One of the most absurd social experiments that has been widely advertised as the best way to make a man understand what it’s like to be a woman is by hooking them up to a period simulator machine or a labor pain simulator. It’s usually played for laughs, and everyone behaves like that man now suddenly understands women and will start to respect them more. Really? Is that what it takes to open a man’s eyes to the reality of women? If that’s the case, then I can assure you that the effect is only temporary. There’s more to women than what’s happening inside their bodies. To see the world through a woman’s eyes, you have to listen to them first. The rest comes after that. “Roar “(2022), created by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch and based on Cecelia Ahern’s book of the same name, is the most accessible medium that’ll allow you to do so, virtually.
Major Spoilers Ahead
‘Roar’ Episode 1: The Woman Who Disappeared – Recap & Ending Explained
Directed by Channing Godfrey Peoples and written by Janine Nabers, “The Woman Who Disappeared” follows Wanda (Issa Rae), a novelist whose book about her life is a bestseller. She has been called to Los Angeles under the pretext of turning her book into a movie. As soon as she walks through the airport, she notices an advertisement targeted at African Americans, assuring them that the city (or the advertiser) is fighting against racism. Wanda comes across a (white) woman reading her book, but the reader fails to recognize Wanda. Then she meets Blake (Griffin Mathews), who exposes another layer of racism in LA by saying how he doesn’t use his Ugandan first name because that makes it easier to deal with white people who can’t “spell” it. Wanda’s reservation is canceled. The only good thing that happens to her is that she’s made to stay at a million-dollar home fitted with a spa, a swimming pool, and a view of LA.
Filled with optimism, Wanda goes to the producers’ office the next day, only to face another dose of racism as the camera fails to take her picture because it’s apparently not calibrated properly to capture black skin. Blake does come to her rescue, but then dumps a bunch of traumatic information about the problematic traits of the producers. Doug (Nick Kroll), Brian (Damian Joseph Quinn), and Nick (Allan McLeod), initially listen to Wanda’s thoughts about her book and the inspiration behind it being her father very enthusiastically. But when Wanda starts talking about turning the book into a movie, the trio shifts her focus to Aaron (Gregg Keller), who says that it’s not going to be a movie. Instead, it’s going to be a virtual reality experience that will allow viewers (or players) to have the African American experience first-hand. This obviously comes as a shock to Wanda, and she protests. The men don’t respond, making it seem like Wanda froze and actually said the things she said in her mind. However, that’s not exactly what’s going on.
Before entering the final act of “The Woman Who Disappeared,” Wanda confronts her friend (Lauren E. Banks) about the moment where the men seemingly didn’t hear her say anything when she protested against the idea of turning her traumatic experience into a VR game. Instead, they just told her to come to a party to hash things out. When Wanda goes to buy a dress for said party, white people seemingly start to treat her as if she’s literally invisible (she actually sees herself fading away in the changing room mirror). She walks around 4 miles because her cab was apparently canceled. And when she gets there, nobody sees her. They just strap on the VR headsets and watch the chapter where Wanda’s dad gets arrested by the police. Wanda leaves the place absolutely shattered after seeing her life get exploited like that without her consent.
Outside, Wanda comes across Blake, who comforts her. Blake asks Wanda if she’s okay. Wanda responds that she doesn’t know what she is. Blake reassures her that she does. With her confidence rejuvenated, Wanda walks in to confront the producers, and the episode of “Roar” ends there. Everything from Issa Rae’s acting to the subject matter, Chris Manley’s cinematography, and the direction are on point. It manages to establish how a black woman’s identity can be commodified by white men and what it feels like when one’s experience, one’s body is inhabited by unknown people for “entertainment.” But it ends a little too abruptly. Was Wanda actually disappearing? Or was it metaphorical? Or both? What’s the solution to this erasure? These questions that “The Woman Who Disappeared” raise are never answered. Well, maybe the intent is to keep you thinking instead of giving you an easy resolution.
‘Roar’ Episode 2: The Woman Who Ate Photographs – Recap & Ending Explained
Directed by Kim Gehrig and written by Liz Flahive, “The Woman Who Ate Photographs” follows a mother of two (Nicole Kidman) who plans to bring her mother (Judy Davis) home to live with her as she’s losing herself to dementia. After some light bickering over the whole situation with her elder son (Kai Lewins) and husband (Simon Baker), Kidman sets off to bring Davis home in a rental van meant to hold all of Davis’s things. But upon reaching, Davis says that she doesn’t want to take anything in order to protest Kidman’s efforts to take her away from her home. While waiting for Davis to pack, Kidman goes through all the memorabilia from her childhood and comes across a photo album. She picks up a photo of herself eating an ice cream cone and gets a little emotional. However, then she does the weirdest thing. She eats the photo, literally. And then things get weirder when it seems like Kidman’s mind has been transported to that point in time when the photo was taken.
