AN Â NCFM MEMBERâ€™S REPORT FROM NEW YORK: WORLD PREMIERE OF â€śTHE RED PILLâ€ť
by Peter Allemano
After work on Friday, OctoberÂ 7, I took the short subway ride from Midtown Manhattan to Union Square and walked a few blocks south, to Cinema Village. It was a splendid, mild fall evening â€” so typical of what we enjoy at this time of year in New York. But, for me, this was no ordinary evening!
In my shoulder bag, I had my prepaid voucher for two tickets to the much-anticipated world premiĂ¨re of Jaye Bird Productionsâ€™ â€śThe Red Pillâ€ť! Half an hour before 6:15 p.m. showtime, there was a flurry of activity on the sidewalk in front of the cinema. A backdrop, emblazoned with the movieâ€™s name and logo, had been set up â€” with a red carpet in front of it â€” for picture-taking. In front of this installation, a portion of the sidewalk was cordoned off, and people connected with the film were supervising the goings-on and taking photos. Moving back and forth, midst the flurry, was a pretty, glamorous-looking blonde. I recognized her immediately: documentarian Cassie Jaye.
For all of us in the menâ€™s movement, this was a major event. I was full of happy anticipation. But where did I begin to involve myself with the proceedings? It made sense to approach the person closest to me on the sidewalk who I recognized: Paul Elam. I have long admired the man and had been able to meet him, socially, in February 2015, on a visit to Houston. Paul and I embraced, and he then introduced me to his lovely partner, Stacey. I told Stacey that, in my opinion, her guy has a heart of 24K gold. How come? Among other reasons, on the night I got together with Paul in Houston, Stacey was sick in bed with the flu â€” and Paul had wrapped up our post-dinner conversation quickly, to hurry home and look after her. In response to my anecdote, Stacey smiled appreciatively and Paul chuckled in surprise at my recounting it at all. So I then said he could be certain of the sincerity of my compliment â€” because I knew he wasnâ€™t rich. There was no way I could be buttering him up in the hope that heâ€™d then be willing to lend me money! There was hearty laughter all around. A souvenir snapshot was in order â€” and so we had one taken.
Finally, I introduced myself to Cassie Jaye. I can only imagine what pressure she felt, after years of effort (and against some brutish opposition), to arrive at this momentous date. Moreover, what a tremendous number of last-minute details she must have been tending too â€” under the strain of jetlag, to boot, having flown in from California! But she glowed with happiness and calm confidence, and the genial way in which she handled herself in conversation with me was delightful. Would she pose for a photo with me? Of course she would! Iâ€™ll treasure it always. Soon I was joined by my guest for the evening, the writer/scholar Michael Patrick Hearn. Would Cassie pose for another photo, with the two of us? Yes indeed!
Who else was there that I knew? There was stellar New York menâ€™s rights activist Gary Costanza (who made a video of the goings-on before and after the screening), the amazing Fred Hayward (who Iâ€™d admired for two decades and had met once, on a visit to Sacramento in May 2011) and the excellent Tim Goldich of Chicago (editor of NCFMâ€™s Transitions and the fellow responsible for putting my humorous â€śAndrea Dwumbellâ€ť columns in the newsletter).
Jaye Bird Productions is a family run enterprise, so naturally Cassieâ€™s proud parents â€” Jay Pugh and Nena Jaye â€” were there too. I found both her stepfather and her mother to be extremely pleasant and fun to talk to. I also met a number of people whose names and identities were completely new to me. One fellow had come all the way from Rockland, Maine for this event, another from Philadelphia.
â€śThe Red Pillâ€ť is not just about advocates for issues affecting men and boys. Itâ€™s about feminism too â€” and because Cassie Jaye felt it was important to present contrasting perspectives in her film, a handful of notable feminists had been interviewed on camera. One of them was the author and media spokesman Michael Kimmel. He happens to live in the New York area, and he had agreed to take part in the post-screening Q&A session. So he was at the premiĂ¨re too.
Dr. Kimmelâ€™s sensibilities in the realm of gender issues are very different from mine. Back in 2009, I invested a considerable amount of time and effort in studying and analyzing his book, Guyland, for a review that â€” for personal reasons (disclosed at the end of my review), I felt compelled to write. But never, at that time, did I imagine that I might wind up getting to meet this famous man!
My review was published as a two-part serialization in Transitions. For whatever it might be worth, I also posted it on Amazon as a customer review. There, it generated mostly favorable attention, and it was later reproduced elsewhere on-line. Additionally, a small handful of commentators and bloggers made praising reference to my piece in their own writings.
I figured that, at some point, Dr. Kimmel had probably seen my review. Possibly, he had taken the time to read it too. This is because even distinguished authors with long track records of success, like Dr. Kimmel, sometimes take stock of reactions to their work stemming from the hoi polloi â€” by looking over reviews on Amazon. Or so Iâ€™ve been told. (Who knows?) But at this late date, of course, there was no telling whether Dr. Kimmel even recollected my review, much less the name of the man whoâ€™d posted it.
Whatever the case, I definitely wanted to have a photographic memento of the extraordinary occasion upon which I could actually meet the author of Guyland.
After Dr. Kimmel had posed for photos on the red carpet, I caught his attention, smiled and asked if heâ€™d be willing to pose for a photo with me too. He smiled and cheerfully said â€śyes.â€ť Iâ€™d only introduced myself by my first name, and after our picture had been taken he asked for my full name. I had not wanted to create an unpleasant moment for anyone at the premiĂ¨re. This was Jaye Bird Productionsâ€™ evening, not mine; and out of my personal action I wanted to arouse nothing for Cassie and her team besides â€śgood vibesâ€ť and the positive support they fully deserved.
So, a little reluctantly, I told Dr. Kimmel the truth: Peter Allemano.
