Ok, so we have ALL seen the memes. News about this movie spread like wildfire. Bird Box introduces an unusual post-apocalyptic scenario where humanity is decimated by the emergence of strange, seemingly supernatural monsters. Little is known about these creatures other than that the very sight of them compels nearly everyone to commit suicide. (Josh Malerman novel, on which the Netflix movie is based, similarly keeps things incredibly vague about these creatures.)
However, I couldn’t help but marvel at how deep this movie was. Yes, you have scary monsters running around causing people to violently off themselves, but what does it all mean?
The film never winds up revealing much about these monsters or their origin. It’s not clear if they’re meant to be demons or ghosts or aliens or some sort of mass hallucination. The one thing Bird Box’s climax makes clear, though, is that these creatures are able to read minds and assume the voice of whatever person their would-be victim will be most susceptible to. That’s why Sandra Bullock’s character Malorie hears the voice of Trevante Rhodes’ Tom during the final rush to the compound. If anyone’s voice is going to make her slip up and open her eyes, it’s his.
This implies both an intelligence and a certain malevolence on the part of the creatures. They’re crafty enough to manipulate their victims. At the same time, they don’t seem capable of directly harming their victims. They can only do their best to trick humans into looking. That could imply they don’t actually have a physical body. This could also lend support to the idea that these creatures are literal demons from Hell, tempting humans into committing suicide and damning their souls to an eternity of torment.
I personally think the monsters are our deepest subconscious fears and wounds, festering beneath the surface and because they are so far down, we choose not to awknowledge them, which we all actually do. Unfortunately for people in the movie, its to their undoing, as their so filled with grief about something or someone, it overtakes them. It’s almost a reckoning. Because you have chosen to live with such reckless abandon, because you trash the earth you live on, because you put yourself on a pedestal, because you treat your brothers and sisters like complete sh*t, because you are failing at being a good human being, you are being judged, and die you must.
Then again, there is another lense to it. Mental Health. The reason Bird Box never definitively explains the nature of its monsters is that the answer doesn’t really matter in the end. The monsters are more a means to an end in terms of advancing Malorie’s narrative. Ultimately, Bird Box is a story about a woman overcoming severe depression and learning to feel hope and connect with others once more.
Malorie’s detachment from the rest of the human world is made apparent towards the beginning of the film, as we see her pushing away her boyfriend and even her own mother in order to focus on her art. She reluctantly embraces her responsibilities as a mother after the global disaster unfolds, but even then she maintains a very militant approach to raising her children. She can’t even bring herself to give them real names, referring to them only as “Boy” and “Girl.” In her mind, training them to survive a deadly new world is more important than instilling feelings of love or hope.
The movie took conditions thought to make people weak and made them into traits that ended up being beneficial. Being blind, being pregnant or suffering from various mental health proved to be useful for survival. This takes the argument, “Survival of the fittest” and turn it on its head, forcing us to redefine what and who should be seen as “fittest.” All of the characters have their own demons they’re dealing with throughout the film. Almost all of the characters are dealing with grief to some degree, especially Malorie and John Malcovich’s character (Douglas). They both watch their loved ones commit suicide. This shows that suicide doesn’t just affect the victim, but also the people around them. In the end we see that the only way for Malorie and her kids to survive is by using their voices. I feel this alludes to the fact that our health is our responsibility. We shouldn’t be taking advantage of the fact that things will and must happen to us, and because there is an explanation for our situations, that it must be ordained by the gods and we can do nothing but sit there an experience it. This is wrong. Use your own voice to nurse yourself until you are well again.
However you choose to look at BIRDBOX, I feel like it was such a huge success because it showcased what holding a mirror up to ourselves looks like and how we can be self destructive if we don’t like what we see. This new year, let’s not be afraid to look in the mirror, look at our shit and go, man, I was wrong, I AM hurting, I AM lost, I AM not being the best human I can be, and instead of becoming self destructive, indulging in behaviors that mask our pain, instead of running away, let’s face it head on and make this our best year yet. Not only for ourselves, but for humanity.
Until next time loves!