“Don’t Worry Darling”: A Chaotic Piece of Film Merged With Reality

Florence Pugh and Harry Styles as Alice and Jack in "Don't Worry Darling" | Source: Warner Bros

Don’t Worry Darling is a psychological, dystopian thriller about a woman—Alice, played by Florence Pugh—living in an idyllic community. The film’s intriguing plot about a stereotypical spouse in the 1950s whose life devolves into utter madness once secrets of the husband’s job are revealed, sparked interest in 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 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.

This situation raises the important question of why we are still letting the abuser control the story? The way in which the drama behind Don’t Worry Darling played out mimics the controlling male presence seen in the film itself. While the film attempts to call attention to this particular issue, it backfires because of how deeply entrenched it is in contradicting circumstances. 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 rife with drastic sexist influences. After Wilde had fired Labeouf, she cast Harry Styles as his replacement. Audiences were thrilled to know of Styles’ involvement. This excitement, however, gradually died off as rumors of Wilde and Styles dating eclipsed the rest of the film’s coverage. Wilde faced immense backlash for involving herself in a romantic relationship with a cast member, one which reportedly resulted in Wilde’s “frequent, unexplained absences” from the 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 is no surprise that several directors often start romantic relationships with their cast members: Tim Burton, James Cameron, and Steven Spielberg to name a few. The difference between those cases and Olivia Wilde is that Wilde is a woman which, for some, justifies treating her differently than they would a man in the same position.

Although one could argue that what Wilde 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 deteriorate into chaos and confusion, leaving society immobilized. As seen through the drama surrounding the film, this disorder isn’t just present in the fictitious sense, but it is seen in ripples throughout everyday life.

About the Author

Manya Davis
Manya Davis is currently a senior at IMSA and is the News Section Editor for The Acronym. Apart from her work on The Acronym, she likes taking part in the various social aspects of IMSA such as culture shows. She enjoys film, dance, and playing the electric and bass guitar. On The Acronym, her goal is to give students around IMSA a voice and share her perspective through writing.

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