Kidman brushes the experience off and sets off on a road trip while secretly taking all the photo albums that were there in Davis’s house. They stop at a restaurant where they talk about each other’s lives until Kidman pulls out one of the photo albums to reminisce about their past. But Davis is put off by that, and she tells Kidman to put it away. Dejected, Kidman takes the photo album to the washroom and just starts chomping on those photos, which take her to various moments in her history. Kidman continues the road trip as if nothing has happened. The duo stop at a motel after Davis says that she’s exhausted. As soon as Davis goes to sleep, Kidman resumes her photo-eating business until she passes out. When she wakes up the next day, she thinks her mother has left the room and gotten lost. Davis casually appears out of the bathroom, and that’s followed by a tender bonding moment between her and Kidman.
“The Woman Who Ate Photographs” is a metaphor for overdosing on nostalgia out of fear of losing the thing that makes a person unique: their memories. Although Kidman appears very put-together all the time, you can see her coming undone due to her dependence on photographs and the momentary disappearance of her mother. In a scene with Baker, Kidman admits that she isn’t fine at all. She still misses her father. She is anxious about her mother losing herself to dementia. She is skeptical about her elder son moving out. So, she feels that there’s going to be nothing that’ll tie her to her past. Hence, she’s eating her photos as a means to preserve them inside her. That means that this short also doubles as a look at eating disorders related to anxiety and depression. That said, the ending is slightly upbeat as Baker assures Kidman that he’ll be there for her. We see Davis bonding with Kidman’s younger son over Zelda. And as Kidman’s elder son gives Kidman a hug, Kidman and Davis lock eyes to non-verbally express their love for each other.
‘Roar’ Episode 3: The Woman Who Was Kept on a Shelf – Recap & Ending Explained
Directed by So Yong Kim and written by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, “The Woman Who Was Kept on a Shelf” follows Amelia (Betty Gilpin), whose entire life is governed by something her mother used to say: “If I had to choose between you being smart and you being beautiful, I’d choose beautiful every time.” She works as a model, and during one of her runway walks, she falls in love with a man named Henry (Daniel Dae Kim). Then Amelia moves in with Henry, and they live happily ever after. Well, not really. One day, Amelia wakes up to the noise of Henry building something, and she finds out that he has built a shelf. She asks him if it’s for his golf trophies or books. But Henry keeps saying it’s for Amelia. And when Amelia fails to understand, Henry explicitly says that the shelf is for Amelia to sit on so that Henry can look at her and feel inspired to do her job.
Amelia is a little taken back, but she smiles and says that she has a job to go to. Henry says that he should quit because she keeps saying that she doesn’t like the job, is creeped out by the photographers, and that the hours are abusive. When Amelia says that it’s not always going to be like that. Henry says that she’s too precious and extraordinary to slog. Amelia wonders what comments people are going to make about this situation. Henry says that it’s about their relationship and nothing else matters. Essentially, Henry says everything that Amelia wants to hear in order to get her on the shelf. And since Amelia doesn’t get the time or the space to process all this, she complies and gets put on the shelf. Henry removes the stairs up to it, and for the next few days/weeks, he showers her with gifts, parties, dresses, food, and everything that she wants. It starts going downhill one day after he only gives her a kiss.
The most basic reading of “The Woman Who Was Kept on a Shelf” is that Amelia is a trophy wife. So, she should be happy to be treated as such, a trophy on a shelf. But when Henry gets busy with his life, faces his desk away from her, and straight up ignores her, the misogyny of it all becomes apparent. And that anyone who’s deemed a “trophy wife” cannot be happy in that situation. Hence, Amelia’s eventual escape, her glorious dance number, her self-acceptance feel triumphant. However, then the sad realization dawns upon Amelia (as well as the audience, I hope) that now, after three years of sitting on a shelf, that’s the one thing she knows how to do well. It’s not revealed how she started her own beauty line. She has a knack for cosmetics, and it’s probably not very tough for privileged white women who fit into society’s regressive beauty standards for women. However, that doesn’t get her off of the shelf. Misogyny is a part of her now, and it’s spreading. Gilpin even looks at the camera for a millisecond, which is a way of acknowledging that she knows that the audience is judging her.
