The reasons Universal Pictures ultimately went from suspending the marketing campaign for The Hunt to pulling it from the release schedule entirely have evolved over time. At first it seemed to be because advertising a movie about people being hunted by a group of bored elites looking for a little excitement seemed in bad taste following the recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton.
Reports later emerged the studio was shaken by reactions to test screenings of the class-based satire that had already generated death threats and concerns over a broader cultural backlash. Universal’s primary issue appears to be in the handling of the situation, which has put them in the position of being reactive not proactive.
While I don’t agree with the decision – we deserve to debate the movie itself, not have endless discussions that build off the latest Hot Take until the snake has eaten its own tail several times over – it is understandable to some extent. Stories about people being hunted, even if they are satire in nature, may not be received well in an age where aspiring shooters are making kill lists and arming themselves with hundreds of rounds before beginning their own hunting.
So why, one is forced to wonder, is Fox Searchlight continuing as planned with this week’s release of Ready Or Not? Like The Hunt, Ready Or Not revolves around humans hunting other humans.
That movie stars Samara Weaving as Grace, a woman about to marry Alex (Mark O’Brien), part of a family that has made its fortune selling games. At a dinner at the Le Domas family mansion after the wedding, Grace is asked to participate in the tradition of playing a game anytime someone new joins the family. The game turns out to be Ready or Not. What surprises Grace is that this version involves her being hunted by everyone else. Only if she survives until dawn will she be deemed worthy to actually become one of the Le Domas clan.
If there’s any difference between the public presentations of the two movies, it’s that Ready Or Not is not as overtly about class differences. There are no mentions of “deplorables” or “the one percent” or other keywords that are likely to generate headlines and stir up emotions among people who don’t care to be criticized.
Instead, it’s just about a woman being hunted for who she is. That message, it seems, is still acceptable.
It’s surprising, since real world incidents of liberal elites taking out their frustrations on rednecks by hunting them through the woods of a European estate are surprisingly difficult to come across. Startlingly common, though, are instances of mass shooters sporting a history of abusing women or feeling deep-seated anger over having been rejected by women. The shooter who killed so many people in Dayton recently reportedly had a list of women he wanted to kill or rape, presumably because they had wronged him in some imagined way.
That one movie that seemed to have something at least worth considering about class roles has been spiked because it was seen as offensive while another about hunting a women to keep a family bloodline pure and untainted by interlopers moves forward says something about society that we don’t seem to be addressing. Namely, that you can try and kill as many women as you want, but if you dare put anyone who looks like they may have worn a MAGA hat in the crosshairs, there will be hell to pay.
Universal didn’t spontaneously decide to pull The Hunt, it did so in reaction to some reactions and the concern there would be more. A barrage of criticism from Fox News would have been bad for the studio and bad for its corporate parent Comcast. That a similar outcry hasn’t been directed at Fox Searchlight or its corporate parent Disney – recently said to be concerned over the Hitler satire JoJo Rabbit would be too controversial for its audience – is notable.