By Grace Hamilton, Staff Writer
It’s time we talked about Don’t Worry Darling.
I mean, we’ve been talking about it for months, but it’s time we really talked about some of the reasons behind why this movie has become the hot topic of pop culture.
Here’s the rundown: Olivia Wilde, director of Booksmart, started directing her second film, Don’t Worry Darling starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles in October of 2020. From the beginning, the film suffered from setbacks and delays due to COVID-19. Supposed leaks from the set revealed further difficulties.
Originally, Shia LaBeouf was cast in the role Styles now occupies. Wilde claimed she fired him over his aggressive acting style. She and Styles also began dating when he joined the cast.
Rumors came out about Wilde being unprofessional and spending more time with Styles than directing. Rumors about tension between Pugh and Wilde constantly swirled around on the internet. The deciding blow came after Wilde did an interview with Variety describing how she fired LaBeouf to keep her actors and set safe and comfortable. LaBeouf quickly fired back with a series of emails and videos sent to Variety, alleging that he had quit the film and that Wilde had begged him to stay.
Here’s what we need to talk about: hatred for Wilde has taken over social media since the beginning, and while some of the criticism is deserved, a lot of it stems from misogyny.
We can look at this situation with more nuance than we have been. On the one hand, Wilde deserves criticism for creating an unsafe environment and for any instances of unprofessionalism. On the other hand, people were very quick to believe an abuser as soon as he confirmed what they wanted to believe.
I watched as hatred for Wilde began as soon as she and Styles began dating. Theories of PR relationships aside – and believe me, I take serious stock in those theories – fans of Styles looked for any reason to dislike Wilde from the start, which says to me that they just don’t want anyone dating their favorite star without their explicit approval.
And now, the Shia LaBeouf issue. In a 2020 lawsuit, singer FKA Twigs leveled accusations of violent abuse, shooting stray dogs for character preparation and knowingly infecting her with an STD against the former child actor. He recently admitted on Jon Bernthal’s podcast that “[He] hurt that woman,” as well as cheated on every woman he’s been with, and withholding information from his sexual partners about STDs.
He also admitted that his autobiographical film, Honey Boy, detailing his childhood abuse at the hands of his father, was completely made up. He described the screenplay, which he wrote for the film as “nonsense,” despite advertising it at the time of its release as the true story of his childhood, and the explanation for his strange behaviors.
Despite all this, people jumped at his response to Wilde’s claim of firing him. I’m not saying he’s lying. I’m not saying that Wilde doesn’t deserve criticism for wanting to keep an abuser on her set, even if it made the star of the film uncomfortable. I’m saying that people are so desperate to feel vindicated in their hatred of Wilde that they will cheer on an abusive liar, and forget all that he’s done.
It speaks to how desperate we are to hate women. We search for any reason, any small hint to their imperfection as a human being, just to feel secure in our dislike.
And what about the male directors that make film sets unsafe and uncomfortable? Quentin Tarantino is still working today. David O. Russell. Lars von Trier. Woody Allen. Roman Polanski. They don’t take over the internet with stories of their abuse and tyrannical ways of directing.
But we focus on stories like Olivia Wilde. We root for the comeback of the known abuser. Hope for the end of the relationship between our favorite singer and his evil girlfriend. We get excited about two female stars and the drama between them.
But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that Olivia Wilde is a successful female director in a field run by men. It doesn’t matter that we actually should have a conversation about Harry Styles profiting off of the queer community without ever actually claiming them. It doesn’t matter that Shia LaBeouf is trying to make his grand apology tour, winning the internet over with his comeback to the lying director. It doesn’t matter that Florence Pugh herself has not commented on the drama, has not confirmed nor denied anything that happened but instead stays above it all.
It doesn’t matter because we want to watch her fail. She is not infallible. She is imperfect, capable of making mistakes and deserving of criticism. But imperfect women always draw the utmost hatred for their imperfections. Amber Heard, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lawrence, Olivia Wilde. The list goes on.
They are not perfect, and we cannot forgive them for it.
I don’t think that Olivia Wilde maintained the safe set that she claimed to have created. I think she deserves criticism for her unprofessionalism. But the hatred for her goes far beyond criticism. It is a desperate need to see her fail. The early reviews for Don’t Worry Darling haven’t been very good, and people take that as confirmation for their beliefs that Olivia Wilde is evil and deserving of all the bad things coming her way.
What does that say about us? About our tendency to hold women to an unsustainable level of perfection and when they fail to maintain it – because they will fail – we turn against them. Men do not get the same treatment. They never, ever, have.
Ask yourself if you dislike Olivia Wilde because of her failures on the set of Don’t Worry Darling, or because you were once again convinced to hate a woman because she is not a perfect woman, and you were caught in the internet storm against her.
I think I know the answer.