school attack. The movie makes it clear that all men are guilty of something, so the details of a specific case aren’t terribly important.

In essence, the movie accuses all successful men of being constantly on the prowl to rape and just waiting until the opportunity presents itself without consequence. The movie reinforces the same narrative that made Julie Swetnick an instant celebrity when she ‘me-too’ed’ Justice Kavanaugh with outlandish and easily-disproven stories of high school rape parties.

Cassie resembles the face of the angry young white woman who threw fire bombs at police over the summer. A lifetime devoted to the cult of victimhood yields a barren life. But the real rage stems from the knowing suspicion that personal choices are the real culprit. Contrary to Cassie’s assertion, it takes more than 10 seconds to build a life, start a family, and maintain a career. Cassie’s story is fictional but the tragic tale of the victimhood trap is all too real for too many young people.

This review first appeared in American Greatness.


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