I recently watched an intriguing movie called The Lobster. The movie follows the life of a man named David (played by Colin Farrell). David lives in a society where it is illegal to be single. When his wife dumps him, he is sent to a hotel, where he has 45 days to find a suitable partner. If he fails to do so, he will be turned into the animal of his choice. (Most people pick a dog, but David chooses a lobster, because they have a long lifespan and he enjoys the sea.)
The hotel is intense. The ‘guests’ are subjected to a constant stream of propaganda about the benefits of having a partner (e.g., someone can help you if you are choking on your steak) and the drawbacks of being single (e.g., no one to protect you if someone tries to rape you). Each morning an attractive maid comes into David’s room and stimulates David, but only a little, ostensibly to keep his sexual tension high. Masturbation is strictly forbidden and is punished publicly by burning the offender’s hand in a toaster.
This pressure drives people to do crazy things in order to find a partner. One of David’s friends meets a woman who has regular nosebleeds, so he decides to make his own nose bleed by smashing his face on a table in order to connect. David pretends to have zero empathy in order to partner with a cold-blooded woman, only to be found out as a fraud when he cries after the woman ‘tests him’ by killing his dog (actually his brother who was turned into a dog after his own stay at the hotel) in their bathroom.
The movie is a satirical picture of our society and the pressure to fit into a certain mold. Our society isn’t as extreme in its pressure (or perhaps as blatantly honest), but as I watched the movie, I was aware of the pressure I feel to get married and have kids, the sadness I feel about not fitting in to that mold, and the great lengths I go to present myself in order to find love. I wonder if it is worth it.
About midway through the movie, David escapes the hotel and joins a group in the woods called the Loners, outcasts of society who have sworn off coupling and love. Here too, the societal pressure of this group is taken to the extreme—for example, a man’s lips are cut off after he is caught being intimate with another group member. Here too, we see the dangers of societal pressure to live a certain way, especially for those individuals who don’t fit in.
In the end, I kept thinking about the importance of being true to yourself and being okay with whatever course that takes you, whether it is a traditional route or not. Society will always try to steer you in a particular direction, sometimes with violent force. If that direction fits for you, great. But if it doesn’t, don’t be afraid to escape and carve out your own path in the world.
Discussion: Are there areas of your life where you feel societal pressure to be a certain way, even if it is not true to yourself? How do you deal with this pressure?