Daymare as Disruption to the System of Things:

                                         The Foreigner and Difference in Midsommar

  Robin Wood provides a nice one-sentence definition for horror films: “normality is

  threatened by the monster.” Midsommer is definitely this, only the monster is not

  something physical—it’s societal structures and the rules/limits they place on their


  This is immediately implied by the stark cut from the opening montage of trees, snow,

  nature, to the harshness of modern society (the film evokes the Western genre in this

  way—the tension between civil/wild—also see my blog post on The Revenant and The

  H8ful Eight for an example of this point). The film directly establishes the tension between

  semiotic and symbolic spaces (the semiotic as tied to nature and the maternal, and the

  symbolic as tied to language, “proper” society, and the paternal). Hågra is situated on the

  side of nature, harmony of the elements/seasons, and emotion (language disintegrates

  into guttural cries of sadness, pain, etc.); the semiotic/maternal. Dani and Christian (and

  the Americans) represent the conformity to patriarchal standards that define American


  The film directly confronts the spectator with a problem – the relationship between two

  young adults is broken. It’s obvious that Dani and Christian should not be together, yet

  they keep playing the ‘role’ of boyfriend/girlfriend because patriarchal society expects

  them to (go out, find the love of your life, the American dream, etc.). This is the tension

  of the whole movie; patriarchy in crisis. Usually, the goal is to restore “normalcy” to the

  narrative (i.e., kill the monster, á la Frankenstien, Dracula, Friday the 13th, etc.). Midsommar

  does not.  

  Hårga also represents difference – a different perspective on relationships, death,

  men/women, emotion, etc. The American kids all reject, disrespect, or view the difference

  of the commune as something foreign to them. Think of why the majority of them die.

  Mark is a stupid bro who disrespects the sacred tree, Josh is consumed by his thesis, and

  unconcerned with the fact that he is commodifying these people as a “project” instead of

  respecting their ceremony/culture. Christian just wants to leave Dani but is too weak to

  express his true emotions, and Dani is too weak to realize she doesn't need a man in her

  life for strength. These are ugly people who see the world through their U.S.A.-colored

  glasses, and do not change – all except Dani.

  Dani has experienced great loss (read: the disruption of American family; no greater

  tragedy in horror films), and she is open to the idea of Hårga. She grieves with them,

  shares work with them, engages in the dancing ceremony, etc. Hårga as semiotic/

  maternal/nature stands in opposition to the American perspective of patriarchy/

  consumption heteronormativity. The genius of the movie is, both systems are flawed.

  The Hågra adhere to the system of things just like Americans do, but they are

  different. Not better, or worse, just different. What’s implied is this: the structure of

  societies of all kinds are flawed. There are multiple ways of doing things, and multiple

  ways of interpreting the world, death, love, emotion, etc. The American kids all end up

  freaking out at the difference they encounter (because Americans are largely selfish,

  dichotomous-thinking, elitist, narcissists—how dare you take control of your own death,

  what strange customs the Hågra have, that's not how we do things in the U.S.A., etc.),

  but not Dani. This is why there is such great joy in seeing her in CU at the end,

  surrounded by nature, immersed in the semiotic, as a figure who is now connected to the

  maternal through the acceptance of difference into her life. There is the assertion that

  societies of all kinds are problematic, so let’s try something new. Let’s invest in a system

  that respects difference, and operates from a semiotic/maternal position, rather than a

  symbolic/patriarchal one.

  Dani’s/woman’s power comes from asserting her own independence and reconnecting

  with her maternal/natural space. She accepts the commune, the difference they offer, and

  regresses to the semiotic where she finds happiness. Pelle says it to Dani himself at one

  point, something to the effect of—“we both come from broken families, the only

  difference is, I found a new family in Hårga.” This is what the films says about

  contemporary culture. Not that we should come together as Americans (the standard

  contemporary bullshit about putting aside difference), but that we should accept

  difference into our lives, leading to the true acceptance of otherness.

  This film is also an homage to The Shining (1980) in its look, feel, cinematography, sound,

  narrative, and critique of culture. The Shining is about a racist, abusive, white, hetero

  male who is slowly trying to come to grips with the changes in society that he perceives

  as threatening (black/native culture, sexual promiscuity, women, are all threats to him).

  This is a common misperception about movements like Black Lives Matter, et. al. It’s not

  that black people, women, trans people, etc. want to “take over and surmount”

  patriarchal identity; these groups just want equal footing. Jack, and those like him,

  misinterpret concepts like feminism as violence against their identities. What's really at

  stake is American/patriarchal guilt over its atrocities towards women, minorities, and

  other Others, during the transition of the 1960s into the 70s (which, along with the fear

  of difference, is the root of most of our problems as a society right now).

posted on 07/16/19 by apw