It was unmistakable: Dr. Kimmel winced. He said, simply: â€śOh.â€ť
In a hurry to end this awkward moment, I next addressed the petite, attractive woman who was now standing at Dr. Kimmelâ€™s side. After introducing myself to her, I asked if she had any connection to â€śThe Red Pill.â€ť She smiled pleasantly and said she was Dr. Kimmelâ€™s wife. I wished her well.
So â€” how is â€śThe Red Pillâ€ť?
Excellent! Issues affecting men and boys â€” plus the menâ€™s movement and its long history â€” could constitute the stuff of an entire series of movies. From the available material, Cassie Jaye has selected well for a single, introductory feature-length film. The audience was presented with a â€ścaptureâ€ť of the movementâ€™s present moment (with backward glances into the lives of several of its foremost figures) plus some of the most compelling visual-and-verbal narratives about the issues that Iâ€™ve ever seen. But there was more. In addition to providing the audience with a wealth of thought-provoking (and often very moving) content, I was pleased to discover that â€śThe Red Pillâ€ť could stand on its own merits as a well-made work of cinematic art â€” and never mind its shoestring budget. Indeed, the movie surprised me and exceeded my expectations. For example, I have never felt comfortable watching anybodyâ€™s â€śvideo diaryâ€ť â€” and I have long regarded the format as a clichĂ© (and usually very dull) that, inevitably, history will come to regard as a pretentious artifact of our times. But while I watched â€śThe Red Pillâ€ť and intermittent excerpts from Cassieâ€™s â€śvideo diaryâ€ť appeared on the screen, I was spellbound. Not only did the documentarian come through as open and sincere, but these segments served to make â€śThe Red Pillâ€ť stronger than it would have been without them. Indeed, I think that many viewers who are unfamiliar with the topics covered by the movie will probably relate to Cassieâ€™s feelings and find themselves getting draw into â€śThe Red Pillâ€ť in unexpected ways.
Paradoxically, â€śThe Red Pillâ€ť was ultimately â€” for me â€” a â€śfeel goodâ€ť movie. Personally, I am unafraid of so-called difficult topics, and when they are grappled with openly, honestly and intelligently, I find that the sorrow I experience in relation to those topics becomes commingled with joy and relief. Moreover, when I witness another person becoming uplifted by truth â€” as is the case with Cassie Jaye in â€śThe Red Pillâ€ť â€” I feel inspired.
Will other people relate to â€śThe Red Pill,â€ť in any respect, the way I do? Time will tell!
The post-premiere Q&A session featured Cassie Jay and six other people who appear in the movie â€” and just before it began, Cinema Village management permitted a number of attendees for the following screening to enter the auditorium and watch. They filled in some of the now-vacant seats as well as the stairwell. As could be expected, the discussion was spirited! But I felt a little dismayed by the fact that people were only discussing topics in the movie and not the movie itself. I raised my hand. Kindly, Cassie Jaye called upon me to speak.
The basic gist of what I said was this: It was about time, in this session, for somebody to say something about the movie â€” to point out how good it was and to congratulate Cassie and her team on a job well done â€” and I said I figured that that person was going to be me. In response, the audience burst into applause.
At last, it was time for the next screening to begin, and there was no further delaying premiere-goersâ€™ exit from the auditorium. Out on the sidewalk, people lingered, talking and exchanging opinions and contact information.
Later, at a post-screening celebration in the lobby lounge of a nearby hotel, Alison Tieman (of Honey Badger Radio) set up equipment for an ad hoc webcast, and she made a circuit of the room, inviting people to share their opinions â€” â€śbut no spoilers, please!â€ť
As far as I know, everyone who spoke (including myself) complied.
For me, a highlight of the celebration was getting acquainted with Canadian blogger Karen Straughan â€” who makes an absolutely marvelous appearance in â€śThe Red Pillâ€ť and had flown to New York specially to attend the premiĂ¨re. Karen is as wonderful in person as she is in her videos: earthy but charming, articulate, intelligent â€” and funny! Whatâ€™s more, I quickly discovered that Karenâ€™s enjoyment of humor includes the sort of silly stuff that I sometimes engage in. What a compliment it was for me when I succeeding in provoking hearty laugher in Karen â€” by quoting from my â€śAndrea Dwumbellâ€ť writings. Hereâ€™s hoping that Karen will pay a return visit to New York someday and that I may be able to kiss her hand again!
It was at the party that I had my longest conversation of the evening with Cassie Jaye. In talking about myself, I did my utmost to respect the limits of her available time. After all, there were others in attendance who wanted to talk with her (and she with them), and â€” above all other considerations â€” this was important business event for her and required her mindful attention for it to be a success. Though brevity is not my forte, I think I nevertheless managed to be fairly concise â€” as I recounted an abbreviated version of my story and my involvement in the menâ€™s movement (which dates to the publication of The Myth of Male Power in 1993). In the end, Cassie thanked me for attending. (But â€” hey! â€” there was no way that I would have missed the event!) At the time I left for home, at 11:00 p.m., the young lady was as calm and gracious as sheâ€™d been at the outset of the evening â€” and still looked like a million bucks.
Many folks â€” especially out-of-towners â€” who attended the world premiĂ¨re of â€śThe Red Pillâ€ť may not have known it, but Cinema Village itself has quite a story leading up to its present-day existence. Indeed, the venue commands respect and is cherished by many people, like myself, who call New York home. Built in 1963 in the shell of a turn-of-the-century fire station, it is the oldest continuously operated cinema in Greenwich Village. It has survived the advent of corporate-owned multiplex cinemas, home video and the Internet, not to mention its neighborhoodâ€™s gentrification.
So hereâ€™s hoping that this brave young filmmakerâ€™s new work, similarly, will survive and thrive!