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The Invisible Man - A metaphor about the invisibility of abuse

Atualizado: 12 de mai. de 2023

The Invisible Man - A metaphor about the invisibility of abuse

The movie is available on Netflix. Warning, it contains spoilers!

The Invisible Man is a 2020 film, inspired by the novel by H.G. Welles, with screenplay and direction by Leigh Whannell, tells the story of Cecilia, played by Elisabeth Moss, married to a rich and brilliant scientist, specializing in optics.

Cecilia "Cee" Kass plans her escape from the isolated mansion she lives in with her abusive boyfriend Adrian Griffin and does so by drugging him with sleeping pills and running into the nearby woods to find her sister Emily. Adrian wakes up earlier than planned and catches up to Cecilia, but she still escapes. During the escape, Cecilia drops the package with the sleeping pills, whose prescription was in her name. Two weeks later, a still traumatized Cecilia, who is hiding out at the home of her childhood friend and police officer, James Lanier, receives information from Adrian's brother, lawyer Tom Griffin, that Adrian had committed suicide by slitting his wrists, and a packet of medicine is on the table next to the will. Tom reads Adrian's last message to her, saying that "although their relationship was far from perfect, he hoped she would talk to him instead of running away," and then tells her that he would like her to receive $5 million, in monthly installments of $100,000, on the condition that during the inheritance Cecilia would not be deemed mentally incompetent, otherwise the payment would be stopped.

Cecilia knows that Adrian exercises enormous power over Tom, and suspects that he has participated in simulating Adrian's death. Several strange events ensue, leaving Cecilia more and more convinced that Adrian is still alive and that he has found a way to become invisible so that he can pursue her with impunity according to his threats.

During the film, Adrian and Tom wear the clothes that create an optical illusion that makes them invisible, leaving Cecilia even more confused, because while she thought she was being chased by one invisible Adrian, in reality both are haunting her at the same time, hiding inside James' house, causing several accidents that make her look like a madwoman before James and Sydney, and like a murderer in the scene of Emily's death in the restaurant.

Therefore, the romanticization of the figure of the abuser is one of the metaphors used in the film, in addition to the metaphor of invisibility, and consequent impunity by justice, since a crime without flagrante, witnesses or reliable victims, does not exist.

Adrian haunts Cecilia and manipulates the facts to make Emily, James, and Sydney stop trusting her, that is, pushing away the people who helped her escape, and start a new life without him. This behavior, of isolating the victim of abuse and removing her from her support network, is a characteristic behavior of abusive relationships, because the victim ends up alone, discredited, often isolated, and forbidden to work, after all, financial independence is fundamental to have freedom of choice.

Cecilia takes shelter in James' house, perhaps in the illusion that the fact that he is a policeman would help her feel more protected, however, despite this, James cannot see the evidence that his own house was being invaded, and that he and his daughter were also in danger. The ploy of making Cecilia look crazy works even with the policeman, because it seems easier to declare someone incapable than to ascertain the facts, however strange they may be.

As Cecilia runs away, she lists the situations she has suffered, all of which are common to abuse victims:

He says I can never leave him;

He controls how I dress;

He controls when I can leave the house;

He tries to control my thoughts, and when he imagines that I think something he doesn't like, I was still punished;

He says that wherever I go, he would find me, know where I am, even if I don't see him.

Complementing the list of abusive situations described by the character, we observe that she was constantly afraid, her perception of reality was questioned, her will to not get pregnant was not respected, that is, she was treated as if she were an accessory of Adrian's, an object that existed to satisfy his desires, ease his loneliness and maintain the illusion that he was loved.

By sabotaging her birth control pills, Adrian wants to force Cecilia to have a child with him, because having a child in common would create deep bonds that, in a way, would unite them forever, or even prevent a future separation, since a mother with a small baby would be even more vulnerable.

The scenes in the film, where the Invisible Man moves objects, leaves marks on the sofa or pulls the sheets off the bed while she sleeps, are intended to shake Cecilia's mental sanity, making her doubt her perception of the facts. Adrian takes advantage of her invisibility suit to use her computer, sending a fake e-mail on her behalf, creating intrigue between her sister and her, in a clear revenge against the help her sister gave him during the escape. Also, since he has free access to everything in the house, he hides the material from her portfolio, making her look inadequate in the job interview, which would make her regain her status as a woman and independent professional, as she was when she met him.

The job interview scene is a watershed in the story, as Cecilia, besides having an empty portfolio, faints and is taken to the hospital. There she learns that she had consumed a high dose of tranquilizers, which she did not know she had taken. She hangs up the phone before hearing that she was pregnant, and that her birth control pills had been tampered with. Finding the bottle of tranquilizer with her name on it, she realizes that there is indeed someone in the house and decides to go to the house where she and Adrian used to live, where she finds the special outfit that makes people invisible, and hides it in a secret closet, the same one where she kept her escape bag.

