Take The Red Pill: How The Alt-Right Misappropriates Media


Hashaam Yaqoob discusses the controversy behind misquoting and misappropriating films and media.

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Image by Warner Bros.

By Hashaam Yaqoob

There’s a certain trend that doesn’t get talked about often, but it has affected our political discourse: certain people view films with a progressive message, and come away from it completely missing the point.

The rise of the alt-right has left the internet-sphere, and has now resulted in things such as the ‘Unite The Right’ rally or something as silly as men defending a TS Elliot statue, presumably protecting it from psychotic Jane Austen fans. But by going through their point of references and realising how they’ve co-opted certain types of media, we can come to understand how they operate.

The notable examples that I want to focus on are The Matrix, Fight Club and American History X.

***Fight Club ***and Toxic Masculinity

Fight Club, based on a novel written by a gay man, explores themes of anti-capitalism, how extremists prey on vulnerable men by exploiting their insecurities, homophobia and toxic masculinity. It’s chillingly relevant to how the alt-right operate so it makes sense that this film is often cited as a gateway to the alt-right and anti-feminism. Tyler Durden is glorified and held to the standard of what an alpha male should be. A common anxiety amongst certain men is that their masculinity is being challenged, (and if you get angry at the term toxic masculinity, you’re one of these people) and Tyler Durden provides an example of how to fight back - through manly violence, of course. The alt-right purposefully disregard the anti-capitalist themes and instead focus on the superficial elements which seem cool and aid the alt-right narrative of anti-feminism that they want to peddle.

***American History X ***and Nazism

“Our border policy’s a joke! So is anybody surprised that south of the border, they’re laughing at us? Laughing at our laws?” – Donald Trump (2017)

“When do we beat Mexico at the border? They’re laughing at us, at our stupidity.– Donald Trump (2015)

Okay so I lied. Only the latter quote is from Donald Trump. The former is by Derek Vinyard from American History X. The film is surprisingly liked by Nazis, and if you take a peek in certain online circles you can find neo-Nazis quoting it to exemplify the modern plight of the white male. This might be an issue of the film itself portraying a very accurate look into the psychology of neo-Nazis. In this case, the alt-right chose to ignore the film’s ultimate message and focus more on the rhetoric of Nazis themselves. The film does such a good job at capturing neo-Nazi ideology that actual white supremacists will often find themselves echoing its statements.

***The Matrix ***and The Red Pill

The term ‘redpilled’ from The Matrix is often used by incels (Involuntary Celibates) and the alt-right as a metaphor for opening up your eyes to the reality that they espouse. It’s so ingrained into their beliefs that you can forget that the iconography of the two pills comes from The Matrix (created by two trans women).

The term ‘red pill’ takes on new life within inceldom: the belief that men are oppressed in society due to women being able to get laid easier which conveniently paints women as villains. This type of misogyny, and the commodification of sex, lead to some diabolical conclusions.

Oppression and Appropriation

There’s a common theme in all of this that I’m sure you’ve picked up - a theme of oppression. A common tactic of the alt-right is to paint themselves as a victim. This is a form of psychological manipulation which makes it easier to justify abuse towards others, and this narrative is sold to vulnerable people who suffer from insecurities and fears about where the world is heading. The alt-right appropriate the very nature of oppression itself, by convincing people that straight white males are being downtrodden, and they misappropriate films and the media to aid that narrative. The key to fascism is to fabricate a faceless enemy to unite against, which in this case is minorities and women, but it’s important to remind ourselves that the types of media that they reference and quote are often created by the very people they hate.