‘Roar’ Episode 4: The Woman Who Found Bite Marks on Her Skin – Recap & Ending Explained
Directed by Rashida Jones and written by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, “The Woman Who Found Bite Marks on Her Skin” tells Ambia’s (Cynthia Erivo) story as she gives birth to her second child with husband Greg (Jake Johnson). It’s a son, and everyone, including the doctors, appears to be very happy that the delivery went well. While Greg goes ahead to click pictures of the kid, Ambia complains about her pain. The doctor tells Ambia that it could be because of the hormones or the medicine. But Ambia keeps saying that something is wrong. That’s when Greg notices that she’s hemorrhaging. Ambia faints, and we cut to several years later as she’s preparing to go to the office while Greg utilizes his paternity leave to look after their daughter Zoe (Jordyn Weitz) and son Harvey. Zoe protests, and Ambia promises to be there for her during bedtime.
At her workplace, Ambia leads a team of four, who seem to have a good rapport with Ambia. So much so that they try their best to make it seem like they’re okay with Ambia pumping her breast milk in front of them. That has the opposite effect, though, as Ambia resorts to the janitor’s closet to do the same, where she notices a strange mark on her chest. By the time she gets home, the mark has grown. The following morning, after falling asleep beside Zoe, she wakes up with deep tooth marks on her thigh. She suspects that it’s Zoe’s doing but continues to soldier on. As she packs for a business trip, she has a mild argument with Greg about responsibilities. The narrative abruptly cuts to Ambia’s trip, which seems to be going fine until she confronts Rodney (P.J. Byrne) about his efforts to usurp her. After partying, she retires to her room only to find out that Harvey has gone down with a fever, and Greg is pretty angry that she didn’t pick up her phone when he called her. The next day, all hell breaks loose as Ambia wakes up to bite barks all over her face and neck.
The commentary of “The Woman Who Found Bite Marks on Her Skin” covers everything between workplace politics (which is motivated by race and sex) and the difference between working mothers and working fathers. But most importantly, it’s about postpartum depression. In a particularly gnarly sequence where the episode’s immaculate acting, direction, writing, special effects, and VFX collide, we see Ambia extracting a tooth from her skin. She faints and wakes up at a hospital (which doesn’t act like a hospital, as the people who speak to her in metaphors). She makes her way to a mom’s group where every woman is horribly scarred. Initially, Ambia is skeptical about opening up. However, eventually, she starts talking about the hardships she has faced while trying to balance her work and personal life. She reveals Zoe’s habit of pinching Ambia every time she’s home and not at work. She feels guilty about Greg’s resentment and the fact that she can’t tell Harvey that his birth was beautiful since it was a bloodbath. One of the mums agrees and says that she is letting that guilt eat her alive. When Greg comes to visit her, Ambia shows visible signs of healing, thereby signifying that she has begun the journey of not beating herself up for being a working mother.
‘Roar’ Episode 5: The Woman Who Was Fed by a Duck – Recap & Ending Explained
Directed by Liz Flahive and written by Halley Feiffer, “The Woman Who Was Fed by a Duck” opens with Elisa (Merritt Wever), an MCAT aspirant, going about her day in a park, talking to her sister Lily (Riki Lindhome) about her dating life and Lily’s life as a mother. Elisa jokingly mentions that she has a few hot prospective boyfriends in front of her, only to reveal that they’re literally ducks, with the one with the green head being the hottest. They end the conversation on a realistic note, with Elisa saying that she doesn’t need to define herself with a date and that she’s content. Subsequently, she’s approached by Larry (Justin Kirk), the duck with the green head, and they start talking about each other, what they like, what they dislike, etc. Elisa is understandably shocked, but she is impressed by Larry’s wisdom and wit. So much so that she decides to meet up with Larry again.
Before meeting up with Larry, Elisa researches everything that she can know about a duck, and they have a little picnic together. Larry tells Elisa about how she should stop listening to her sister because all she wants is for Elisa to get into a relationship because she’s stuck in one and is only producing babies. Elisa asks Larry what ducks do when it rains, since Dave, the animal controller (Jason Mantzoukas), informs her that a storm is on its way. Just to be safe, Elisa takes Larry home, and he showers Elisa with more positive affirmations about her life goals and how her dreams of being a doctor mean she cares for everyone. This prompts Elisa to clean up her home, prepare for the MCAT more seriously, and make room for Larry. But on their first date since moving in together, Larry shows a bit of his dark side. That upsets Elisa, and Larry over-apologizes to make her feel better. However, even that’s subverted when Larry shits all over Elisa’s house because she went outside for a few hours.
