With all the hubbub surrounding the distaff Captain Marvel movie, it’s worth remembering that attendance is not compulsory. You do have alternatives. Consider the movie Arctic. There’s only one man in the movie and his situation is extraordinary. Yet he represents all men.
The man in question is Overgård (played by Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen), and he is in a heap of trouble. His cargo plane has crashed above the Arctic Circle. The good news is he survived, the bad news is he’s stranded. He’s scratched out a large “SOS” that can be seen from above but it hasn’t been spotted yet. Given the ubiquitous ice and snow, dehydration is not a problem. Ice fishing provides him with protein, fish oil, and whatever other nutrients one gets from fish. Though death is not imminent, his life is decidedly unpleasant – his toes appear to be in the early stages of frostbite.
Overgård didn’t choose to be a plane crash survivor, but given Mads Mikkelsen’s stoic, stolid persona, he appears well equipped to rough it. If anybody can survive this situation, it’s Overgård. We assume he is a bachelor, as we never see him take out any pictures of a wife or family.
When the movie begins, we don’t know how long Overgård has been there. We know it’s been long enough to develop a routine. Every day he checks his trot lines and takes his catch back to the downed plane’s fuselage, which provides him shelter from the elements. Unfortunately, he has no way to start a fire, so he eats the fish raw. Every day he makes a pilgrimage to a nearby hilltop and tries to make radio contact with anyone who might be out there. Obviously, the lifestyle leaves a lot to be desired, but things could be – and soon will be – worse.
One day he finally makes radio contact, but just when it looks like his ordeal is over, the rescue helicopter gets caught in a storm and crashes. Overgård hustles to the crash site but the pilot is dead and the passenger (co-pilot, navigator, mission specialist…the role is never specified) is seriously injured. This proves to be a game-changer. There are a few needful things in the downed helicopter, but now Overgård not only has to take care of himself, he has someone else to take care of, someone in shock and badly in need of medical care.
And this is where the screenplay by Ryan Morrison and Joe Penna comes up with an ingenious complication: the passenger is a young female.
The young woman never wakes up during the course of the movie. For all practical purposes, she is an infant in need of constant care. As acting goes, the role is a thankless task, as the character has no lines of dialogue and the film shoot took place over 19 days in the frozen wastes of Iceland.
Some might say that Overgård is living the MGTOW dream. Given his profession of flying cargo planes over the frozen north, he is likely a bit of a loner anyway. Going solo may be second nature to this guy. Now that he has some human companionship, it is not a relief but a burden. But he can’t tell the young woman to take a hike. He can’t tell her anything because she is out of it. So he gives her as much first-aid as he can, feeds her, and keeps her hydrated.
Unfortunately, she needs much more medical help than he can provide, and no more rescue helicopters show up. Despite his best efforts, it is obvious she will die. So he decides to bundle her up like a papoose (reinforcing her infantilization), secures her to a sled, and pulls her over the frozen waste to an outpost he has seen on a map he found in the helicopter.
The question here is what Overgård would have done if the injured passenger had been a male. Suppose the girl had died in the crash and the male pilot had survived. Would Overgård have been so gallant? As we know, men are disposable (the male body count in movies is way, way past the female total) so this story just wouldn’t be as effective with a comatose man.
The injured passenger is not just a woman, she is a fertile young woman. Yet Overgård has no relationship with her. She is not the mother of his children and never will be. He has never spoken to her. He has never seen her before. She is as perfect as a perfect stranger can be. Yet he cannot turn his back on her, even though his own survival is not assured. So he leaves his spartan routine at the plane crash site and begins a perilous journey to transport her to the outpost where she can get medical help. Her survival is doubtful even if he does get help, but there is no doubt she will die if he doesn’t make the attempt.
The scriptwriters shrewdly cast a female of indeterminate ethnicity. I’m not sure what nationality she was supposed to be (she is played by Icelandic actress Maria Thelma Smáradóttir), as the writing on her helicopter photo ID card was Greek to me. Looking at a snapshot of her, her husband, and her child, they appear to be some sort of Eurasian ethnicity. At any rate, Overgård has absolutely nothing in common with her. Whatever tribe she belongs to, it is surely not Overgård’s. Even if she came to, they could not communicate. But if we look at him as everyman and the crash victim as everywoman, it makes sense. As realistic as the film is, it is also an allegory. Everyman serves everywoman, no matter the circumstances, no matter the ethnicity. Gynocentrism rules globally. The Arctic Circle is no barrier.
Dollar for dollar, Arctic (made for just $2,000,000) gives you far more bang for your movie buck than the superhero CGI orgies that fill up the multiplexes. Unlike the SJW-friendly movies, this one actually has something profound to say about male-female relations without getting on a soapbox. The script doesn’t hit you over the head with it. It’s embedded in the narrative, but I don’t know if the modern entitled female would recognize, much less appreciate the depth of Overgård’s compulsion to sacrifice himself.
Arctic gives the lie to gender fluidity, non-traditional casting, and all the other trends afflicting movies and theater. The movie works best precisely because the injured passenger is a generic nubile female in distress. Movie roles and sex roles are not interchangeable.
In truth, if Overgård had turned his back on her, the movie audience would totally lose sympathy with him. Even if he made a rational decision as to the likelihood of both of them surviving the trek and decided that remaining at the plane crash site was in his best interest, he would be written off by the audience. Just imagine! Placing his own welfare ahead of that poor young woman’s! But thanks to the chivalric instincts of the human male, that storyline cannot be pursued.
At one point, however, Overgård abandons her. After falling into a crevasse, he receives a deep gash to his leg which seriously hampers his mobility and makes it even more difficult to move her on the sled. Now, more than ever, they will likely die if he attempts to resume the trip to the outpost. There is the slimmest of chances that he can make it even without her. So he reluctantly bundles her up and leaves her behind. Before he gets far, he spies a flower (the only vegetation we see in the movie) improbably sprung up through the tundra. Is it an omen? Is it a symbol of ultimate success against overwhelming odds? Whatever, he turns back, retrieves her, and resumes the arduous journey. He cannot do otherwise and live with himself.
Yes, gynocentrism is so ingrained in the male psyche, that even in the most dire circumstances a man can’t ignore a woman in trouble. No one would ever hale Overgård into international court if he left her behind to feed the polar bear that dogged them on the trail. But he is incapable of doing that. His toxic masculinity is more poisonous to him than it could ever be to a woman.
Mikkelsen, by the way, also appeared in The Hunt, another low-profile movie worthy of your attention. This 2012 film concerns a male kindergarten teacher falsely accused of sexually abusing children. If you haven’t heard of it, I’m not surprised, but this Danish film is also worth seeking out.
The advertising tagline for Arctic is “Survival is its own journey.” Not a bad slogan for men today. Or any other day.