In “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” present U.S. society is portrayed as a society where gender roles are not definite—there is not a clear line between role of men and women today. Traditionally, the role of the woman in a family is to cook, clean, and care for the house. Today, a woman can, and many do, work in the offices instead. Sean Durkin uses an example we often see in real life to illustrate this point. In one scene Martha is talking to her sister on the steps of Lucy and Ted’s lake house. Martha asks Lucy why they do not need to cook, and Lucy replies that it is Ted’s turn. This is different from what Martha was used to in the cult, where there were roles for men and women. Men were the hunter-gatherers, the ones that chopped the wood, and did the jobs that involved lifting. Women on the other hand belonged in the kitchen, cooking, washing, and caring for babies. Interesting to note,because “Martha Marcy May Marlene” was focused on Martha, a woman, the scenes of her in the interior of the cult house are oftentimes in the kitchen, where her roles in the cult were. Moreover the movie argues today’s society sees man and woman as equal. In the movie, Lucy and Martha sit with Ted at the table for dinner; in contrast, men are more superior than women in the cult. In the cult the men eat first, while the women wait for their turn. The role of man as the superior being is even more signified by the fact that there is an obvious patriarch, Patrick, who deflowers virgins in his cult first, before other male members of the cult can touch the women. The producers also puts emphasis on Patrick as the patriarch. For instance, at the beginning when the cult members are seated around a table and eating, the lighting is directed at Patrick, so that Patrick’s look and features are exposed. Because of the lighting and his seating at the head of the table, he leaves one with the impression of being the most prominent in the group. The other cult members only show half a face or are masked by the darkness. In another instance, the cults are sitting in the barn and playing music. All the other men are humming songs, without distinct lyrics, but when Patrick sings he uses words. In the cult, only Patrick speaks the most— he retains the power of words that the others do not.
Martha Marcy May Marlene uses this comparison to prove that present society has vague gender roles.
Because the gender role in modern society is vague, the basic perception of U.S. society on what the modern day person is like is the same whether it be a he or a she—the modern person goes to college, gets a job, starts a family and settles down. If one did not follow this path one would most likely be considered weird. So it is with Martha. When Ted first hears that Martha came back from the mountains he is astonished.
In “Into the Wild,” the gender role is very similar: for the protagonist, Alex Supertramp, it was expected that he get good grades at Emory University, move on to Harvard Law, and eventually have a respectable job.
Both have very similar views towards modern U.S. perception of the image of a person.
THe modern day person is clean shaven, properly concealed in clothing, and cultured. Nudity is not allowed.
Ted and Lucy are good examples of the image of the modern person. Ted is always clean shaven, while Lucy is always neat…