I’m typically not captivated by the toil and vapidness of suburban white teenagers on television — especially if I can’t even get my maltreated Black tokenism that’s essentially the bare minimum of teen television. I’ve somehow sidestepped Riverdale for years now, and the closest I’ve found myself sinking into this kind of awkward gaze on the White agendas, but my timeline somehow tricked me into watching (and begrudgingly stanning) Netflix’s the Society — and the ending, honestly, has to be expected.
Netflix latest freshmen show of contained storytelling is about a small class of high school peers from a majorly white New England town of lawyers and affluence being abducted to an alternate dimension similar to their own with one caveat: a forest wrapping around their entire community, and no adults. The teens must figure out the rules of society and what to keep and discard from their old world in order to make this new one last long enough to escape.
Quickly, their class figure out how chaos works against the betterment of the community must give power to specific figures in order to enforce the peace. It’s high school, though, so of course we know who’ll be given that right: a bunch of football jocks.
The first nail in the coffin of this new, largely white — and privileged — world, if we’re being honest.
In no less than a whirlwind of three episodes, an Incel murders their leader, human rights are violated in what is the first time I’ve ever seen a White-on-White jailhouse beating and we’re introduced to one of the weirdest, sympathetic reflections of a clinically diagnosed psychopath. Worse, as the series progresses we witness the clear sexual assault of an innocent prisoner made to change during her period in front of “the Guard” and the eventual coup of the administrative superpower of their society in the name of Masculine Fraternity — where brawn will matter more than brains.
See, where Allie, the self-appointed leader of the Society, had the game fucked up was trusting a Guard structured entirely of misogyny and lilted men-children who, admittedly, don’t even like each other to enforce her will.
Misogyny, at its most toxic — characterized by the sports-bros, will always want to see itself reflected in its leadership. From the inception of this Society, women had been in-charge, and hedging its bets on men to work in its best interests despite how it exists uncorrected. Allie did nothing when her two core agents sexually assaulted a person under their care; she did nothing when one of the same two perpetrators violently beat the prisoner — albeit guilty — prior to a trial. Simply put, Allie let sleeping dogs lie just because they were dogs of her household and was unable to handle them breaking free and framing her and her Black best friend/boyfriend, Will for corruption.
Misogyny becomes toxic in circumstances like this. It’s a tale as old as rape culture — where you give free reign of a thing that is obsessed with its self-involvement. This darkness is what also contributed to the murder of Cassandra, Allie’s elder sister and the first elected leader of the community. In the circle of privacy, men were free to discuss the rape of the women in power, were free to participate in the violence of the women in power, were quite open in the darkness of their hearts and their right to embarrass and destroy the women surrounding them.
All of this violence, uninterrupted or challenged, sped quickly into her untimely death despite how clearly the society required her clear and measured leadership. Cassandra, being a brilliant leader, realized that in a chaotic society where misogyny is allowed to ramp up uninterrupted, women are not safe. The threat of sexual assault was on the very tip of her mind, and while there was still a modicum of order in their world, they had to assert their power sexually against the men of their society — a plan straight out of the Lysistrata, an ancient Greek comedy where the women of Athens withhold the “sexual privileges” of their husbands.
The feminist theme explored here is of sexual agency and how sexual agency in a world without order has to be leveraged — especially before the lawlessness being spread has become the idea that women are less than people and more than instruments of masturbation. In this situation, Cassandra, ironically named after a Greek princess who leveraged her sexuality to obtain the power to see the future from Apollo, is sentient of the duplicitous nature within misogyny — how it will reflect the most local society and as society descends in their morality, so will the men. A world where Brawn is power is a world where power is taken anywhere it is found.
Misogyny did not like the idea of being undermined, an instance reiterated when Allie — finally held accountable by the expectations of public opinion — denied the Guard the right to run for public office when she decided to hold their first elections. It wasn’t an hour later that they were planning to rig an election.
It wasn’t enough that the Guard hadn’t fired them despite the revelation that: yes, these two were sexual predators abusing their power behind the privacy of closed doors. It had to be that the Guard become the most powerful police force in the community — capable of doing anything and everything they want.
Eventually, a psychopath takes control of everything — progressively building a dangerous drug dependency within his puppet leader and fueling the misogyny surrounding him while also viciously twisting the target of his abuse, his girlfriend, Elle, into a political tool. At the very top of the masculine hierarchy is a man completely willing to destroy everything around him, and incapable of the empathy necessary to keep the balance of power outside of the brawn-centered interpretation of what strength will be in the world.
As a Black man “of color” — I’m not surprised. The issue with Whiteness’ brand of misogyny is its captivation with power being explored by how it serves the self, rather than the interest in the community. Repeatedly, as the community is set up, I’ve been in a situation of “couldn’t have been me.” I’m not saying misogyny doesn’t have a loft in the forests of Blackness; I’m saying that the Community comes first, and what you want for yourself ain’t necessarily what you gonna get. Misogyny is more about ego and the ego is contained to your little household where it’s “your business”. Psychopaths don’t get to play in the public.
And honestly, I might be hard pressured to not say that I would have been among the group that decided whose house we all staying at, calling for the Cookout and refusing access to everyone who can’t use the word “Finna” properly in a sentence (properly in saying that when it comes out your mouth, I think of hotcombs and not a curling iron).
In a world much like our own (maybe Netflix is aware of how conscious this generation of teens are), misogyny is destroying the community just months shy of the most necessary work that needs to be done to survive the most brutal conditions possible: a New England winter — the same kind of winter that decimated the first American colonizers. The men are obsessed with the power they think they should have: both sexually and socially and are willing to lie, kill and extort to maintain it and there is no one to blame, but the people who gave it the power to continue to exist in a world that cannot survive with it there.