Bird Box is Netflix’s latest horror movie. Some people see the story as a religious allegory, while others have theories involving parenting fears, racism, and social media. Another theory involves mental health and society’s often negative portrayal of people experiencing mental illness.
Warning: Major spoilers for “Bird Box” ahead.
One of the biggest questions we’re left with after watching the movie: What’s it really all about?
It could be about the fears that come with becoming a parent.
Malorie (Sandra Bullock) is a fierce mother to children she hasn’t even named through most of the movie – she opts to call them Boy and Girl.
Although we’re able to observe that she thinks she’s doing her best to protect them, most people give their children names of some sort.
Eventually, Malorie does this as well – but not until they arrive at the Janet Tucker School for the Blind and run into Dr. Lapham (Parminder Nagra) again. Only when Malorie believes they’re safe does she feel that she can take this more conventional step. Is not naming them meant to protect them or to keep herself from getting too attached and having something terrible happen? We’ll never know.
Ian Sandwell wrote for Digital Spy: “Largely though, like the book, Bird Box isn’t concerned with exposition about what the force is and is more about Malorie learning to accept she’s a parent, along with all the fears that comes with in a post-apocalyptic world. Because if you think parenting is tough, try doing it blindfolded.”
Seemingly in agreement, Dani Di Placido wrote for Forbes, “it’s pretty clear from the outset that this film is about the psychological struggle of parenthood. “
It might be a nod to the works of H.P. Lovecraft.
Josh Malerman, the author of the 2014 novel the movie is based on, has said that while he’s read and appreciates H.P. Lovecraft, who is regarded as one of the most significant 20th-century authors of horror, he’s definitely no scholar of his works. But if you’re at all familiar with Lovecraft’s works, there’s no way to watch this film and miss that Lovecraftian influence.
As Narayan Liu wrote for CBR:
“The monsters in ‘Bird Box’ implement Lovecraftian elements differently, but no less obviously. Starring Sandra Bullock, the film depicts its unseen creatures as supernatural, in one way or another, with an ability to drive insane anyone who sets eyes upon them. It’s the same effect triggered in Lovecraft’s stories by ‘Cthulhu’ and all the ‘Great Old Ones.’ We don’t know what the creatures in the film look like, we only have the sketches by the character Gary to go on, and that’s enough.
“The most terrifying thing about a Lovecraftian monster isn’t their ghastly appearance, but instead their unimaginable power. ‘Bird Box’ places that front and center. That’s why, no matter what the narrative failings may be, the monsters are consistently praised as the most memorable part of the film.”
It could be about demons.
Another possibility is demons. Those malevolent creatures love wreaking havoc, and if they can drive humans to harm themselves or each other, so much the better, according to this theory.
Redditor lionsatethem wrote:
“Using the hint given to us in the beginning of the movie by Charlie, the creatures were most likely a religion-related plague, brought upon by humanity itself. An appropriate label for these creatures are Fallen Angels or, more commonly, Demons.
“In the Bible, demons are described as creatures so conceptually foul and inherently ‘incorrect’ that humans would simply go mad had they ever been subject to directly looking at such an impossibly horrid entity. In the film, this theme is painfully evident. Those who catch even the slightest glimpse of the ‘creatures’ are instantly driven mad, swiftly taking their own life, as if the horrific form they see essentially ruins their lives to such an extent that, in order to relieve themselves of such a nightmarish image, the affected are driven to the point of clinging to suicide for salvation from what they’d witnessed.
“As for those, like Gary, who are able to look directly at these creatures and are seemingly enslaved by the image, it fits perfectly with the notion of Demons enslaving humans in order to further destroy humans. It’s explained in the Bible that the demons’ hatred for humans is so potent that, because they do not have the authority to touch us personally, they seek the next best option – trickery in order to achieve a self-destructive humanity.”
It could all be an allegory for the careless way in which some people tend to deal with mental-health issues.
“Bird Box” has been roundly criticised for contributing to the already uphill battle faced by people dealing with mental illness. In an article for Psychology Today, mental-health clinician Shainna Ali suggested that prefacing “Bird Box” with mental-health trigger warnings might be helpful.
But as Ali wrote, some viewers see how society deals with mental health as the underlying monster in the movie.
Ali wrote, “Some hidden messages [in ‘Bird Box’] could be gathered as well, such as the inability for others to see the problem and the subsequent tendency to minimise the gravity of the problem.”
Simply pretending we don’t see important issues – like those surrounding mental health and the stigmas placed on people dealing with mental illnesses – doesn’t make them go away.
In a post for Mashable, writer Jess Joho critiqued “Bird Box” for villainizing people with mental illnesses. She wrote, “Instead of killing themselves in gratuitously gory ways like all the ‘normal’ characters, people with mental illnesses become literal agents of evil, obsessed with carrying out the monsters’ mission to destroy humanity.”
It could be about racism.
The Root’s Michael Harriot wrote a piece about reading “Bird Box” as an allegory for white people doing their best not to see racism. Though Harriot wrote in a follow-up post that the original was a “joke” and that he doesn’t “believe that the monster in the movie was racism,” some people didn’t find it funny at all.
In his original post, Harriot wrote: “[The characters in the movie] figure out that if you just don’t look at racism, it won’t make you feel bad. So they quickly decide they would never acknowledge the existence of racism, which would prevent them from being attacked.”
It could be about social media.
Matt Novak at Gizmodo’s Paleofuture had an extremely thorough theory that “Bird Box” is an allegory for all the damage we fear social media is doing to humanity.
Novak wrote, “Think of ‘Bird Box’ as a new entry into the old-fashioned 1950s monster movie genre, but instead of the midcentury fears about the Cold War, nuclear weapons, and communism we’re exploring the New Cold War and fears of what social media is doing to our brains. By putting on the blindfolds, the characters of ‘Bird Box’ are protected from the monsters, which are actually the influences of social media.”
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