Those who’ve encountered male feminists will know exactly what’s going on in “The Woman Who Was Fed by a Duck.” Those who haven’t, firstly, lucky you, and secondly, consider the episode of “Roar” a primer. Male feminists are a special species of men who are actually misogynists who mask their views with fake empathy, reasonable coitus, surface-level general knowledge, and apologies. But at the drop of a hat, they reveal their true selves and go from verbal abuse to physical abuse. The verdict is still out on the coitus. When Elisa and Larry’s relationship comes down to physical abuse, Lily confronts her and tells her to kick him out because she doesn’t deserve this. Elisa calls Dave, and Larry is taken away. When Dave tries to hit on Elisa, she says she needs time. Dave says that, unless Elisa meets a nice doctor (since she’s taking the MCAT), will it be okay if he gets back to her in a couple of months? Elisa says she doesn’t need a nice doctor. She is the nice doctor, thereby re-establishing the notion that Elisa doesn’t need a partner to define herself. Also, that New Yorker article about ducks and patriarchy is a real thing.
‘Roar’ Episode 6: The Woman Who Solved Her Own Murder – Recap & Ending Explained
Directed by Anya Adams and written by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, “The Woman Who Solved Her Own Murder” is about the murder of Becky (Alison Brie). Not just some regular murder, but one that’s synonymous with the Zodiac Killer and Hannibal Lecter, rife with symbolism and whatnot. In a smart bit of casting, the investigation is led by Bronson (Hugh Dancy) and his partner, Durst (Christopher Lowell). And they’re joined by Becky’s ghost! While Durst profiles Becky in a sexist fashion, calling her a prostitute because of the bunny costume and whip on Becky, Bronson expresses his sexism directly by demeaning the officer who called in on the crime, i.e., Carol (Ego Nwodim). Becky makes an annoying observation that Bronson does fit the “detective in a murder mystery genre” stereotype to a T because he looks handsome while being an absolute douchebag.
Well, being handsome and a douchebag doesn’t really help anyone, because neither Bronson nor Durst made any headway in the investigation. They interview Becky’s friend Christina (Jillian Bell), who lives with her brother Chad (Van Crosby). That doesn’t go anywhere. Becky learns, though, that she can influence electricity and move stuff. Then they go to Becky’s ex-boyfriend, Todd (Evan Gamble), Becky’s #1 suspect, who comes up with an acceptable, albeit problematic, alibi. Bronson gets into a fight with Todd after Becky pushes Todd into Bronson. Durst and Bronson part ways (momentarily) after a verbal fight. Instead of going solo, Bronson returns to his ex-wife, thereby forcing Becky to learn how to move things physically better so that she can solve the case on her own (hence, the title). That’s when she comes across a picture of her and Christina where she notices a familiar piece of item.
For a second, when Becky finds the leash (the same one with which she was strangled) in a picture with her and Christina, it seems like “The Woman Who Solved Her Own Murder” is going to take the cliched “jealous friend” trope. Becky is so convinced that Christina is the murderer that she starts haunting her. Chad interjects to say that he’s broken up about Becky’s death too. To which Christina replies, “his crush on Becky isn’t equal to years of friendship.” Something inside Becky clicks, and he follows Chad into his dungeon, where she sees him marinating in everything that’s synonymous with incel culture and also notices that his gaming avatar is similar to the bunny costume Becky was found in, and his gaming controller has the same number that was carved into Becky’s hand. After recovering from her shock, Becky sends all this information to Carol and advises her to solve it and get a promotion. It’s confirmed that the police managed to nab Chad because Becky transcends from her ghost-like state and dissolves into rainbow-esque dust.
‘Roar’ Episode 7: The Woman Who Returned Her Husband – Recap & Ending Explained
Directed by Quyen Tran and written by Vera Santamaria, “The Woman Who Returned Her Husband” is centered around Anu (Meera Syal) and her husband Vikas’s (Bernard White) relationship. The episode of “Roar” opens with the couple attending their daughter Sareena’s (Roshni Shukla) exhibition, where Anu is seen beaming with pride while Vikas chats with the security guard. When the couple gets back home, we are told that Vikas came home early instead of staying with Sareena till the end of the exhibition; hence Anu had to come home as well. They bicker over Vikas’s complacency and laziness as Anu continues to serve Vikas. During a brunch or lunch with the ladies, Anu announces that she’s done with Vikas. Some of the women display their classic South-Asian internalized misogyny and tell Anu to endure. Only one of them advises her to return her husband to the local supermarket.
