Sexism is a terrible thing. Women have been oppressed by men all throughout history. While humanity has made fantastic progress in this respect, we still have a ways to go. This is evident, for example, in the world of film and television: women are often portrayed as the weak and the helpless, or else merely as sexual objects. The issue, however, can go both ways; while misogyny is the more pressing issue, it is equally wrong to hate or stereotype men. Misandry is not nearly as common, so I was surprised to see a real-life sexist-towards-men film: “Barracuda,” directed by Louisvillian Shane Woodson and written by Christy Oldham, who also stars.
“Barracuda” is the story of a phone sex operator named Summer (Oldham) who, through her work, encounters the most perverse men imaginable: men who admit to rape, men who fantasize about sexual acts with their daughters, men who have killed women in the throes of passion. Fed up, she takes matters into her own hands and pays each man a visit to obtain a taped confession and bring justice upon them.
This is a fair premise for a film. There are thousands of sickos out there, many of whom get away with their devious acts. However, Oldham and Woodson would have us believe that all men are perverts. Not some, not even most: all men. The film drives this message home pretty hard: every single man, if not a rapist or a pedophile, is at least a “panty-sniffer” who steals women’s underwear and uses it to pleasure himself. There are no exceptions: as we see, even the most harmless-looking family man is a bottom-dwelling deviant.
What makes this film especially baffling, however, are the blatant contradictions in the message. While Summer preaches tirelessly to her sister and her best friend about how all men are misogynists who only see women as sexual objects, she could not achieve her goal of justice without the help of these apparently evil beings: when it comes time to do the dirty work, men are called to take care of it, and ultimately, when her life is in danger, she needs the help of a man to survive - a man she then falls in love with. I couldn’t help but wonder how she justifies that; sure, he seems like a nice, sweet country boy - but aren’t all men evil, despite appearances?
The problem is that the film takes itself too seriously. Such a portrayal of men might work as an obviously exaggerated caricature, and I suppose it is possible that this was the intended purpose. If so, however, the filmmakers failed in their goal tremendously - the viewer comes away feeling that Oldham is dead serious about the implied message. As a result, the character of Summer (and the woman who created her) comes across as a crazy, contradictory, and hypocritical misandryst.
But is it entertaining? Sometimes. While most of the acting is a tad on the dismal side, Oldham actually gives a better-than-terrible performance, playing the character of Summer with a stoic calmness. It feels almost as if she isn’t actually acting, but rather playing herself (which makes sense, as the idea for the film came from her own experiences as a phone sex operator in Los Angeles). This works in her favor, though, as she doesn’t exaggerate herself – she just lets herself be who she is.
In addition, Shane Woodson himself plays the sometimes-amusing (but always disturbing) character of Dudley: a man who likes to pretend he is Elvis and is tempted by the thought of women, despite being gay. He is ultimately the main antagonist, and of all the poorly-portrayed characters, Dudley was probably the least offensive choice for that role, aesthetically. The bizarreness of the character at least lends some entertainment value (excepting an extremely awkward fellatio scene that will probably haunt my dreams).
That’s about all the praise that can be given. What we ultimately have here is the amalgamation of a poor script, unimaginative directing and camera-work, and generally weak acting. Don’t take my word for it, though; while it’s not “so-bad-it’s-good,” it is so-ridiculous-it’s-worth-seeing-for-yourself. Those who wish to do so have only today and tomorrow during which to do so before it leaves the theater.
Theater information and show times can be found here .
Image courtesy of the film’s website .