Midsommar resonates with just about everyone. A breakup story turned slasher flick with a “fairy tale” ending; the grief, disorientation, and toxic dynamics dominating the film could brutally stab at just about anyone’s heart, but Dani’s journey of loss, rejection, and manipulation by unsavory actors, in particular, seems all too familiar to younger queer viewers.
Queer cis and gender nonconforming adults are twice as likely to be homeless than cishet adults, binary trans adults are 8 times as likely. For youth, the numbers are even bleaker, with 40% of all homeless youth identifying as LGBTQ+ despite making up 7% of the population in the age bracket, and a not-so-mind-boggling (for queer readers) 25% of teens who come out to their parents are forced to leave their home. A year after Bostock v. Clayton County, the law still hasn’t caught up, even as hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people are on the rise. Amidst all this, queer people are 2-3 times as likely to suffer from addiction, and, of-f***ing-course, Black LGBTQ+ people, especially transfeminine Black people, are likely to face the same oppression and discrimination, but at several horrific magnitudes worse.
The movie opens in isolation, a suburb seemingly populated only by the uncaring corpses of Dani’s late family. After the tragedy, the only person she can confide in is an emotionally distant boyfriend, Christian. How many young queer people, rejected by their families, turn to homophobic and transphobic friends, evangelical school administrators, and overtaxed support groups? Completely lost and alone, Dani’s only escape is a summer trip to the fictional Swedish village Hȧrga with her boyfriend’s equally toxic anthropology classmates, Josh and Mark, along with Hȧrga native Pelle, for their annual Midsummer celebration.
Due to the specific problems queer people face, a process of homosocialization (forming an accepting queer community around oneself) is likely to take place after coming out. I’m sure most LGBTQ+ people can relate to this: if your blood family won’t love you for who you are, choose one that will and one that also understands your personal struggles intimately (I can count my binary friends on two hands, much less cisgender). However, some people have more ability than others to find their chosen family, and, more visibly, some have a much higher ability of not needing one.
When a progressive American imagines a queer person, who are they more likely to imagine: a non-binary Indigenous person suffering from (purposeful and systematic) poverty? Or a wealthy, white, cis, “masculine” gay man?
Who holds more social capital? How many oil and gas companies purposefully destroying our planet, clothes companies built on child labor, billionaires actively contributing and benefiting from the Fourth World War throw a pride flag on a product and change their social media profile pictures to technicolor rainbows to get a dollar? The chase for the pursuit of infinite profits certainly targets the most oppressed as consumers, but the homeless trans youth aren’t buying pride-themed BMW floor mats. The “acceptable” LGBTQ+ people are pretty obvious, but with a little class analysis, I think it’s clear they’re also not the ones benefiting from this pinkwashing.
On the way to the Hȧrga’s commune, Dani is totally dehumanized. Purposefully forced to relive her trauma by Pelle, stuck in the car while the rest of the protagonists ogle women on the sidewalk, and guilt-tripped into a shroom trip she and Christian both know she isn’t in the right mindset for, Dani’s first view of the Hȧrga was certainly tainted by her complete loss of normalcy.
It is almost certainly no coincidence that in this story steeped in betrayal (Christian and Josh, Pelle and the main cast, literally everyone and Dani) would have a not-so-subtly fascist coded Swedish cult as the primary antagonist, complete with esoteric runes, strict gender roles, and pure bloodlines. An ideology completely reliant on betraying those closest to you (“First they came …”) to maintain hierarchies and arbitrary values placed on human lives to maintain a dying status quo is the perfect representation of the loss Dani feels, the isolation she continually finds herself facing, and the toxicity she is willing to live with.
As the narrative starts to heat up with shouting matches and dizzying shot transitions, so too does the tension and unease for the viewer. I find myself cringing every time I see the fate of Mark and Josh as the cracks in the group’s dynamic begin to rupture. Mark’s face made into a crude mask and Josh being brutally bludgeoned, both for slights on the Hȧrga’s traditions.
Not only the quick reveal and brutal simplicity of the onscreen kill, Texas Chainsaw Massacre style, but the nonchalant reaction Christian has to hearing something happened to the Hȧrga’s holy book, despite Dani’s repeated worry over what has been happening to not only the other Americans, but also their British counterparts. Despite their different narratives and the social power dynamics at play, the only person really capable of helping Dani (and being helped by her!) is Christian, but he is too interested in the promises of academic and financial success to break face for either of their benefit.
Probably the most memorable portion of Midsommar for many viewers is the last third of the film, from the May Queen dance to the fiery conclusion. As the already deeply troubled relationship between Dani and Christian is torn apart, we see Dani get her horrific fairy tale ending. But we, the audience, know what was going on behind the scenes. We know it’s in the Hȧrga’s, and more specifically, Pelle’s interest to sacrifice the party and convert Dani.
We know that Christian was drugged, conflict was encouraged, and that they were all marked for sacrifice from the beginning. The Hȧrga aren’t on Dani’s side, but it’s in their best interest to put on a show as they divide the already strained relationships between the protagonists.
Once a year, almost every large corporation in the US changes their Twitter profile picture to a rainbow-colored version of their trademarked logo and incorporates a Netflix-famous drag queen into their advertising. But we all know those same corporations donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to conservative think-tanks and homophobic politicians.
We know the working conditions in sweatshops and lithium mines. We know they bust unions and play both sides to divide the working class. Yet they still win, year after year. We buy their products and ignore their actions, but we condemn our neighbors in poverty who have been sucked into believing that LGBTQ+ people present a danger to their existence and identity.
At the end of Midsommar, Dani is given a choice. She can sacrifice her apparently cheating boyfriend or a member of the community that, from her perspective, has shown her nothing but kindness. But who was her real enemy, and who could she have formed a more healthy, mutual bond with under different conditions?
We know that Dani was coerced into this decision, and we, as queer people, know we are being marketed to despite our egregious treatment by heteronormative social standards and inadequate laws to protect our safety and dignity. Dani made the wrong choice, and a lot of young LGBTQ+ folks have been falling for a gruesomely similar trap.
As a united front, we have the ability to look after each other without double-sided corporate pandering, but we need to recognize and properly react to the insidious propaganda presented to us by billionaires whose greatest sufferance is not having an extra zero on the end of their bank account. To quote the wise and timeless Rom from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: “Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!”