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Politics of Disposability in Glass Onion: Misogynoir as a Function of Capitalism and White Supremacy

Content warnings for the following article include references to death/murder, a brief discussion of suicide, and a brief reference to sexual violence.

Most Black women move through life painfully aware of misogynoir, the distinct fusion of misogyny (prejudice against women) and racism (prejudice against Black people). Introduced by Moya Bailey, misogynoir is one of the many tools essential to the success of both capitalism and white supremacy, two fatal vehicles of 21st-century Western oppression. Recently, academic Marc Lamont Hill provided an unambiguous simplification of the disturbing axiom by which misogynoir functions: “Nearly every sector of society hates Black women and girls.” Unfortunately, despite this important show of solidarity from a Black man with a large public platform, Black women are usually the only ones likely to acknowledge, call out, and—most significantly—reject this specific form of bigotry.

Few people beyond other Black women are willing to respect, support, and/or advocate for us. This becomes more true when we are experiencing harm in some way. One recent modern example lies in the turbulent case of Megan Thee Stallion and her pursuit of justice for being shot by Tory Lanez in the summer of 2020. While this case has acted as an excellent representation of the typical discrimination Black women uniquely experience (and how it transcends even class), the sour caveat of real-life examples is the guarantee that a real Black woman is or was harmed. Therefore—in desiring functional illustrations of misogynoir to serve as learning tools for developing politics that protect Black women—fiction is a more welcome medium than reality.

Bitterly, this topic still has yet to be explored abundantly in literature or media spaces, especially fictional ones. Well-crafted Black stories and characters are still fighting for opportunities to break through to the mainstream. Solid evocations of Black women’s experiences are hard to come across. However, like an unexpected gift amidst last year’s holiday season, a cleverly written and surprisingly fun fictional exploration of misogynoir flowered into popularity.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is the much-anticipated sequel to the well-received 2019 murder mystery movie Knives Out. The film is highly rated on Rotten Tomatoes, scoring an identical 92% with both the public audience and film critics. It premiered to the world in early September 2022 at the Toronto International Film Festival, after which it saw a limited theatrical run for one week in late November across approximately 600 U.S. theaters before finally becoming available to stream on Netflix a month later on December 23rd. In a moment of ironic harmony, December 23rd was also the day Tory Lanez was officially found guilty of shooting Megan Thee Stallion, receiving a total of three felony convictions. That is only one of the numerous uncanny coincidences surrounding Glass Onion, which only ends up making the movie more of an interesting watch than it already is.

(MILD SPOILERS for both Knives Out and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery lie ahead. Proceed at your own behest.)

Although we are only two films deep at the moment, it’s not hard to tell that the Knives Out series is attempting to provide multi-layered social commentary through a quirky blend of realism, exaggeration, and some degree of self-awareness (which mostly comes through in its chosen style of humor: satire). Glass Onion overall echoes the dynamics of the first Knives Out. Both movies position famous detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) as less of a focal character in their overall plot; even though he’s supposed to be the main character of the series, Blanc instead serves to be more of a…tiebreaker, so to speak.

In each tale, Blanc plays the tenacious agitator in a deadlock between a group of affluent individuals and a woman of color they pretend to respect. The deadlock in both films occurs amidst a series of confusing events and deaths that most of the characters outside of Blanc are suspected of perpetrating. The whodunit genre is established by the fact that the full context of these strange events and deaths—including the main ‘villain’ behind them—remains a mystery even to us, the audience, for the majority of the film.

The A-plots of both Knives Out and Glass Onion revolve around the idea that most of the characters want to believe, and even hope, that the woman of color is the main villain. The two films portray this to be a very likely, and easy, answer to each mystery. Thankfully, the layers of each story unfold to reveal histories and truths that are much more nuanced than they first appear. Through Blanc’s superior detective skills, the mystery behind the innocence or guilt of the Knives Out series’ marginalized heroines is able to function as a more complex, compelling, and allegorical storytelling element than the whodunit genre has traditionally offered in the past for audiences of color.

Despite lacking marginalized input and voices during both of their creative processes (both were written, directed, and co-produced by a cis-hetero white man, as hard as it is to believe), each film still somehow managed to succeed in being engrossing, insightful, and uplifting portrayals of women of color.

