Roar Episode 3 is the only one of the eight episodes that doesn’t end with some positive resolution, and likely that is because it addresses the concept that sometimes women are our own worst enemy. The pessimistic and misogynistic world that created Amelia is an unfortunate reality. It’s not just men who judge women based on looks. Women can be just as bad, if not worse. By forgetting that we are more than just a pretty face, healthy head of hair, and sexy body, we do a disservice to ourselves and others.
A beautiful woman Amelia (Betty Gilpin), was told her whole life beauty matters more than anything else. Her mother even goes as far as to spell out that looks are more important than brains. While working as a runway model, Amelia meets a wealthy businessman (Daniel Dae Kim). The two start a whirlwind romance, and she moves in with him. He treats her like a princess until one day; she wakes up to find he had built a large shelf in his office for her to be displayed.
He convinces her to quit her job and live on the shelf permanently. He lavishes her with gifts, parties, and attention for months until he grows bored with her and starts ignoring her. Finally, the presents stop coming, and he turns his desk around to no longer face her. She is forgotten. Left on the shelf for years, she becomes bored, frustrated, and unhappy. Her choice to agree to become a trophy wife stole any agency she had. She lost her free will and autonomy.
Finally, after three years, she decides she has had enough and climbs off her shelf. Although the shelf is not far from the ground, she has been on it so long she is terrified to get off. It is blunt as a metaphor for what it is like to strike out on your own after being put on a pedestal like a trophy. The businessman doesn’t care to engage with her. She doesn’t provide sparkling conversation or thoughtful insight. She is a thing to be possessed and admired like a work of art. He tells her as much, but Amelia has been told her whole life looks are all that matter, and as a result, she thinks this is the best situation. For her, it is proof she is pretty enough. Roar Episode 3 is about deep-rooted misogyny, and feminine insecurities preyed on by society.
There is always a trade-off. The price for being worshiped for your looks is that you forget you have worth beyond how pretty you are. After three years of letting him care for her, everything has atrophied. Physically her muscles forget how they work, representing women’s inability to care for themselves monetarily or otherwise. She quickly remembers, though, and dances through the streets of their beach town, happy to be part of society. The more she does, the more she realizes what she has missed and what she could do if she took a chance. All of that is squashed; however, when she asks for help from a couple on the beach and they refuse her. Walking back through town, she catches her reflection in a cosmetics store and sees her perfect face is ruined. Her mascara has run, and her concealer has all washed away.
She sits down in front of a mirror and reapplies her makeup. When an employee strikes up a conversation, Amelia is flattered that the woman is impressed with her looks but doesn’t know how to answer when asked about what she does. Amelia tells the employee she sits for a man like a trophy. The employee tells her as long as she is happy, that is all that matters. Amelia ponders that she could choose to sit on a shelf because it never occurred to her. She can’t buy anything because she has no money of her own and returns home to destroy the shelf.
It isn’t all good news, though, as we next see Amelia sitting on a shelf of her own making in her cosmetics shop. She may have removed herself from a shelf of a man’s making, but she is still sitting on a shelf. The implication is in the year apart from her husband, she built a business on her own, but her beliefs are so firmly held she willingly climbs onto a new shelf. Is this a feminist subversion of society’s focus on beauty or a sad reminder that as hard as we try, we will continually evaluate ourselves harshly? The judgemental world of cosmetics and beauty is so indoctrinated in women it is hard to break free and forge your own path.
Even the most confident of us feel less than in comparison to airbrushed ad campaigns and waif-thin runway models. Instead of completely subverting the norm, Amelia made it work for her. In the end, Amelia’s hard-fought independence and success get overshadowed by her vanity, though. When a young girl tells her she is beautiful, she misses a pivotal opportunity to tell her being smart and strong is more important than beauty. Unfortunately, Amelia can’t help herself and falls back into old patterns. Even though she reclaimed her power at the end of Roar Episode 3, Amelia has just become another cog in the beauty wheel designed to belittle women. What happens when the shelf Amelia has built for herself is no longer flattering due to age? Hopefully, she figures out what matters most before then.
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As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.