'Bird Box' is Really a Story About Parenting, Mental Health and Having 'Blind' Faith

Updated: Apr 10, 2019



On Christmas night I gave in to the hype and watched Bird Box, the new Netflix Original starring Sandra Bullock. For those of you who have never seen or heard of it, it's about a woman named Malorie (Bullock) who fights to protect herself and her two children from an ominous, unseen entity (that only dwells outdoors) that causes whomever looks at it to commit suicide (very disturbing, I know). In order to survive, Malorie and her children must remain indoors with the windows covered and eventually travel for two days by boat down a raging river -- completely blindfolded -- to seek refuge.


If my synopsis intrigued you enough to watch the movie, I highly advise you to stop reading, take a two-hour Netflix break and go do that (then come back and finish reading) because the remainder of this post is literally nothing but spoilers. Now that we got that lil disclaimer out of the way...


So I watched this movie twice and I'm not gonna lie, the first time I thought it was trash (my initial rating was half a star, and that's only because I love Sandra Bullock). For starters, the whole mass suicide thing didn't sit well with me. As someone who is all too familiar with the impact a person's mental health can have on their desire to live, the idea of people becoming possessed by some random, invisible force causing them to commit suicide out of nowhere was just a little too out of touch for my taste. And I had questions. Like, where did this thing even come from and why? And walking around everywhere blindfolded? So unrealistic. But that was me looking at the film from a literal standpoint.


Watching it for a second time opened my eyes (no pun intended) to some things I hadn't picked up on the first go-round. Once I began watching it through a more figurative lens, I developed a newfound appreciation for the film and it's overall message. And I took hella notes, so here's everything I unpacked from the film:


Characters


Taking a closer look at the film's key characters, you'll notice that each of their traits represent personalities of people we most likely have all encountered:

  • Malorie: Detached, distrustful, defensive, tough/thick-skinned

  • Jessica (Malorie's sister): Fun, witty, good-natured, supportive

  • Tom (Malorie's lover): Compassionate, loyal, nurturing, protective

  • Olympia: Sensitive, compassionate, gullible, loving

  • Douglas: Intolerant, insensitive, distrustful, brutally honest

  • Greg: Intellectual, progressive

  • Charlie: Fearful, observant

  • Gary (the Worshipper): Charming, deceptive, wolf in sheep's clothing

Interestingly enough, the majority of the characters listed above (with the exception of Malorie and Gary) wound up committing suicide (Gary was shot and killed by Tom), shedding light on the fact that anyone can be a victim of mental illness, no matter what their personality is like or how they may be perceived by others.

Major Themes


Throughout the film, Malorie is faced with a series of internal conflicts and challenges that serve as the overarching themes behind the story's message.


Strong vs. Weak: Malorie's "only the strong survive" mentality and overall perception of strength and weakness is displayed a lot throughout the film in how she connects with the other characters, how she raises her children and how she navigates the world around her. This theme also gives food for thought to readers on what it means to be "strong" and "weak," and how we relate these characteristics to issues such as mental health and suicide. "There are two types of people; the a**holes and the dead." -Douglas


Parenting vs. Protecting: Malorie has a very cut-and-dry relationship with her children that is solely based on protecting and providing for them. The fact that she named them Girl and Boy speaks to the severe disconnect and lack of affection between her and her children. In the end, Malorie learns that being a loving parent is much more crucial to her children's survival than simply being their leader and protector.

Living vs. Surviving: In her fight to keep her family safe, Malorie must decide for herself and her children whether there is a deeper meaning to life than mere survival. "Surviving is not living." -Tom

Faith vs. Reality: Malorie must learn that there is more to life than what we can or can't "see" in our reality. It's taking a leap of "blind" faith based on hope for a better future that makes life worth living.

"Life is more than what it is; it's what it could be." -Tom


Symbolism

The Entity Similar to the film, many people who commit suicide in real life are "overtaken" by an "unseen force" that manifests in the form of depression, anxiety and other mental diseases. The entity in the film is a representation of how our deepest fears, insecurities and inner demons can be difficult, painful or even deathly for us to face. The fact that the entity could not physically harm its victims but instead cause them to harm themselves upon looking at it denotes a deeper message of how the things we allow to overtake our minds can ultimately lead us to our own demise.


The Worshippers People already suffering from mental illness, like Gary, were immune to the entity, forcing others to look at it and commit suicide. I interpreted this to mean two things: 1) people with mental illnesses "see" the world differently than "normal" people and 2) being "exposed" to the negative influence of others (by way of social media, peer pressure, drugs, etc.) can take our mental health down a dark path that may lead us to our doom.


The Window Coverings

To avoid catching sight of the suicidal force dwelling outside, survivors must keep the windows completely sealed and covered as a form of protection from the outside world. This reminds me of how we must "protect our energy" at all costs to preserve our mental, spiritual and physical health.

The Blindfolds Malorie takes the ultimate leap of faith when she decides to travel blindfolded down the river with her two kids in order to find safety. The blindfolds are a literal and figurative representation of what it means to walk by faith and not by "sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7)


The River

SInce Malorie and her children must travel the river completely blindfolded in order to find safety, she has no clue which direction she is going in or what the outcome of her journey will be. The only thing she can do is go with the flow of the river, trust her instincts and hope for the best. The way Malorie navigates the river represents how in navigating life we ultimately have to "go with the flow" of the things that are outside of our control and walk by faith in times of adversity, even if we are uncertain of the outcome.


The Forest Once Malorie and the children make it past the river, they must venture through the woods --still blindfolded -- to reach the safe haven. As they are wandering through the forest, Malorie and the children are tempted by the evil force to remove their blindfolds (similar to the story in the Bible when Satan tried to tempt Christ in the wilderness). In the end, Malorie is able to prevent her and her kids from temptation by giving them something she'd never given them before: the promise of a better life ahead. This scene denotes how with faith, hope and perseverance we can overcome our darkest times.


The Birds In the film, birds appear to be the only creatures that can detect the entity's presence. During the journey down the river, Malorie keeps three birds in a box to alert her and the children when danger is coming. Once they reach the safe haven -- a school for the blind (blind people are the only humans that are completely immune to the entity) -- Malorie and her children release the birds to fly freely inside of the facility's indoor botanical garden. Essentially, the birds represent Malorie and her two children as well as their hope for a new beginning.


The Bird Box

The bird box in which the birds are contained throughout most of the film represents the family's protection/imprisonment from the outside world.

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