There are a lot of subjects that have become insanely sensitive to talk about these days, and gender is one that usually hits the nerve of a lot of people. That could be why They/Them didn’t really strike it big with some folks, but it was interesting enough for quite a few folks to watch. Then again, it could have been the fact that Kevin Bacon was starring in it since he’s still a big draw. Whatever the case is, this movie did manage to get some attention since it does manage to hit the right buttons that tend to trigger people. From the moment the campers arrive, there’s a growing level of cringe that starts to build as Camp Whistler appears to welcome them in. The camp director appears less than genuine, and the other camp employees, well, it doesn’t look as though they’re ready to fall over themselves, making people feel comfortable in their own skin. If any viewer fails to see the veiled hostility within this movie, it’s easy to think that they might need to view the story through a different lens since the social commentary being used to fuel this movie is a bit obvious.
There’s no denying that the campers push back from the start.
Sympathy for anyone isn’t exactly easy to come by in this movie, but it’s certainly sought out since the whole idea of conversion therapy is what appears to drive this story. The mere act of splitting boys and girls into their own cabins appears to be a microaggression that causes a bit of struggle between the camp counselor, Owen, and a few of the campers. The movie continues to move along in this manner as recognizing and acknowledging gender, pronouns, and preferences become a continual challenge as the campers decide to stand their ground and express themselves in ways that make them comfortable and affirm their beliefs in who they are. Sadly, they’re not allowed to focus on themselves without a continual challenge to their sense of self.
This movie does feel like a continual fight between children that want to get their way.
That might sound simplistic and could even offend some folks…but oh well. The fact is that this movie is one of those that seek to make a point in one direction or another and ends up not only making the antagonists look as cold and unforgiving as possible but also making the protagonists look, well, kind of ridiculous. In fact, there’s little redeeming value to the campers apart from the idea that treating them with respect and trying to understand who they are, not what they appear to be, is far more important. If anything, this movie feels like a giant fight between those in Camp Whistler to turn the campers into ‘normal’ individuals. Between making the campers feel like human garbage due to their preferences and trying to convert them in one way or another, Camp Whistler is the type of place that people are forced to visit. They don’t generally visit because it’s a fun place.
The horrors of conversion therapy feel as though they’re expanded in ways that no longer exist.
There’s no desire to deny the hardships and even horrors that people of the LGBTQ+ community might face, but this movie feels as though it blows them way out of proportions just as much as any horror movie takes one facet or more of life and makes people fear what they don’t understand. The attempts to convert the campers are horrific in a way that can’t be fully explained since those who don’t live this lifestyle might not fully understand the terror involved. With that being said, the movie does offer up enough cringe-worthy material that makes one feel that the person behind the camera was either looking for the shock and awe that a lot of audiences feel with movies such as these or was attempting to make a point and kind of drifted away from the main thrust of their message. Whatever the case, They/Them is the type of movie that does have a bit of promise to it but fizzles out the moment the secret is revealed. The fact that someone who had survived the camp came back to be the killer isn’t much of a surprise, but it does feel like justice in some way.
How people look at this movie kind of depends on how they look at society.
Some no doubt think that the campers were completely in the right for reacting the way they did, and they’re not wrong. Some might think that the campers were a little overplayed, and they’re not wrong either. The truth is that the amount of push and pull in this movie feels more like children trying to get their way with each other than grown adults trying to make a point. If anything, They/Them points out the glaring issues that can arise when people stop treating each other like people and allow their differences to define them.
There is a lesson there, but it’s one that many end up failing too often.