Antebellum Ending Explained-The Power Of Suggestion And The Psychology Of Fear
Liongate’s trickier than it needs to be film wants to be a social justice movie wrapped inside an M. Night Shyamalan twist. What it actually is, is commentary on the vulnerability of the mind. While the film didn’t deliver the kind of gut-punch Get Out did, or as many outstanding performances as The Village, it does show the horrors of oppression and the vulnerability of our fragile minds. Here’s everything you need to know about the twisty ending of Antebellum, including the after-credits scenes.
Warning Spoilers Ahead…….
Antebellum is told in three parts. In Act One we are introduced to Eden(Janelle Monáe). She is enslaved on a plantation and continuously abused and raped by the Commander of a nebulous Confederate platoon. There is a gaggle of white plantation owners and soldiers and what appears to be several hundred Black workers. It is horrific and the opening scene shows the terror of everyday life in excruciating slow-motion detail. There have been unsuccessful attempts at escape before. They ended in the execution of one woman and the beating of a young man.
With the ring of a phone, the second act jarringly begins. Eden is actually Veronica, a highly successful activist, writer, and lecturer in current America. Following a night out with friends, she is kidnapped by the same hateful woman Elizabeth(Jenna Malone), who interviewed her earlier. Intermingled in the present-day act are sound bites and plot beats regarding ongoing racism and male toxicity, but none of it feels relatively fresh or honest. It’s more just reporting of facts everyone should already know without context or solution.
In the second act of Antebellum, we learn Eden and Veronica are the same person(yawn). She wasn’t transported to the past in a Delorian but was kidnapped and plopped in the middle of a human trafficking ring-the Hillbilly addition. After some carefully practiced acrobatics, Eden/Veronica sneaks out of her cabin, steals the Commander’s phone, and calls for help. She also kills her abuser and crazy-haired Elizabeth(Malone) while riding triumphantly out of the backside of the plantation holding a hatchet. What did it all mean?
Where Was The Plantation Really?
In much the same way some people have questioned why more persecuted groups didn’t rise up and rebel against their oppressors, Antebellum gives you a final after-credits reveal that indicates this modern plantation with hundreds of slaves and abusers weren’t whisked away to pre-Civil War America, but are right in the heart of Dixie circa 2020. The cameras pull back to reveal everyone was actually on a Civil War Reenactment Park in Louisiana. There are people everywhere and a plane flying overhead. Following Veronica’s escape, the FBI raided the park and recused everyone.
With planes flying overhead, modern roads right next to the house, and seemingly thousands of visitors each day, how did this secret stay hidden? Why did the kidnapped people remain complacent? It’s all about the mind. Ignorance and fear are blinding. The victims were terrified and shocked by what happened to them, and thus, most remained compliant. Presumably, the general attendees of the Park didn’t want to know, or worse, didn’t care if there were criminals and victims on the plantation. You would have thought the planes flying overhead would have given things away sooner, though.
The Psychology Of Fear And Authority
Fear can cause blindness, both metaphorical as in Antebellum and physical as in the inability to see. Antebellum sells the entire conceit on the fact that when people are treated as victims and find themselves in absurd situations, they believe whatever they are told. None of the victims are actually blind, only suffering from Cognitive Dissonance. This is the condition where a person holds conflicting ideas. When under stress caused by having to act against one or both beliefs, their abilities are impaired. In this case, the idea that this level of violence and criminal activity can exist in America is shocking. The hope is the only thing that keeps them going.
Veronica and the others are so shocked by their dangerous situation they forget the most likely answer is probably the right one. They aren’t in the middle of a supernatural thriller but a regular bigot-ran crime syndicate. Albeit this one is dressed up as a historical park. Additionally, the psychology of oppression allows for further control. This is set up in the second act when even in present-day America, concierges can act like racist assholes. Oppression does not have to be overt or physical to be harming. Something as simple as a strange look, reliance on technology and social media, consumerism, or selection bias can be impactful. In Antebellum, both passive and overt oppression is shown, and both have to be overcome by Veronica to save herself.
Who was the little girl?
Jena Malone’s character Elizabeth tells Veronica early in the second act that her daughter would love to play with Veronicas. The assumption is the little girl on the elevator in period attire, pink sneakers, and ridiculously pale makeup was that same little girl. We saw her briefly on the plantation in act one with Elizabeth, so we know she isn’t a ghost girl. Why she was riding around alone in the elevator dressed as she was, we will never know. There is absolutely no explanation for this. Likely Elizabeth is a bad person and an absentee mother.
What’s With The Butterfly?
One of the women kidnapped had a miscarriage and committed suicide after a vicious beating. She had a butterfly tattoo on her ankle. Butterflies are representative of endurance, strength, and the human soul. In Christianity, they can also symbolize resurrection. Veronica/Eden’s friend wasn’t coming back to life, but she could act as a catalyst to give the remaining victims their lives back.
Antebellum isn’t perfect. It is a well-shot, well-edited movie that is a little too enamored with its twist. All that being said, it is a solid horror movie if you don’t scratch the surface and don’t think too deeply about it. Read our full review here. It’s out on Apple TV today and anywhere you stream movies.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.