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Straw Dogs (1971)
Unfairly kicked around by its critics
This is probably one of the most offensive masterpieces ever made. There's no reason to argue with many of the objections against it, but the main criticism- that Hoffman is battling his Amy's rapists for sexual mastery of her- is unfair. Many of the film's critics don't seem to realize that what the audience learns about events is completely different from what Hoffman knows. He never learns that the villagers raped his wife; and he's never completely sure that Nyles, the villager he's defending, *didn't* rape a girl. He never realizes that the villagers are hypocrites for raping his wife and then hunting down Nyles as a "perverted animal." And he never realizes that his wife wants to throw Nyles out not because she's an immoral coward, but because, after being raped once, she doesn't want to defend an accused rapist. Amy is not the object of his fight, which is why he asks her if she wants to leave in the middle of it. She's as irrelevant to him as the villager he's defending. Hoffman's only concern is his house, which Peckinpah views as the symbol of his manhood. They're both under construction and assault by the villagers. When Hoffman has finally defended his house, he decides that he doesn't really know his way home; his manhood is worthless to him. It's difficult to understand why the film's critics view its climax as an expression of Peckinpah's supposed belief that women must be seized through violence. Hoffman never even knows that Amy's part of the contest, and even though we do, we're left with the impression he's lost her, not earned her, because of his battle.