‘Carnage’ makes childfree living look ever so appealing

Carnage posterI’m not sure why I wanted to see Carnage. Sometimes I seek out films specifically because I want to analyze the pro-natalist or pro-childfree biases (see: Friends with Kids, Eat Pray Love, Sex and the City 2, and Babies). But in the case of Carnage, that angle hadn’t even occurred to me.

I suppose I put it on my list because it was talky, well-reviewed, and had an all-star cast. My partner Matt was having none of it: Four yuppie parents arguing about a playground fight, for 80 minutes? Count him out.

It’s a good movie — not because it’s enjoyable to watch, but precisely because it’s not enjoyable to watch. It makes you feel just as uncomfortable as if you were in the room with the quarrelsome foursome, and that’s exactly what the director intended.

To spare you 80 minutes of feeling awkward, I’ll share with you the most childfree-affirming (or parent-unaffirming) segment. As the two unhappy couples bicker, they gradually shed social niceties and start saying what they really think. Michael, played by John C. Reilly, works up quite a nice rant about parenting:

Michael: If you ask me, the couple is the worst ordeal God has ever inflicted on us — the couple and the family. …

Take a step back and look at the situation we’re in. Children suck the life out of you and leave you old and empty. That’s the law of nature. You see these young couples laughing all the way to the altar. You think, they don’t know. Poor fuckers have no idea. They’re happy. Nobody tells you about this stuff in the beginning.

I got this army buddy of mine, he’s going to have a kid with his new girlfriend. I said to him: A kid, at our age, what, are you stupid? You’ve got maybe 10, 15 good years left before you get cancer or have a stroke, and you’re going to saddle yourself with a fucking kid?

Nancy: That’s not really what you think.

Michael: Of course it is. I think even worse.

The couples in the movie are unhappy for lots of reasons, not just because they have children. Plenty of people love being parents, of course. But if you’re an ill-matched pair or unhappy to start with, throwing kids into the mix is likely to sour things even further.

So should you watch the film? If you want to appreciate fine acting, yes. But probably not for any other reason — and certainly not if you’re just looking to feel good about being childfree. There are plenty of other, more entertaining movies that could give you that. On the dark side, there’s We Need to Talk About Kevin. Maybe that will be the next subject of a GINK film review — if I can work up the fortitude to watch it. But The Hunger Games (kids kill themselves off, reality-TV style!) would surely be a lot more fun.

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