Jason Arment

In Review: Antlers and “The Quiet Boy”

(Antlers, detail of theatrical release poster, courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Jason Arment looks at what can happen when Hollywood tries to expand a short story into a full-length film, as is the case with “The Quiet Boy” and Antlers.

 

When I first saw the previews for Antlers, I was excited. Movies released during the aftermath of the 2020 pandemic have mostly been hot garbage, the movie Lamb a rare exception, so I was eager for cinema that wouldn’t make me wonder how it ever got this low.

But it was not to be. Antlers is corny.

Trying to figure out what happened, I did a little internet sleuthing. Antlers is based on the short story “The Quiet Boy” published in the upper echelon literary review Guernica Magazine. The short story was only interesting in so much as it harkened to the movie. In Guernica’s defense, there isn’t overt racism in the story like there is in the movie. If they want to publish Hollywood adjacent writers when they accidentally write something worth a damn, I don’t see the harm. Except that, in this case, the writer went on to advance tired racist Native American tropes.

 

Perhaps if the writer had been more concerned with being “true” than what they must consider “clever”—stitching certain details into a story so they tie in can quickly turn into an ugly scar—it would have been obvious how racist the whole thing really was, on its face, and indisputably.

 

Perhaps if the writer had been more concerned with being “true” than what they must consider “clever”—stitching certain details into a story so they tie in can quickly turn into an ugly scar—it would have been obvious how racist the whole thing really was, on its face, and indisputably. The really racist easter egg I’ll reveal here for my readers is: the wendigo spirit was never represented by North American indigenous as having antlers or a likeness to a stag and is now so only because of a cheesy horror movie where the director used a rubber deer head as an actor-worn prop without ever doing any research on the wendigo spirit. If he had, he would have found Matt Fox’s artistic depiction of the wendigo from 1944, which also had fur and antlers. (Consider yourself served by the racist Easter Bunny.)

The movie feels like the writer wanted to explore and expand on the short story but needed more material and needed that material to be in a different genre than the surrealism and magical realism of the original and, thus, the wendigo entered the tale but in the worst way. Some may say I’m being too hard on the author, the movie, and the literary magazine that published the short story that launched the film, but I beg to differ. As a writer, I am held to an insane standard. I have to beat the odds. I have to be woke (in the way of modern Liberalism) without mentioning Marx or Lenin. I need to endlessly submit to myriad literary magazines without complaining about the prohibitive cost or how it wastes my time. I am forced to watch BIPOC people be tokenized and expected to go along with their fetishizement—sort of like what happens to Native American culture in Antlers. And because I’m a working-class man who thinks for himself, I’ll never be one of the “cool” kids or part of the “in” crowd.

 


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You’ll have to forgive me. I become upset when literature is used as a veil for vanity projects, or for a writer’s ego, or when a trendy “little,” as the small literary magazines used to be called, decides to jump in bed with a Hollywood type who goes on to write a racist film. So, great job, everyone who was involved with this. Way to let a false prophet take up space. Next, you can publish an interview with Elon Musk and let him go on and on about working conditions in the United States without bringing up his market manipulation. Maybe resurrect, literally, Hitler and let him go on about how he was Time’s Man of the Year, back in the day. It could be tied back into Elon’s current Time’s Person of the Year award, and how Time instinctively knows which men will drastically change the world.

Or maybe it’s time to wake up. You could pay attention to writers who aren’t interested in shortcuts and who really believe in what they’re doing. Or not. You can always ignore me. Just don’t post any of this on your social media or talk about it at cocktail parties and I’m sure no one will care. But know that you should feel bad and you need to do better.

On a positive note, at least the writer of “The Quiet Boy” didn’t go on to have something to do with Cuties. (Consider yourself visited by the pop culture fairy of dark humor.)

 

Jason Arment is the author of Musalaheen, a war memoir published by University of Hell Press.

 

Jason Arment

Jason Arment served in Operation Iraqi Freedom as a Machine Gunner in the USMC. He's earned an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. His work has appeared in Narrative Magazine, Lunch Ticket, Chautauqua, Hippocampus, The Burrow Press Review, Dirty Chai, and War, Literature & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities; anthologized in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors Volume 2 & 4; and is forthcoming in Gulf Coast, The Florida Review, and Phoebe. Jason lives in Denver.

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