The Price of Victory
by Mary Scott Brisson
Don’t Worry Darling (2022) follows a complex plot that centers around the 1950s housewife, Alice Chambers, as she begins to uncover disturbing truths about her seemingly perfect life in remote California desert town, Victory. Despite the idyllic community of Victory, she feels progressively emptier with each passing day. In the supposedly utopian society, all husbands work on a classified project during the day while the wives bask in their seemingly perfect and lavish lifestyle. As glimpses of deep imperfections embedded in her life begin to appear through psychological flashes, Alice questions what every other housewife dares not ask: what exactly is going on in Victory?
Given the 1950s backdrop of the film, traditional sit-down family dinners are a regular occurrence in the film. Moreover, Alice and her fellow Victory housewives are responsible for the preparation of each grand dinner, which often includes neighbors and their children. Women’s expectation to prepare elaborate dinners and open up their homes to their husband’s friends act as a device of control, deception, and oppression in the film. On many accounts, the way the characters interact over dinner reflect the societal pressures and expectations placed on the housewives of Victory. In one specific scene, Alice begins to question her reality while hosting three other couples. The scene serves a two fold purpose–it sheds light on the expectations of female behavior during the era while also capturing how dinner parties involving alcohol lend themselves to taboos or irreverent conversation. The role of food and feasts in the film are integral to the plot as they offer a setting for Alice to challenge her sense of reality. The era the movie takes place in further complicates her doing so as traditional repression of females’ opinions, desires, and complaints is highlighted.
In another comically inept and sexist moment of Jack, Alice’s husband, Jack, attempts to prepare dinner for his wife as she naps through dinner. It appears as though this is the first time she has ever not made dinner due to Jack’s gross incompetence in the kitchen. His culinary efforts include attempting to mash potatoes vigorously by using a whiskey bottle, which results in an unintentional kitchen fire. Upon Alice’s entrance to the scene, it appears as though she finds the scene endearing. She quickly steps in to salvage the meal. This scene reinforces traditional gender roles, inadvertently normalizing men’s lack of involvement within the domestic realm, and glamorizes benevolent sexism through Alice’s perception of the scene as “cute” and excusable.
The film utilizes fancy dinner parties and traditional domestic female roles and domains to heighten its viewers' understanding of the plot. Both scenes demonstrate how deeply ingrained food and eating are in subcultures. It further reminds its viewers of how gender has evolved to have different relationships to food, eating, and the preparation of food.
Don’t Worry Darling. Dir. Olivia Wilde. By Katie Silberman. Perf. Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Olvia Wilde, and Chris Pine. Warner Bros. Pictures, 2022. DVD.