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A way-too-on-the-nose message

Don’t Worry Darling is a bad sermon packaged as a film

Harry Styles, left, and castmates from Don’t Worry Darling attend the Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy, on Sept. 5, 2022. Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/Associated Press

A way-too-on-the-nose message
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I have this friend who in any given conversation is for sure going to bash The Patriarchy, Christian Nationalism, white people (despite being one himself), and the latent racism inherent in every person we know (except him).

The conversation could start out about Thanksgiving dinner, little league baseball, or classic cars. It really doesn’t matter, because he is going to direct every conversation to these four things. It’s like hitting for the progressive cycle, conversationally. I should add—in case he reads this (he totally won’t)—that I still genuinely enjoy and admire this guy, despite us agreeing that we disagree on like 95 percent of things.

I say all of this as a means of introducing the movie Don’t Worry Darling, which starred Harry Styles and Florence Pugh, and was the latest in a long line of “didn’t the ’50s look amazing but also weren’t they horrible” movies or television shows. It’s like we need to occasionally be reminded of how absolutely amazing every sofa looked in the 1950s while at the same time being reminded that the selfsame awesome sofa is actually in the domestic prison of any suburban home. And that having a traditional family, cleaning the bathroom, cooking dinner, and men leaving for work in the morning are all super horrible concepts.

In this, Don’t Worry Darling was not unlike talking to my progressive conversation buddy inasmuch as a heavy-handed, too-on-the-nose message was shoehorned into what otherwise could have been a really interesting story about a planned community in the desert. Here’s the thing—planned communities are always creepy. I think this every time I visit The Villages near Orlando, and take a swim to the dulcet tones of Villages Radio. The movie could have been about this theme. (Or marriage, which is almost always an interesting movie topic.)

The hard thing about real life is that somebodyhas to clean the bathrooms and make dinner.

The movie could have also been about the variety of plot devices it never paid off—including the plane crashing, the weird sounds, the idea that the cult-leaderish Chris Pine character was maybe manufacturing weapons, or what the guys do at work all day. Any of these things would have been more interesting than what it was: apparently a two-hour short film about the patriarchy made by your college friend who took his/her first philosophy class as a sophomore and became temporarily insufferable.

In this, it wasn’t all that different than Mel Gibson’s The Patriot, which was an hour-too-long tribute to Mel Gibson but also celebrated America. The Patriot’s imagery was also way too on-the-nose and heavy-handed, but it still managed to be a fun movie with fun good-guy/bad-guy stuff. Don’t Worry Darling could have been really fun.

The hard thing about real life is that somebody has to clean the bathrooms and make dinner. But the hard thing about making movies is that if that person is a woman you’re sexist, if that person is someone you hire you’re classist, and apparently if you leave that person at home while yourself going to work, you are the worst kind of person.

My wife and I are raising two boys. We both really hope that (among other things) they grow up to become the kind of men who leave home in the morning to do a job. Call us staid traditionalists, but we think this is important. We hope they also become the kind of men who love their wives by helping out around the house and being genuine partners in everything from conversation to raising children.

I wish that my friend from the first paragraph didn’t feel the pressure to always do his I’m One of the Good Guys progressive talking points. I also wish that Don’t Worry Darling could have just been a movie, not a sermon—and in this case, a bad sermon.

Ted Kluck

Ted Kluck is the award-winning internationally published author of 30 books, and his journalism has appeared in ESPN the Magazine, USA Today, and many other outlets. He is screenwriter and co-producer on the upcoming feature film Silverdome and co-hosts The Happy Rant Podcast and The Kluck Podcast.  Ted won back-to-back Christianity Today Book of the Year Awards in 2007 and 2008 and was a 2008 Michigan Notable Book Award winner for his football memoir, Paper Tiger: One Athlete’s Journey to the Underbelly of Pro Football.  He currently serves as an associate professor of journalism at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and coaches long snappers at Lane College. He and his wife Kristin have two children.

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