Birdbox sparks controversy

Sandra Bullock stars in the Netlfix hit Birdbox. The movie sparked controversy after sparking a infamous internet challenge.

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Sandra Bullock stars in the Netlfix hit Birdbox. The movie sparked controversy after sparking a infamous internet challenge.

Daniela Santiago, Staff Writer

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The Netflix Original film Bird Box stars a lonesome Sandra Bullock, portraying Malorie, who has the inability to connect with other people until suddenly an apocalypse affects the world in the form of an “unseen being” that shows those who look at it their worst fears and drives them to suicide.

This film, released on December 13, 2018, had already generated over 45 million views by the end of its first month, according to the @NetflixFilm twitter account.

The film has been talked about non-stop since its release and has even generated a challenge known as “The Bird Box Challenge.” Those who try it attempt to perform tasks while covering their eyes with a blindfold. A series of Instagram and YouTube videos have gone viral of participants cooking, playing videos games, doing makeup, and even things as dangerous as driving, all with their eyes covered. This challenge has escalated to the point that YouTube had to ban the dangerous challenges from being uploaded on their website after a teenager inspired by the challenge crashed a car while trying to film himself driving blind.

The film has also created controversy due to its inclusion of real footage from the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster in 2013. A scene that features a news report which is supposed to convey chaos from around the world during the apocalypse shows the tragic accident, which offended many victims and citizens. Some demanded that the footage be pulled; however, Netflix refused.

The movie has generated plenty of hype between the whopping amount of views, the dangerous challenges, and the controversial footage, but some seem to think that the actual movie’s quality has been over exaggerated.

Critics of the movie claim there are many unanswered questions which stem from lack of story line and character development. For example, even though Sandra Bullock´s performance was riveting and convincing, and her A-list acting contributed greatly to the movie’s success, her character is missing a certain aspect of depth. Many viewers found themselves asking the question: What is Malorie’s back story? She is very closed off and throughout the movie talks a lot about her rough relationship with her father. However, she neglects to mention what he did to her and her sister that left her to remain so closed-off and so bitter towards her own children that she waited five years to name them. A bit more expansion on her backstory and life growing up would have built a better relationship between the audience and the protagonist.

Having a backstory for the antagonist could have been an important addition too, though, not showing “the monster’s” face heightened the complexity and sense of fear in the characters. If you can’t see what someone is afraid of, you can’t judge if it is really as scary to you as it seems, so you rely on the person’s reaction to show you how “scary” it is. The real issue however was that the monsters had no purpose. Why are they forcing people to kill themselves and what do they gain from it? Why keep only the mentally ill alive? Why would the creatures choose a method that doesn’t affect blind people since they lack the ability to see? Why did they start on one continent and then spread somewhat like a virus, rather than start everywhere? The lack of context for these monsters made the movie seem cliche. Like most horror movies, the main character is just running from the villain who has no purpose but to kill for pleasure throughout the whole movie. There were obstacles but no turn of events.

Another cliched aspect of the movie is the fact that everything ends up “happily ever after” for the protagonist. This type of ending could have been avoided if we knew what happened to the rest of the world or at least a suggestion of an impending action or story, rather than just blocking out the world to remain in a closed off building. Lastly there were small parts in the movie that could have easily been resolved or avoided: What happened to Felix and Lucy after they left? What happened to the couple who left the house to find their child in the beginning of the apocalypse? And why did it seem that none of the characters were concerned for the rest of their families? Tom mentions a sister and Greg mentions a husband but none seemed very concerned with getting in touch with them or about their well-being. This supports the fact that there is no strong back story for these characters.

Different theories about the movie’s themes have been brought up. Some believe that the monsters stand for mental illness and suicide. Those who open their eyes hear voices and see their worst fear, which drives them to suicide. These are symptoms of some mental illnesses. Those in the movie who can’t see will never be able to know what the others have seen. This may represent how difficult it is for those without mental illness to understand the experiences of those with it. The film also exposes that some choose to remain blind to the effects of mental illness. The fact that those who are mentally ill in the movie are immune to the creature is assumed to be because they are used to the symptoms that the creature causes, as they try to get others to see what they see.

Hope and the ability to connect with others is another suggested theme. During the exposition of the movie, Malorie displays her inability to connect with others and continues to show this throughout the movie. Her source of hope while she is trying to survive after five years is Tom. At first she acts very strict toward her kids and leaves little room for hope. When Tom tells them about a future they could have as he describes a past memory about the outside, Malorie is upset because she believes he is giving the kids false hope. It is only when Malorie is trying to find her adopted daughter, Girl, in the woods, that she learns from her son that Girl is scared of her. Girl is very close to taking off her blindfold until Malorie confesses that she was wrong to never give them hope and tell them about a life they could have. They then work together more efficiently and reach their destination. It is when Malorie is finally able to connect with her kids and give them hope that she is successful.

Motherhood is also a major theme in Bird Box. It begins when Malorie gets an ultrasound, still indecisive about whether she wants to be a mother yet. Through the course of the movie, she ends up taking care of, feeling responsible, and loving two kids. Still, through the five years they struggled to stay alive, she refused to name them. It is only when they reunite after straying from each other that she realizes how much she loves them. She even asks those who are blind who live at the learning center to keep her kids safe even if it means leaving her behind. Malorie finally symbolically gives the children names which are meaningful to her. This is refreshing since it is the only type of character development that we get from her character as we watch her motherhood become stronger as she is forced to keep her children safe.

This movie has been very successful in the short span of only two months. Props to writer, Eric Heisserer for creating a unique concept with a new survival dilemma that no one had seen yet, which drew tons of viewers with an all-star cast and inspired a viral challenge. Although some thought that character development was poor and that there were many unanswered questions, is it possible that this is all a genius plan from Heisserer to leave room and create demand for a sequel?

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