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Editorial: Why Are the Guys Such Jerks in the Paranormal Activity Series?

Paranormal Activity 3 DennisWith the exception of the first Paranormal Activity, I’ve seen each sequel in the franchise only once.  The reason being?  I’ve said this elsewhere, but I always thought they were decent “one time” experiences with a formula that pushes the right buttons of creaking doors, crashing pans and thumping to get you jumping out of your seat.  They’re films that prey on the primal fears of its audience; beyond that, not much to chew on in repeat viewings once you know what’s coming.

The arrival of The Marked Ones had me go back recently and revisit the first four films, however, in an effort to get ahead of this new chapter and see if there were any clues flashing in neon with a giant arrow pointing to “a Latino-themed spin-off is what this franchise needs!”  Beyond my fixation on the maid Martine in Paranormal Activity 2 – the smartest one of the series and who I was ready to bet good hard-earned cash that she would be the connective tissue to The Marked Ones – I could find nothing.  I did discover within myself a greater appreciation for the mythology, though, as well as a very strange observation that  reached out and dragged me out of my bed and down the hall screaming.

Why are most of the prominent male characters so tremendously flawed, or, conistently portrayed as jerks?

This isn’t a complaint, mind you – just something I latched onto in the first Paranormal Activity that I couldn’t shake and then made it a point to analyze through the following three sequels.

Micah, of the first film, is a doofus.  A believable one, but a doofus nonetheless.  And many women I talk to about the first film don’t care for him either.  I can see why.  He’s pushy.  An instigator.  He doesn’t listen to Katie in spite of her requests.

Paranormal Activity 2 coincidentally features Daniel, father to Ali and husband to Kristii.  Dan proves to be a bit of an abrasive dick (later, Martine!) and even goes so far as to strike up a demonic bargain in the film’s third act, putting Micah and Katie at risk.

Dennis of Paranormal Activity 3 sets out to break the mold and proves to be an okay guy who loves his girlfriend and, as far as we can tell, works hard.  When paranormal shenanigans begin to heat up, he takes on the position as “the believer.”  (This is a role-reversal.  Katie and Ali were the believers of the previous two entries.)  Still, Dennis is cast into a poor light as evident in a scene in which his girlfriend, Julie (Katie and Kristi’s mother), is talking to Grandma Lois (Julie’s mom and, literally, a witch) who hints that Dennis might be a bit of a financial deadbeat using Julie’s credit card.  Poor Dennis!  The one decent dude and his reputation is still sullied.

Finally, we come to Doug, the dad of Paranormal Activity 4.  This guy’s a bit of an enigma.  He’s good to his kid, but there’s something happening within his marriage that is guiding him to divorce and, by the end of the film, he’s relegated to sleeping on the couch.  Is he a deadbeat husband?  We don’t really know for sure because the details of his messy marriage are not made clear in the film, but whatever it is…it’s likely his fault, based on the personality traits of the previous men depicted in this series.

Remove Dennis from the canvas of the male figures in this film franchise and what do you have?  Obnoxious, ignorant, stubborn or apathetic guys that ultimately meet a dire end.  And the only reason I can see behind this decision is because, at its core, the Paranormal Activity franchise is really about witchcraft.  The series is a female-driven.  It’s about the power wielded by Grandma Lois, the pact she made many years ago for wealth and the repercussions that are being felt throughout her family.  It may not be, on the surface, as female-empowered or finely in-tune with its own themes as something like American Horror Story: Coven – the women in Paranormal Activity suffer quite a bit – however, Grandma Lois and her coven are omnipresent.  They’re a force, we have learned, you can’t mess with.

If this wasn’t the creative intent of those who have contributed to the series, then I’m genuinely curious as to why the male protagonists are cast in a negative light.

It’s very unlucky to be a man in this franchise.  You’re a jerk and then you die.  The Marked Ones turns things around slightly, but will it stick for future installments?

  • J Jett

    i’ve only seen PA 1 & 2 and Ryan i agree w/ you. even though i found Micah to be hot that’s really his only positive attribute. he’s a jerk. but he’s a prince compared to dickbag Dan in part 2. i literally HATED everyone in that except the young daughter, the baby and the dog. i was rooting for the demon/ghost/whatever to kill the dad and to do it painfully. lol.

  • Steve

    I’ve also only seen the sequels once each (more than enough) and I can’t say I ever really noticed this. I’ll be paying closer attention to what they do with PA5 (because I won’t be revisiting any of them). One thing I will say, though, is that the boyfriend (?) character Ben in PA4 was the only highlight of that movie. He was a fun, funny character who, IIRC, was also a pretty nice guy until he was rather unceremoniously killed off.

    And you’re dead on about the one time watch value of the series. They’re filled with nothing but jump scares – and sometimes not even that. And they’ve been treading water for the last couple of installments too. I’m sure we’ve seen the same ending at least twice – a coven of witches converging for something we don’t get to see. The fourth film didn’t advance anything and they’re just stretching out the series as far as they can at this point. I’d like to see them put it to rest, or at the very least finish the Katie story and start fresh.