Double Spoiler Alert: In this review, I also spoil the ending of The Witch.
Valentine’s Day is here, so I am posting about the most romantic movie of the year: Midsommar.
My novel Friends to the End deals a lot with the subject of people who can’t be alone and will do literally anything to avoid it. When I finally saw Midsommar a couple of weeks ago, I realized the movie focused on the same topic taken to a flower-covered, gore-soaked extreme.
One of my Facebook friends directed me to the Midsommar Reddit thread. I went down that rabbit hole, and I stayed there for hours. As fascinating as all the conspiracy theories were, I can’t say I agreed with any of them. This is not a review of the movie so much as it is a review of the conspiracy theories surrounding the movie.
Dani Is a Train Wreck
Let’s just get that out of the way. Who among us has not known or been Dani at some point in your life? We’ve all had a bad breakup. Before I broke up with my family, they caused problems in my past relationships on a Dani’s-sister level. Minus the murder-suicide.
The scene in which Dani wonders if she’s asking her boyfriend to share too many of her emotions and apologizing for her justifiable feelings is supremely relatable. It’s clear Dani has spent her life pleasing everyone else to keep things from falling apart. Dani tries too hard, and she has the Employee of the Month plaques to prove it.
Dani went from a family of origin that made it all about the sister to a cult that made it equally about everyone most of the time. During the festival, it was all about Dani, for once. Rather than being isolated with her feelings, she was embraced by a group that gladly shared every feeling—including sexual ecstasy and the sensations involved in being burned alive.
After I left an ex who got off on withholding affection, I was so love-starved that I really and truly thought I would spend the rest of my life with a deranged man who believed he could communicate with squirrels. I am in no position to judge Dani’s actions. Are you?
Let’s Talk About the Ending First
Despite the grumbling on Reddit, I can’t imagine the screenwriter, director, or anyone else involved meant for the movie to inspire women to revenge-kill Last House on the Left-style because of it. Instead, I think it’s making a case for inspiring the viewer to kill the old life that isn’t working for you. You know how people say, “You do you, girl”? Like it or not, Dani did.
Dani wasn’t smiling at the end because she smashed the patriarchy or spared herself an inevitable fate she couldn’t escape because it was what societal norms demanded at the time, like at the end of The Witch. She was smiling because she was the May Queen, she was freaked out on mushrooms, and she knew damn well she was going to be the cult’s Employee of the Month every month going forward.
Plus, you know, she was going to have all that hot Pele sex with the whole cult helping. Think of how much fun being on top would be if you never had to use your own leg muscles. And apparently, once the Pele babies arrived, she’d get to sleep somewhere else.
And let’s not forget, she’d just spent days being brainwashed and indoctrinated into a cult.
Picture Yourself in a Cult on a River
In the article “Terror, Love, and Brainwashing” in Psychology Today, cult survivor and expert Alexandra Stein described the brainwashing techniques used by cults. Here are some of the ways they break people down:
- People are more likely to join a cult when they are bereaved. Like, say, after their mentally ill sister has committed suicide and taken their parents with them.
- People can be lured in when they are “love-bombed” by the cult. For example, when the whole group gets in on your orgasm.
- People can join because they’ve been put in fear and then made to feel safe. Which doesn’t describe watching two old people throw themselves off a cliff and then partying at all.
As is the case with other abusive relationships, people stay with the cult because they’ve formed a trauma bond. If anyone was perfectly situated to form a trauma bond with that cult, it was Dani. Once Dani’s family was gone, she glommed onto Christian. Once Christian was gone, it follows logically that she’d glom onto them.
The other cult members would be motivated to indoctrinate Dani due to their own trauma bonds, which they’ve formed through a lifetime of communal abuse. This type of abuse happens when the victims of communal abuse then in turn abuse other victims for the greater good of the community.
In other words, that cult is a clusterfuck of the descendants of the original cult members and the various other chicks like Dani they’ve brought in over the years.
Tripping Safely: What You Need to Know
If you want to use psychedelics safely, the first thing you need to do is make sure you only use them far away from cults. The CIA used acid as a part of their secret brainwashing techniques research, and they did not do so because it makes people less suggestible.
People who complain that nothing the cult members or their “guests” in Midsommar did made sense have clearly never done psychedelics. Of course they did things that didn’t make sense—they were hallucinating. When you’re tripping, you’re not in the same reality as those who are not.
All drugs aside, is there not one among you who wouldn’t momentarily consider letting your worst ex be killed while immobilized inside a hollowed-out bear? What if it was a cruelty-free faux hollowed-out bear handmade by third-world artisans using sustainable materials that support Buddhist orphans?
For most of us, the line can be crossed under the right conditions. Dani crossed hers so far that she ended up in Sweden.
Christian Had to Die
People on the internet took offense to the idea that Christian deserved to die because he cheated, as people on the internet are wont to do. I disagree that this was the intent of the scene. If Dani hadn’t picked Christian for the sacrifice, what would have happened to him? It’s not like he was going to live happily ever after with the cult. They didn’t want him—just his non-inbred DNA.
Christian was also manipulated by the cult and drugged out of his mind when the “cheating” happened. There was no mention of other women prior to this, and it wasn’t implied that he was a habitual cheater. He would have ended up just as dead if he hadn’t been emotionally unavailable or had the world’s worst group sex.
Unlike most of Reddit, I don’t think there’s any larger societal or relationship statement about bad or cheating boyfriends at the end of the movie. I don’t think it was implied that they deserve to die. Both characters were flawed and weren’t meant to be representative of their gender as a whole.
The scene was the logical end of Dani’s story arc. It was about Dani choosing herself instead of putting everyone else first, even if it was a moment you’d have to speak Swedish gibberish to understand.
Pele and Dani, Sitting in a Tree…
I also don’t buy the theory that Pele was involved in Dani’s family’s murder-suicide. Pele was getting a special reward for bringing the new May Queen to their cult. When he met Dani, it seemed like he saw an opportunity and seized it. That’s where his involvement began—as a cock-blocker.
We never saw the discussion in which Christian decided to go to Sweden. We also didn’t see the conversation in which he agreed to take Dani. I assume the chain of events was set into motion by Pele, who could have intentionally made Christian feel guilty or encouraged him to bring Dani.
Dani ending up with Pele is like if Carrie had ended up with Aiden. He’s mediocre, and if she wasn’t on so high (whether on hallucinogens or Mr. Big) she’d probably go into counseling and realize she was settling. We all do, eventually, but not until we hit relationship rock-bottom. It looks different for everyone.
For me, relationship rock-bottom involved smeared mascara, bruises, and a favorite shoe lost forever. For Dani, it looked like this. I’m not saying if I could do it all over again I’d sacrifice my worst ex to a cult if they had a festival in my honor. I’m just not saying I wouldn’t.
Midsommar was a lot longer than I realized it was while I was watching it. I didn’t even notice three hours had passed. If you’ve made it this far into my review, you may be feeling the same way right now.