What Fresh Hell is This?

So I watched Fresh. I did this a couple of weeks after it premiered on Hulu, which is not something I usually do. I’m notoriously bad at watching things in a timely manner if I’m not required to. However, after seeing half of a trailer for Fresh and its potential cannibal vibes, I knew it was right up my alley. I am at all times intrigued by media portrayals of cannibalism because I have an anthropology degree. And I enjoyed Fresh a great deal. I thought it was fun and terrifying and funny and smart. And one specific aspect caught my attention by how not shocking it was.

(There are spoilers in here, so, if you haven’t seen Fresh and don’t want to be spoiled, turn away. Go watch the film, then come back and read this – because it’s really good. I promise.)

I’m talking about the scene in which Noa’s (Daisy Edgar-Jones) best friend Mollie (Jojo T. Gibbs), who has been investigating Noa’s disappearance, finds out that Steve (Sebastian Stan) is actually married with kids, and goes to Steve’s house to confront him. Instead of finding Steve (of actually-being-named-Brendan fame), Mollie finds Steve / Brendan’s wife Ann (Charlotte Le Bon). Mollie ends up telling Ann what she knows about Steve to try to get her to help her find Noa…but Ann feigns complete ignorance. On top of that, Ann has such a non-reaction to Mollie’s fears about Steve potentially harming Noa – it was at this point that I knew the wife was in on the cannibal scheming, because how on Earth do you hear someone accuse your husband, YOUR HUSBAND, of kidnapping and all you react with is fake sympathy? That is very fishy behavior!

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Daisy Edgar-Jones as Noa (COURTESY: 2022 Sundance Institute/Searchlight Pictures/Hulu)

I had a feeling from the moment Ann answered the door that she was part of Steve’s diabolical endeavors. Part of me hoped she wasn’t so I could see her find out, because I love mess. But at no point was I surprised by how the entire scene unfolded – not even when Steve came home. I didn’t have to think too much about why I wasn’t surprised; instead, I waited and watched the whole film before I decided to form a strong enough opinion to write this piece. Fresh goes on to reveal Ann as a former victim of Steve’s with whom he “fell in love” and married. And at the end of movie, when Steve has been defeated, Ann arrives to pursue Noa, Mollie, and Penny. Ann ends up trying to strangle Noa to death, but Mollie comes to her rescue, killing Ann and screaming “Bitches like you are the problem.” And like…EXACTLY THAT.

I have so many thoughts, you guys. Ann’s involvement in Steve’s cannibal pursuits after being a victim of them was unsurprising, because that’s what white women do. They align themselves with their oppressor under the misguided idea that it will give them power and make it impossible for them to be further victimized again. Except, newsflash: they’re still a victim and participating in the system that works to oppress anyone who isn’t a cisgender heterosexual white male. White women like Ann mistakenly believe their whiteness will shield them from misogyny and sexism, despite ample evidence that it literally will not. It’s fascinating to me how effective Fresh was – whether or not it intended to be – in commenting on such a huge issue using a character with such a small part. This type of commentary isn’t groundbreaking, of course, but Ann’s role still highlights an important social issue – especially in a movie that offers as blatant a commentary on the structure of the patriarchy and men’s entitlement to women’s bodies as Fresh does.

There are countless examples of white women upholding the patriarchy that harms themselves along with other women and minorities. They’ll even do it while fighting for civil rights and claiming to want equality. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton quite famously only wanted white women to have the right to vote. And they’re still touted as women’s rights activists. This bizarre need to put whiteness above solidarity with other minorities is one of the fundamental reasons why TERFS (trans exclusionary radical feminists) exist. It’s why girlbossery got so popular. It’s all extremely hollow and completely palatable to the patriarchal structures that govern our society. That’s why it prevails. It’s sick, and Ann gives us a small window into that mindset.

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Sebastian Stan as Steve and Daisy Edgar-Jones as Noa (COURTESY: 2022 Sundance Institute/Searchlight Pictures/Hulu)

Ann is a direct foil to Noa, who, when put in the same situation as Ann, chose her freedom and her friends. Noa could have escaped, but she didn’t. She made sure her friends left with her. That’s what an ally does. And it didn’t go unnoticed that her two fellow captives were women of color. Noa prioritized going back for them and getting them to relative safety. You could, if you really wanted to, argue that Ann trauma bonded with Steve or she had Stockholm Syndrome or was coerced in some other way. But that wouldn’t change her actions. It might help to explain some of what she’s done; ultimately, though, she chose wrong and Noa did not.

Fresh was an excellent, entertaining film with a twist that, while not shocking, was extremely intriguing. There’s depth to the film and it doesn’t beat you over the head with a message. Instead, it shows two sides of the same coin. Ann and Noa: A white woman who chose to support her oppressor and one who chose to stand in solidarity against him. Plus, Fresh has cannibalism, which I just love so much.

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