The plot of Glass Onion follows Blanc around the time of May 2020—during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic—after he’s been mysteriously invited to the private island of tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton), founder of the globally successful corporate empire called Alpha. The invitation introduces Miles’ intention to conduct a murder mystery game at his estate, in which his eclectic group of high-profile friends—whom he proudly refers to as the “Disruptors”—will be tasked with solving the case of his ‘murder.’ These aforementioned Disruptors include Democratic governor Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), Alpha-employed scientist Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.), former supermodel Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), and men’s rights influencer Duke Cody (Dave Bautista). Additionally, the Disruptors are joined by Birdie’s personal assistant Peg (Jessica Henwick), and Duke’s girlfriend Whiskey (Madelyn Cline).

A poster for the film Glass Onion, featuring the main cast posed by the pool of the estate where the majority of the movie takes place.

Each of these players acts as a caricature of different modern socio-political personality types. Claire is a typical middle-class liberal politician more worried about her public image and campaign funds than her morals. Lionel is a weak-willed, yes-man scientist who sometimes sacrifices his ethics for capitalistic means (even and especially when he doesn’t feel good about doing so). Birdie is an ignorant celebrity who often finds herself embroiled in the woes of ‘cancel culture’ when she accidentally lets something problematic slip from her mouth or thumbs. By her side is Peg, playing the average, apolitical young millennial whose only preoccupation is frantically keeping her boss from ruining both of their careers rather than truly holding her accountable for her offensive behavior. And finally, Duke is a steroid-ridden, male-podcast-esque influencer while Whiskey is the confident Gen-Z model using his influence and connections to build her career. Despite this zany collection of characters, the film’s uncomfortable tension and mystery begins not with Blanc’s unexpected presence at the Disruptor trip’s arrival point in Greece, but with Cassandra Brand’s (Janelle Monae) instead.

Cassandra Brand is an ex-Disruptor and also happens to be Miles’ former business partner, with whom he originally founded Alpha. Through the characters of Blanc and Cassandra, the movie cleverly unravels the many complex layers of information withheld from the audience to reveal the devastating truths that lie at the core of this seemingly innocuous weekend get-together. Upon completion of the film, I was shocked to walk away viewing it as a daring and honest depiction of the modern Black woman’s experience in navigating Western society and capitalism.

(HEAVY SPOILERS for both Knives Out and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery lie ahead. Proceed at your own behest.)

We first meet Cassandra Brand after an extended, fast-paced sequence presenting the cast of Disruptors as they all receive a massive package from their pack leader, Miles Bron. It comes in the form of a large wooden box containing a myriad of puzzles the group must first solve to access the information inside. The Disruptors—for whom this is tradition—are all excited to partake in Miles’ game, and they throw themselves enthusiastically into the puzzle-solving. After Claire, Lionel, Birdie, and Duke have all managed to collaborate and solve every puzzle in the box to retrieve the invitation card from its center, the movie cuts to Cassandra, who sits alone in a dimly lit garage in a robe, slippers, and hair towel, appearing to be post-shower. She stares almost resentfully at the massive wooden box on the table in front of her. We’ve obviously seen it before even though Cassandra (probably) hasn’t, so it comes as a complete shock when—instead of attempting to engage with the box—she equips safety goggles and a hammer before proceeding to violently break it open.

This act is the first in a long line that distinguishes Cassandra from the other so-called Disruptors.

When everyone arrives in Greece and begins boarding the boat that will take them to Miles’ island, Cassandra—poised, elegant, and cold—shows up at the last second, something that seems to surprise all of the Disruptors as well as their plus-ones. Everyone’s confused. Why is Cassandra here? Why was she invited? Why did she come?

A still from the film Glass Onion. Miles Bron stands in the foreground, staring into the camera with a confused look on his face. The Disruptors and their plus ones (sans Janelle Monae and Daniel Craig) are all visible in the background, staring in the same direction as Miles. They seem various degrees of uncomfortable, nonplussed, and/or confused.