Since Adrian is invisible, that is, like every abuser, he cannot be seen, or since in many cases, the people around the individual in an abusive relationship do not want to become aware of the abuse of someone close, he can do whatever he wants. Neither her sister, nor best friend, believe her, which makes her more and more desperate, as she knows they think she is going crazy, paranoid.

Outside of fiction, the artifice of taking the hidden computer or cell phone is not necessary, as the abuse victim is required to provide her passwords to email, social media (when she is allowed to have them), and bank accounts. Text messages and phone calls are also usually watched and controlled. Several of these behaviors are classified as jealousy and proof of affection, making the perception of abuse even more difficult, as our toxic patriarchal society has raised men and women differently, where men have to be firm and command respect in the home, and women passive and submissive, and that some signs of abuse would be proof of love.

Although financial independence and high levels of education are the reality for many women, it is still common for women with more profitable or respectable professions than their partners to avoid humiliating them by sliding their own credit cards under the restaurant table so that the man can appear to be paying the bill.

The biggest difficulty for those who are in an abusive relationship is to be believed, because the abuser usually has a more acceptable social behavior, a more appropriate persona, in which the victim is seen as someone unbalanced who should be happy to have someone to take care of her, while in intimacy, the abuser shows his true face, something close to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In other cases, the aggressor is so violent that everyone is afraid to stand up to him or denounce him, because, as the film shows so well, anyone who stands between the aggressor and the victim of abuse is considered an enemy, and at risk, even of their life, as the news headlines show us.

The abuser commits or provokes crimes that put the victim of abuse in a suspicious situation, as in the assault on Sydney, the daughter of her police friend, who, to protect his daughter, asks Cecilia to leave his house, exactly what the abuser wanted to happen. He even kills his sister in public, so that she is arrested, because nobody else knew that he was there, hidden in his invisibility suit. In real life, the costume is not necessary, as the abuser can easily manipulate medication, equipment, and hide the evidence of the abuse and assaults, causing or faking accidents, or faking the victim's suicide.

It should be noted that the male perpetrator of domestic violence is not usually a typical criminal, with an extensive criminal record, being aggressive only in the domestic environment, which emphasizes the metaphorical view used by the film, that is, the aggressor is as if he were invisible to society. Because the causes of domestic violence are justified by the macho upbringing characteristic of our society, often combined with alcohol and other substance abuse, support groups usually lead to reflection and reduction of domestic violence rates, and may inhibit its recidivism and act in a preventive way.

The victim of abuse, however, feels increasingly incapable of getting out of the situation, discredited by everyone, and as she usually doesn't have a persona full of subterfuges, her sincerity is easily manipulated and misrepresented by the abuser.

Victims of abuse often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and take a long time to recover. The film shows Cecilia's revenge, who uses the same tricks as her abuser, killing him, simulating his suicide, just as he simulated that she had murdered her sister. However, in real life, victims of abuse do not usually assume the behavior of the abuser and act out of revenge; in most cases, it is the victim who needs to become invisible, disappear, change her name and city, to get away from the abuser who usually pursues the victim for a long time.

Fortunately, there is currently a support network in Brazil, the Secretaria Municipal de Direitos Humanos e Cidadania (Municipal Secretariat of Human Rights and Citizenship), - SMDHC- (the electronic address below has the link to several services of support and protection to women victims of violence) that attends and receives victims of abuse and their children, numerous women's police stations, which may not yet function at their best, but indicate that a change is being forged.

Support and education groups for male aggressors are beginning to emerge , denouncing the fact that many aggressors were not even aware of their actions. Remembering that not every aggressor is a genius inventor and premeditated aggressor. Adrian himself is a fragile man, who trembles in Cecilia's presence, feeling vulnerable before her, showing that she has power over him. In fact, every assault victim exerts a kind of power over her attacker that makes him believe that he could only live if she were on his side, or that without her love he cannot survive. Usually, this fantasy that without the presence of that particular woman life has no meaning, or that to be left by her is an offensive act, originates, besides the biases of macho upbringing, in traumatic situations of abandonment, inferiority complex, low self-esteem, in which the presence of the partner implies in the individual's self-worth.

In our society, to form a romantic couple (not always really romantic) is a form of status and declaration of social success, in the case of women, it is common to hear criticism from other women - what good is such professional success, she is alone, without a husband? This common criticism in relation to the behavior of men and women continues to be expressed, either veiled or explicitly, and leads individuals who are in an unsatisfactory relationship to remain so. After all, as the song by Chico Buarque, immortalized in the voice of Gal Costa, says - my friend, get along with me, and thank God! In other words, popular culture still considers that it is better to be in bad company than alone.

Experience shows that this maxim is mistaken.

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