Don’t Worry Darling, a psychological, dystopian thriller about a woman—Alice, played by Florence Pugh—living in an idyllic community, was released on September 23rd, 2022. The film’s intriguing plot about a stereotypical spouse in the 1950s whose lives devolve into utter madness once secrets of the husband’s job are revealed sparked interest in potential viewers. Long before the film hit theaters, however, rumors surrounding the on-set drama engrossed global audiences. While Olivia Wilde, director of Don’t Worry Darling, navigates the psychological terror experienced by the characters, the gossip circulating the film prior to its release exposes more about twisted human relationships and stereotypical societal culture than does the actual movie.
Rumors began when Wilde allegedly fired Shia Labeouf, initially cast as Jack, on account that “his process was not conducive to the ethos that [she] demand[s] in [her] productions.” Around this time is when the star’s former girlfriend, FKA Twigs, filed a lawsuit against Labeouf for sexual battery. Wilde claims that “[a] lot came to light after this happened […] in terms of his behavior” and explains that her “responsibility is to the production and to the cast to protect them.” She recognized that she would be “asking Florence to be in very vulnerable situations, and [that her] priority was making her feel safe and […] supported.” Labeouf, in response to the situation, claims that he “quit the film” after not being able to find time to adequately rehearse for the role. The disturbing aspect of this presents itself when we ask ourselves why we are still letting the abuser control the story? The way in which the drama played out seems to mimic themes of a controlling male presence similar to that in Don’t Worry Darling. While the film attempts to call attention to this particular issue, it backfires because of how deeply entrenched it is in contradicting circumstances. Therefore, the situation reveals more about the stagnation of society and its inability to fuel progress.
Unfortunately, the Wilde-Labeouf drama wasn’t the only event that was overcast by drastic sexist influences. After Wilde had fired Labeouf, she casted Harry Styles as his replacement. Audiences were thrilled to know of the involvement of Styles in the production of Don’t Worry Darling. This excitement, however, gradually died off as rumors of Wilde and Styles dating were brought to the forefront of the film’s coverage. Wilde faced immense backlash for involving herself in a romantic relationship with a cast member which reportedly resulted in Wilde’s “frequent, unexplained absences” from set. The problem here is not in determining right from wrong with regards to Wilde’s actions on set, but rather the reaction from audiences towards the situation. It’s no surprise that several directors often start romantic relationships with their cast members: Tim Burton, James Cameron, and Steven Speilberg to name a few. The differences in the aforementioned names and Olivia Wilde is that Wilde is a woman which for some believe that that is adequate reasoning to treat her any differently than they would a man in the same position. Although one could argue that what she did was wrong, the same could be said for any director that entered a romantic relationship with a cast member. This double standard is heavily influenced by misogynistic ideals and furthers the point of twisted human relationships being controlled by a patriarchal hierarchy.
Don’t Worry Darling ventures into this seemingly impossible reality, but peels back the layers and you begin to see the shadows underneath. Hints of a stereotypical, picturesque lifestyle—like that presented in the film—only deteriorates into chaos and confusion, leaving society in a position of immobility. As seen through the drama surrounding the film, this disorder isn’t just present in the fictitious sense, but is seen in ripples throughout everyday life.