Yes, you read that right. So, in this reality, wives can return their husbands and exchange them for new ones. The husband is put on sale in the “Husbands” section of the supermarket, and a price tag is put on them based on their age, abilities, etc. The number of times they are returned after that is directly proportional to the decrease in their That’s what Anu does to Vikas. She returns to him and then gets a husband who’s a model. But he thinks about his mother when he’s with Anu. Hence, she exchanges him for a fitness enthusiast. But he fat shames her, and she instantly returns to him. However, this time she doesn’t take any and instead has a conversation with Vikas, who is realizing that he needs to change. Anu returns home to plan a trip to Italy. When she looks out of her window, she sees that her neighbor, Barbara (Julie White), has picked up Vikas, thereby causing her to have a mental breakdown.
“The Woman Who Returned Her Husband” is an obvious mockery of the dowry system. Now, I could be wrong here, but the change in Vikas’s behavior is emblematic of how South Asian men behave around women who aren’t submissive. Or it shows the South Asian tradition of equating whiteness with superiority and thereby being submissive towards them. And the episode of “Roar” essentially says that no amount of submissiveness is going to make you more valuable. The effect is going to be quite the opposite, as exemplified by Vikas being returned to the store by Barbara. Anu’s jealousy upon seeing Vikas acting like a changed man with Barbara and her subsequent reclamation of a newly transformed Vikas is portrayed as something triumphant. But I think that it’s actually ironic because that’s what happens to most Indian women. They get so used to their male counterparts that they just can’t escape them. We can only pray that Anu gets the equality and equity that she demands from Vikas after the credits roll.
‘Roar’ Episode 8: The Girl Who Loved Horses – Recap & Ending Explained
Directed by So Yong Kim and written by Carly Mensch, “The Girl Who Loved Horses” plays out like every Western ever, albeit with a twist. Jane (Fivel Stewart) lives with her father, Jim (Eddie Shin). Jane’s mother is dead. She obsesses over horses. And since she’s a teenager, she is angsty about her space and privacy. Jim asks her if she wants to go with him to town. Jane refuses. She goes about her day. Jim doesn’t come back. Then, the next day, Jane rides to town to find that her father has been shot dead. The Sheriff (Rex Linn) explains that Jim owes Mr. Bacall (Alfred Molina) money. Jim tried to shoot Bacall, but Bacall shot him down first. Angry and sad, Jane buries her father and sets out on a revenge mission to kill Bacall. The only problem is that the priest’s daughter, Millie (Kara Hayward), tags along to ensure that Jane doesn’t kill or get killed.
“The Girl Who Loved Horses” uses the American Frontier time period to show lawlessness, sexism, and religious oppression. But, in my opinion, Jane’s entire revenge mission is a critique of the recent spate of female-led action films where the protagonist is written like an angry man but is played by a woman. That’s advertised as feminism, but exacting violence like men isn’t it. But the way Jane and Millie dismantle Bacall by talking about how he’s an absent father to his daughter and showing him how his antics (probably) appear to her, that’s feminist. And yes, I’m not a big fan of pacifism and hate movies and shows that take their protagonists to peak revenge mode and then do not give them (or us) any catharsis. So, it’s satisfying to see Jane put Bacall in an endless cycle of misery, get her father’s horseback, and finally make a friend like Millie. Win-win.
“Roar” is an announcement that the aforementioned stories exist and the plethora of emotions that women in those stories experience are valid. Women all around the world might feel alone in their respective journeys, but one look at this show will tell them that they aren’t. “Roar” doesn’t attempt to win over anyone, especially men. It doesn’t try to be sympathetic towards ignorant misogynists because it’s 2022, and if you’re still wondering if feminism is a good or bad thing, you’re beyond any form of re-education. So, the show, the storytellers, and everyone involved in its making go beyond that and delve into the nuances of their personal and professional hurdles and achievements. From a purely technically POV, “Roar” is exquisitely made. It looks, sounds, moves confidently through genres, and defines them in their own ways. Hence, I highly recommend watching “Roar” and finding your story in it.
“Roar” is a 2022 Anthology Series streaming on Apple TV+.