Just prior to the Lewinsky scandal exposing feminism’s unapologetic lack of principle, 1997 proved to be a watershed year for gender-related culture. It’s the year that brought us the Lilith Fair, songs like Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? and Smack My Bitch Up, and the Neil LaBute film In the Company of Men.
All the hotties getting down on the dance floor to Smack My Bitch Up couldn’t get me to swallow the Red Pill (“it’s just a joke” “they have low self-esteem”), but In the Company of Men almost did. My conversion was a long and painful journey; countless times I “got it” but then quickly reverted to the boring safety of betahood. LaBute’s movie is one of the only times that the Pill almost stayed where it belongs. Did I spit it back up? Yes, but I actually accepted the truth for a day or so after I watched it. That says a lot, because dammit, I was plugged-in.
Largely because it had such an effect on me, I think it could be a useful tool in our attempts to enlighten others. Watching it alone on some Tuesday night might not have the desired effect, but watching it with a friend who really sees what’s going on and gets the subtext could be downright deadly. To use a volleyball metaphor, this movie is the perfect set for the spike of a conversation with a guy who knows Game.
It centers almost exclusively around three characters: Chad (Aaron Eckhart in his breakout role), Howard (Matt Malloy), and Christine (Stacy Edwards). Chad is the Alpha, Howard the beta, and Christine the lonely girl who’s given up on romance. Chad concocts a plan to devastate some random girl (who turns out to be Christine) by having both him and Howard throw themselves at her feet, only for both of them to pull away at the same time in order to hurt her as much as possible.
Of course, there’s more to Chad’s plan than meets the eye, and as it unfolds we see an intricate portrayal of the Alpha, Beta, and Woman archetypes. Chad knows exactly how to get what he wants and dominates every situation, Howard is a really nice guy who muddles his way through.
Guess which one Christine falls in love with.
Part of what makes the movie both entertaining and enlightening is the direct and continual contrast between Chad’s Game and Howard’s. We see Chad on a date, then Howard on a date. Chad calls her home and talks to her mother, a few minutes later Howard does the same. This structure enables the viewer to clearly differentiate between what works and what doesn’t, so it’s the perfect way to show a nice guy what he’s doing wrong, and how to do things right.
However, one of the reasons that In the Company of Men could backfire if it’s not seen in the presence of somebody who understands Game is that Chad’s seduction style isn’t quite the same as a PUA’s. Chad’s not looking to score a one-night stand by hitting every one of Christine’s attraction triggers as quickly as possible. Instead, he’s pursuing the perfect strategy for a high SMV male to get a relatively lower SMV female to fall in love with him. He therefore strategically shows vulnerability, buys her flowers, and treats her fairly well (most of the time). His Game is more reminiscent of the Marquis de Valmont in Les Liaisons dangereuses than Roissy’s.
Still, he’s an Alpha through and through, just a smart one who understands context and which type of Game works best when. He dominates every conversation and intimidates everyone with whom he comes in contact, and his push-pull during his first date with Christine is sheer mastery. A mistake AFC’s often make is to think that behaviors that can increase the appeal of an Alpha (like a sincere expression of affection or singing a power-ballad) will just make a beta seem more needy. If you know Game you can explain this to anybody watching the movie with you, and they’ll then be able to benefit from Chad’s mad skills.
A warning to females: There’s at least one scene in this movie that will make you extremely uncomfortable, and those of you who resist the Red Pill absolutely despise the movie’s message. ITCoM shows a really sweet girl turn into a heartless wench before our very eyes, and most women don’t like admitting that such a thing could ever happen.
Chad and Howard’s final scenes are symbolism at its most poignant. What happens to Chad as he looks up at the ceiling epitomizes what it means to be an Alpha; Howard’s final cries show the same for the average schlub. The contrast couldn’t be greater, and whatever you might think of Chad, you sure as hell know you don’t want to be Howard.
Don’t expect explosions and gunfights. It’s low-budget and feels like a play. LaBute got his start as a playwright, and with each subsequent viewing you’ll find more and more layers of subtext. Not much happens, the setting is a generic company in a generic city with generic locations for dates, and you have to pay attention to get anything out of it (so don’t watch it with your drinking buddies and a case of Busch Light), but it’s beyond thought-provoking and one of pop culture’s best portrayals of the realities of sexual attraction.
Unfortunately, it’s not streaming on Netflix. It’s not particularly expensive at Amazon, so you should get it through the Amazon link at Viva la Manosphere!–that site rocks and deserves all the support we can give it.
LaBute explores similar themes in The Shape of Things and Your Friends & Neighbors. Both are pretty decent flicks, but neither is as funny or poignant as In the Company of Men.
It should be known as a masterpiece of masculine insight: