In 2018, Netflix added filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos’s “The Lobster,” a dystopian black comedy starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz, for online streaming. In this fictional world, newly single people are hunted and forced to find partnership in under 45 days or else be turned into an animal of their choosing. Fast forward to nonfictional 2020 where COVID-19 has led to an increase in online dating and a decrease in more positive life events, I find myself envying “The Lobster” universe’s most terrifying punishment: to live freely as a beautiful animal.
What “The Lobster” Says About The Status Quo
Part of what makes “The Lobster” a compelling film is its absurd take on modern love and the status quo. The film also explores the consequences of bureaucracy, partnership, and binary thinking. In this world, single life is vilified to the point that it’s better to die as an animal than to die alone.
When David, the protagonist, separates from his wife, he checks himself into the love hotel in hopes of finding a new partner. The hotel clerk asks if he’d like to register as heterosexual or homosexual. There’s no bisexual option to accurately represent David’s sexuality. You’re either one thing or another.
As an unmarried, childless millennial who’s been pressured to become anything but an unmarried, childless millennial, I appreciate the thought processes behind “The Lobster.” I’ve been shamed for being single, and I’ve been shamed for loving people who didn’t fit a cookie-cutter ideal i.e. those in search of a career, house, and 2.5 children.
“The Lobster” accurately portrays what many women, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA individuals feel on a daily basis: if you don’t conform to outdated notions of love and partnership, you might as well be stripped of your humanity.
Online Dating in 2020
Soon after watching “The Lobster” I decided to give online dating another try. Perhaps the film’s darkness and absurdity inspired me to put myself out there. I was already alone in a pandemic. What was the worst that could happen?
I matched on OkCupid with a local filmmaker. We chatted briefly then he invited me out for coffee. Online, I asked him if he’d ever seen Lanthimos’s “The Lobster.” He said he hadn’t but that maybe we could grab some lobster on our first date. This was when I lived in Maine. Grabbing lobster was kind of the norm.
We didn’t grab lobster that evening, but he did grab me. Several times, actually. He put his arm where it didn’t belong and took my hand a number of times, even though I said I’d prefer it if he didn’t. He pretended not to hear my protests from behind my mask.
In “The Lobster” there’s this darkly humorous scene where married people show single people why relationships are necessary for our survival. The married people demonstrate a couple of different scenarios through role play. In one scenario, a single elderly man chokes to death and in another scenario, a single woman gets assaulted. Then the scenes change to demonstrate what would have happened to these people if only they’d had a loving partner at their side. The results were quite different.
I love this scene because so many of our modern notions of love and intimacy are rooted in fear. We delude ourselves into thinking that if we don’t have a partner, then we don’t have a life. And if we don’t find love soon, our lives could be cut short. Personally, I trick myself into thinking that online dating is the best and only way to meet people.
Then I think back to my last conversation on this particular date before cutting it short.
“You’re really sexy,” he said. “Want to grab a drink?”
“No thank you,” I said.
“You’re right,” he said. “Bars are crowded and unsanitary. We could get COVID and die.”
“Sure,” I said. “That’s it.”
Why I’d Rather Be An Animal At This Point
Hear me out. Animals have it made right now. As humans retreat indoors, nature gets to throw a huge, unobtrusive party. Wildlife returns to tranquil streets and waterways. People stuck indoors have no choice but to spend more time with their pets.
“The Lobster” gets its title from David’s preferred animal of choice should he never find love. He says he’d like to be turned into a lobster because they’re ancient and blue blooded “like an aristocrat.” They swim freely in the big blue sea. They don’t have to check themselves into love hotels or sign up for an online dating profile.
The thought of transforming into an animal really isn’t so horrifying. Sometimes, when I’m not exploring the best shows and movies to screen, I think about what kind of animal I’d like to become.
After much thought, I’ve decided I’d like to become a crane. They’re large, graceful birds with an impressive wing span. They’re comfortable in their skin and built to fly great distances no matter what this world may look like below.