Despite the collective confusion, everyone makes it safely to the island where Miles and his massive estate—topped with a giant glass dome that’s supposed to resemble an onion—are waiting. There, it becomes even more obvious that not only are the Disruptors surprised to see Cassandra on the trip, they actively don’t want her to be there. Even Miles—who a viewer can only assume had sent Cassandra an invitation at this point in the film—is discomfited by her presence. The group, and thus the movie, becomes distracted from Cassandra for a while as the characters get further acquainted with the ridiculous estate and all its obnoxious decor; decor which features art like a giant mural of Kanye West as well as Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (yes, the real Mona Lisa—on loan from France, of course).

Despite these extravagant distractions, I could only focus on one thing. Even as it was revealed that Miles didn’t actually invite Detective Blanc to his privileged Greece getaway, Glass Onion only evoked very specific questions from me as a Black woman instead of any true curiosity about the main mystery when it presented Cassandra’s plotline. Questions such as why is the Black woman the outcast of this group—of the film? What could be the other characters’ motives for alienating the only Black woman in their group, especially when that Black woman is partially responsible for their wealth and successes? Is this film going to address this dynamic, or will this be another instance of watching a creative professional’s unchecked misogynoir bleed through into their work?

The movie’s initial act leads the audience to believe that Blanc will eventually be solving the case of Miles’ murder. Evidence of this is explicitly presented when the group meets up at dinner to kick off the big murder mystery game scheduled to last the entire weekend. Blanc, to everyone’s surprise, solves the entire puzzle the second Miles officially starts the game. When Miles frustratedly confronts the detective inside his giant glass onion office, Blanc reveals that he had spoiled the weekend on purpose. Despite the fact that he was never supposed to be there in the first place, Blanc’s day of observations led him to fear that Miles was accidentally setting up the perfect conditions for someone with enough motive to actually murder him for real without getting caught. Miles flippantly laughs off Blanc’s worries…until tragedy strikes at the group’s post-dinner party, where Duke chokes to death after accidentally taking a sip from Miles’ whiskey tumbler instead of his own. In the aftermath of this incident, the group (minus Cassandra, who hasn’t been in the room since before Duke’s death) all become suspicious of one another, unsure which of them mistakenly assassinated Duke in an apparent attempt to assassinate Miles.

Still, through all the on-screen commotion, my main preoccupation was Cassandra. Her character was still an enigma at this point in the story, and it was a palpable distraction from everything else. I badly wanted answers, and the ones I received amidst the plot slowly peeling back its oniony layers were completely beyond my expectations.

At the movie’s midpoint, a long flashback unveils that the Cassandra Brand we’ve been following since the beginning of the film is not the real Cassandra Brand. She is actually Helen Brand, Cassandra’s twin sister.

Some days prior to the Greece trip, the real Cassandra Brand was discovered to have apparently ended her own life in her home. Helen, entirely unconvinced that her sister would ever do so, sought the assistance of Benoit Blanc, bringing him the puzzle box invitation that she, not Cassandra, smashed open at the start of the film. Since the news of Cassandra’s death had not yet been broken to the public, Blanc concocted a scheme where Helen would travel to Greece and pretend to be Cassandra in order to discover which one of the Disruptors was responsible for her sister’s death.

An still of Daniel Craig and Janelle Monae as Benoit Blanc and Helen Brand in the film Glass Onion. Craig stands on the left facing toward the camera while Monae stands to the right perpendicular to Craig, leaving only her side profile visible. Craig wears salmon pink button down and a light blue cravat. Monae's hair is blonde with brown roots and cut into a short bob. In the background behind them both rests only the sea and sky.

Now, why did Helen’s suspicions fall to the Disruptors specifically? The audience learns that Cassandra’s tragic death just so happens to occur a few months after a nasty court trial between her and Miles, where he strived to freeze her out of their company and claim total intellectual ownership of Alpha’s founding idea. This was a sinister initiative because Cassandra was the true founder of the idea that led to Alpha’s creation; she had scribbled it all on a cocktail napkin at the group’s favorite bar, Glass Onion, ten years beforehand. Each and every one of the Disruptors knew that fact intimately, including Miles, so what in the world pushed Miles to turn against his business partner so harshly?

