This piece was originally featured on VICE Australia.
The Red Pill is a documentary about Men's Rights Activists funded by Men's Rights Activists. It was due to have its Australian premiere in Melbourne next month, which has since been cancelled by Palace Cinemas. The move comes after a successful campaign labelled it "misogynistic propaganda."
In a letter to Men's Rights Melbourne, who have the exclusive distribution rights to the film after donating to its Kickstarter campaign, Palace Cinemas explained, "we have come to a decision based on the overwhelmingly negative response we have received from our valued customers. We cannot proceed with the booking."
The cinema chain also referred directly to a Change.org petition protesting the premiere of The Red Pill at Palace Kino in Melbourne, which amassed 2,370 signatures. "The overwhelming number of responses, many from regular Kino customers, has really resonated with us," Palace Cinemas told Men's Rights Melbourne.
Taking its name from the iconic "red pill or blue pill" scene inThe Matrix, the "Red Pill" is a Reddit community dedicated to meninism. It's highly critical of the feminist movement, and claims that men have been harmed by those wily female activists seeking to rectify society's systemic gender inequalities.
Started by "Susie Smith," the Change.org petition sums up the plot of The Red Pill like this: "'feminist' [director Cassie] Jaye decides to investigate rape-culture, opens the first hit on Google (Red Pill) and before she knows it, she has seen the light and converted to 'meninism.'"
Smith questions the "disgusting, violent" message of the film, which is "totally out of line with Australian values and law," highlighting that one-in-three Australian women will be the victims of gender-based violence in their lifetime. The petition particularly objects to the appearance in the documentary of Paul Elam, a controversial figure who is widely labelled as a "rape apologist."
Elam once stated that if he should be called to sit on the jury for a rape trial, he'd automatically vote not guilty, even if the evidence of the accused's guilt was overwhelming. This, and most of his most shocking writings, are published on his online publicationA Voice for Men—which The Red Pill's director Cassie Jaye comes across at the start of the film, when she's researching "rape culture."
In an excoriating review in the Village Voice, Alan Scherstuhl says that Jaye goes easy on Elam in their filmed interviews, as well as his fellow MRAs and "honey badgers" (women who support the MRA movement). He criticises Jaye for never pushing them about their inflammatory online comments and offline behaviour.
"Jaye renounces her own feminist past toward the end of the film," Scherstuhl explains. "The announcement delivered over video of her typing, then looking at a computer, then driving around some more."
Beyond these concerns about the documentary, decisions Cassie Jaye made around the funding and production of The Red Pill have also raised eyebrows. Funded by a Kickstarter campaign that raised $211,260, the documentary is pitched as a "balanced look" at the MRA movement.
However, since The Red Pill's release, it has emerged that many of the film's Kickstarter supporters are members of the MRA community, and it was also supported by the conservative news outlet Breitbart.
In one article about The Red Pill, Breitbart columnist Milo Yiannopoulos proclaimed, "there is a war room, somewhere in Portland today with a vagina-shaped table surrounded by all the leading feminists arguing how to save their movement… [from Cassie Jaye] a self-identified feminist who has serious bona fides both as a filmmaker and a friend to lefty causes like marriage equality."
Men's Rights Melbourne, one of the groups that backed the film on Kickstarter, has the rights to the Australian premiere of The Red Pill. Angered by Palace Cinema's decision the group has launched its own counter-petition on Change.org.
"Today a small feminist group has succeeded in shutting down a screening of a movie that discusses issues that they fear might interfere with their agenda," the petition says. VICE reached out to Men's Rights Melbourne for comment but has not heard back. The group is apparently hunting for a new venue to screen the film.
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