The reason was simple: Cassandra had refused to endorse a risky business move Miles had wanted them to make. His idea involved a supposedly sustainable—yet untested—hydrogen-based fuel source called Klear. Instead of agreeing with her partner’s half-baked plan, Cassandra threatened to walk away from their company and take half of its assets with her if Miles continued trying to involve Alpha in any business with Klear. This led to the court battle and, unfortunately, Miles was able to completely crush Cassandra in court with the assistance of all the other Disruptors.

Since Miles was such a crucial benefactor for each of them in various ways, Claire, Duke, Birdie, and even Lionel (the only other Black Disruptor) didn’t hesitate to lie under oath and claim that Miles was the one who originally wrote the idea for Alpha on the Glass Onion’s napkin. With Cassandra having lost track of the original napkin, this group betrayal made it depressingly easy for Miles to win the case and rob Cassandra of all her success and credibility.

Despite the fact that all the Disruptors knew the full truth, they each still chose to assist a white male billionaire in exploiting a Black woman for their own capitalistic success. Even the Black man in the group chose the side of the white man over the Black woman clearly being victimized. It’s a heartbreaking twist of events, but the storyline resonated so powerfully with me as a Black woman, adding narrative depth one wouldn’t normally anticipate from this type of movie.

The violence Black women experience daily is staggering. In fact, Black women are frequently exposed to more degrees of abuse from our collective micro- and macro-interactions with the world than nearly anyone else. Non-Hispanic Black women (and Indigenous women) are murdered at considerably higher rates than women of other racial demographics. Black women today are dying during childbirth more frequently than we were during slavery.

Even so, Black women are typically invisible when it comes to most racial- or gender-based analyses of systemic violence. Narratives around race-based violence often focus on the tension between Black men and white supremacists while conversations on gender-based violence largely center around white women. A considerable portion of the discourse on Jim Crow-era anti-Blackness is executed under a masculinist lens even still. Author Treva B. Lindsey identifies that it is “essential when studying violence against Black women and girls to look for the silences, the elisions, and the absences.” Women of color suffering from gender-based violence without any acknowledgment from the justice system has always been a common phenomenon in Western history. For example, back in the 1800s, laws existed in the United States that protected women against rape but only applied to white women. The #SayHerName hashtag was created in 2014 specifically to bring awareness to and combat this phenomenon of overlooking Black women’s experiences of harm, but the world at large still has yet to interrogate or acknowledge misogynoir on a grand scale.

Overall, it is highly likely that a Black woman will not be taken seriously when reporting violence. Instead, Black women are normally punished, not protected, when we reveal, defend ourselves from, or seek justice for violence against us. This is at the root of the abuse-to-prison pipeline that exists for Black women, who are incarcerated at more than two times the rate of white women.

On top of that—unlike with some other forms of oppression—power, wealth, and fame are not privileges that grant Black women protection from experiencing misogynoir. As shown in the fictional case of Cassandra Brand, the rare Black women that reach high-level positions in any career field will usually not receive equal authority, resources, and endorsement relative to men in those same positions. While discussing misogynoir’s contribution to the public reaction after Tory Lanez shot Megan Thee Stallion, writer Shaun Harper managed to succinctly describe the one fundamental ingredient to the recipe of misogynoir: “A disregard for Black women no matter how accomplished, talented, and powerful they are.”

Author Henry A. Giroux introduced the biopolitics of disposability when analyzing the natural/institutional disaster that was Hurricane Katrina. The broader politics of disposability capsulize the common phenomenon in which marginalized people are viewed as dangerous or undesirable by the more privileged, neoconservative sectors of society. Those neoconservative populations thus seek to deny supporting marginalized people and their welfare while simultaneously reaping capitalistic rewards from the imbalance of societal resources. Instead of striving for a good society, disposability politics seek to encourage a capitalist one. With each day that society strengthens its commitment to functioning as a militarized, carceral, and capitalist state, it becomes less and less likely that a shared spirit of social responsibility will be extended to marginalized individuals/groups.

Nevertheless, disposability politics can also manifest in vulnerable communities as a means to avoid seeking accountability from other community members who enact violence. This practice most harms those who experience marginalization at various intersections, such as disabled individuals with low socioeconomic status, Black trans women, etc. For example, in this patriarchal society, non-white male abusers are frequently able to avoid consequences for acts of violence when that violence is directed towards women, gender non-conforming, and/or queer victims. In Glass Onion, Lionel is a representation of how oppressed men are also capable of participating in and perpetuating systemic harm due to the hierarchical nuances intersectionality spreads to the socioeconomic sphere.

More than ever—as politics of disposability shapeshift through the constantly worsening political climate of the modern age—“tradition, collective memory, and public spheres…thrive on the ‘energies of the dead,’ who remain unaccounted for in numbers and law.” Capitalism and fascism are fortified when oppressors are able to successfully manipulate disposed communities into aiding the plight of their own oppression and eradication. With each Disruptor that kept choosing to enable Miles, especially those more socially vulnerable than him, his ability to maintain and supplement his own wealth remained reinforced.

This is the reason that an important component of both the disability justice movement and Black trans feminism is resisting disposability, which involves holding those in your community accountable through conflict without seeking to mimic the carceral system’s habit of locking vulnerable people out of survival resources and community. Black anarchism as defined by author Marquis Bey reimagines what it means to defy oppression through anarchist ideas by learning from the ideology of Black queer feminist anarchy. The main goal of Black queer feminist anarchist ideology is demolishing “racial capitalism and cisheteronormative patriarchy” and creating space for a new society to begin, one where Black trans women—one of the most vulnerable populations of us all—can be safe. Achieving such a radical goal in a society vehemently opposed to it is a long-haul journey, meaning that the steps forward that are presently available to us largely involve preserving and pouring into our communities rather than helping white supremacy further tear them apart.

Glass Onion climaxes and culminates in a progression of events that may have been wildly bizarre to some but was pleasantly surprising to witness as a Black woman. When the truth of Miles’ crimes and deceptions have been revealed to all the characters, Helen is unfortunately not able to use Cassandra’s original napkin (which it turns out Miles had stolen) to bring her sister justice postmortem. That is because Miles swiftly burns it, destroying the only evidence that would have supported any case accusing him of swindling Cassandra and lying to the world about his merit.

At this point, there’s still a decent bit of the movie left but everything is now out in the open and the mysteries are over for everyone, including the audience. A significant critique of the film post-release has been that the twists, as well as the culmination of the overall mystery, were underwhelming due to their simplicity. One critic found it to be “flimsy” and empty.

The whodunit genre has seen a resurgence in recent years, with exciting projects like the drama-comedy series “Only Murders in the Building.” Due to this trend, many viewers desired more of a traditional whodunit plot outline from Glass Onion, much like the first Knives Out film followed. However, tradition seems like the opposite of what Rian Johnson was aiming for with the Knives Out series.

Most whodunits take inspiration from the works of best-selling writer Agatha Christie, a 20th-century detective novelist known as the “Queen of Mystery” or the “Queen of Crime”. Christie’s legacy includes the book Murder on the Orient Express, as well as the longest-running play in the world, The Mousetrap.

A black and white portrait of Agatha Christie. Her hair is short, pinned into ringlets on her head. She rests her cheek on her hand as she stares into the camera.

While Johnson doesn’t deviate from this in his approach to the genre, his inspiration manifests uniquely in Knives Out and Glass Onion. Both films veer from the Ten Commandments that mystery writer Ronald Knox compiled during the golden age of detective fiction, which most well-loved whodunits tend to adhere to, including Agatha Christie’s. At the time, Knox asserted that these rules are as significant as rules are in sports, a sentiment that contrasts the malleability that creating fiction usually affords. Nevertheless, even the Queen of Mystery occasionally broke those Commandments in a few of her works, many of which have since gone on to be some of her most popular. As writer Juliette Harrisson states, “sometimes, whodunnits have to break the rules in order to work.”

With Glass Onion, Johnson breaks the rules so well that the first half of the movie is not truly a whodunit mystery at all. Prior to Duke’s death, despite the film wasting zero time dropping clues and easter eggs for the main mystery, there’s actually nothing for the audience to solve. This was a letdown for some viewers upon completion and subsequent rewatches of the film, but in an interview with The Atlantic, Johnson discusses how Glass Onion was never meant to be a traditional whodunit mystery in the first place. He had more specifically wanted to tackle an underutilized subgenre of the whodunit mystery: the vacation mystery. To successfully pull that off and keep people entertained by this uncommon form of storytelling, Johnson felt the key was having an “actual story” to tell. In his eyes, the heart of the Knives Out films comes from more than Benoit Blanc solving a mystery; while that may serve as a plot device to help tell the story, it isn’t the story—let alone the core of it.

In regard to the Queen of Mystery’s influence, Johnson explains that Christie didn’t write fiction about the past—her fiction just happens to exist in the past. In truth, Christie wrote humorous, social commentaries about what was happening in times that were modern to her, and that’s what Johnson has emulated in his Knives Out storytelling. Miles Bron as a character broadly represents—in the words of Rian Johnson—“the very American, natural instinct to mistake wealth for wisdom and competency.” Characteristic hallmarks of Miles can be seen in real-world public figures like the tech mogul Elon Musk, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and former U.S. president Donald Trump—people whose wealth and class privileges, not merit, continuously afford them the resources to claim positions of high intelligence and power. While Glass Onion was written long before Musk’s infamous purchase of Twitter, and the resounding discourse that has spurred since, the film’s timely commentary on the absurdity of the mega-wealthy class is almost eerie. Miles overall represents the inevitable trajectory of capitalist culture, a system that runs on the pretense of being a meritocracy rather than actuality. Therefore, as blogger Lyvie Scott deduces, “Glass Onion is less about the story (fantastical and layered as it is) and more about the commentary it supports.”

Moreover, traditional whodunit storytelling typically favors resolutions that wrap up neatly, in which the police always catch the bad guy in the end, categorizing it as an inherently conservative genre. In Knives Out, the mystery concludes with the culprit being caught by the team of Benoit Blanc, the local law enforcement, and the undocumented Latine protagonist the viewers are led to believe is the killer for most of the movie. Once the proper evidence is gathered, the true culprit is swiftly arrested for their crime.

While the first film was, in many ways, a refreshing imagining of a marginalized woman triumphing over her oppressors even while facing unfair barriers caused by capitalism, classism, and xenophobia, its resolution still leaned too far into an idealism that most working-class women of color—especially Black women—will never have the chance to experience. A reality where women of color can receive protection, cooperation, honesty, and justice through the systems society currently has in place—at all, let alone with ease—is a fantasy at best. Some economists believe that our current society has entered a second Gilded Age, mirroring the hierarchy of power present during the first Gilded Age where the wealthy—especially white men—held firm control of the economy and government. Unlike the first Gilded Age, however, this new era is reinforced by a pervasive culture of carceral punishment and violence, usually directed towards vulnerable—disposable—populations, such as undocumented workers.

As an undocumented woman of color myself, it was undeniably satisfying to watch the undocumented Knives Out protagonist win with the help of the legal systems around her once she decided to trust them; but, it still fell flat as a realistic representation of what an undocumented woman of color would experience if she attempted to seek help from the federal system.

In addition, the group dynamics of Knives Out don’t encourage any realism either. The plot posited a single woman of color against an entire family of wealthy white individuals with only the help of the law (represented by a group of two white men and one black man), the one white woman employed as the family’s domestic caretaker, and the elderly white patriarch of that wealthy family, whose murder sparks the film’s plot. It’s honestly a miracle that she was even able to emerge from that situation alive. Glass Onion instead offers a more authentic dramatization of the patterns that normally transpire when Black women are wronged and attempt to pursue justice in Western society. David Sims, a writer for The Atlantic, refers to the film as “angrier” in comparison to Knives Out—a very succinct descriptor.

Another frequent critique involves the final climactic scene. Once Miles burns the napkin, Helen loses any chance of pursuing systemic justice for her sister’s murder. She is rightfully enraged, and turns to the Disruptors for assistance, as they are now critical witnesses to the depth of Miles’ harm towards her and Cassandra. But, ever true to their spineless nature, the Disruptors turn away from the begging Helen, unwilling to oppose Miles with any real conviction. Just when it seems like a positive end to the story is impossible, Benoit Blanc quietly reminds Helen that the law isn’t the only harbinger of justice.

This encouragement (and a good swig of liquid courage) leads Helen to begin destroying all of Miles’ ostentatious ornamentation in the group’s immediate vicinity. The Disruptors at first perceive this as an odd joke and even attempt to join in by breaking a few insignificant items, but they quickly shift gears once they realize just how much material value Helen is genuinely willing to demolish at this moment. They all try to thwart her to no avail and, in the end, Helen uses Klear to blow up the Glass Onion estate. After the explosion, which they all miraculously survive, the disheveled Disruptors can only watch as Helen shows them what true disruption is with one last act of destruction: releasing Leonardo da Vinci’s priceless Mona Lisa from its protective casing and allowing it to be set ablaze as well, turning the famous painting to ashes before Miles’ eyes.

An image of the Mona Lisa

I strongly believe this ending sequence is the only way this story could have concluded for the reason writer Olatiwa Karade explains best: “As Black women, the responsibility of proving we are deserving of humanity rests on our shoulders.” In this world that lacks many realistic options for surviving societal adversity, victims of systemic oppression will often resort to violence, an imitation of the brutal culture wealthy oppressors sentence us to daily. That cycle of violence desperately needs to be halted, but oppressed individuals are not afforded the tools to prevent occurrences of harm against us and/or against others like us. The onus should not be placed on those most under threat of violence to call out abuse; however, as long as the capitalist state we reside in continues to welcome politics of disposability—and as long as marginalized communities keep replicating that behavior in reaction—this reality will remain. The temporary answer for many is to therefore redirect the focus of their violence and utilize it for revolutionary resistance rather than replicating oppressive brutality, much like Helen displayed in the end by disrupting every possible avenue for Miles to have walked away from the night having avoided any consequences for his crimes. We can find real-world examples of oppressed communities using revolutionary violence in the historical events of Stonewall and Ferguson.

Without many (if any) alternate pathways for survival, Black women work hard to “turn grief into action” every single day. In September of 1832, the first public speech by an American woman was given by Maria Stewart, a Black woman. To a sizable audience of her fellow women—who, like her, were deprived of most so-called unalienable rights—she asked, “Why Sit Ye Here and Die?”

Black women will always pursue “forward, against all odds, to effect sustained change, individually, locally, and nationally.” No matter the degree to which society endeavors to dispose of and ignore us, Black women’s radical resilience in the face of harm will always be ever-present throughout the course of history.

The very last shot of the film is of Helen, sitting with her hands crossed lightly in her lap, basked in a fiery moon glow, staring directly at the audience, lips pursed in what could either be a smile or a frown—almost exactly like the Mona Lisa. It’s a relieving resolution, but not necessarily a happy one. More than anything, it is deeply radical. In alignment with Sims’ description of Glass Onion as a whole, an emotion underlying this very last shot of the film is, undeniably, anger.

Overall, what the misogynoir apparent in Glass Onion should make us want to interrogate is how Black women without the positions of power afforded to women like Cassandra Brand or Megan Thee Stallion are constantly being forced to navigate misogynoir, to navigate being broadly perceived as disposable. As described by Marc Lamont Hill, misogynoir “is a microcosm of a broader white-supremacist society that refuses to see Black women and girls as worthy of love, care, protection, safety, and dignity.”

Out of everyone, even though we are frequently deeply educated, Black women are the most likely to be living in poverty. In a more recently manifested offshoot of this issue, Black women have a higher chance of dying from COVID-19 due to making up a larger percentage of essential workers. “In the twenty-first century, Black women’s and girls’ status is one of perpetual vulnerability and disposability.”

Constantly, Black girls and women of all ages are being subject to violence. Mental, emotional, physical, sexual, etc. From various institutions, from various interpersonal relationships. Not all of it is fatal, but if it hurts that Black girl, then it’s devastating just the same.

Rian Johnson says that writing Glass Onion came “from a place of just wanting to scream about a lot of things.” and it showed. Many Black women have walked away from this film having related deeply to Janelle Monae’s portrayal of what it means to be us, and ultimately feeling less alone. One day this experience of visibility—of acknowledgment—will not be such a fleeting thing for Black women. Until then, a third Knives Out film is already confirmed for production. Hopefully, it is able to emulate—as well as surpass—its two predecessors in all the right ways.

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