By Lily Meek
11th July 2020

People sometimes use the expression "like a trainwreck", then follow that sentence up with "You don't want to watch, but you just can't help it." I've never really understood the concept because it makes trainwrecks seem like a semi-positive experience or entertaining to watch. But the Kardashians, two drunk girls fighting over a kebab, MAFS... all of that sort of shit I can get - the things we don't want to watch but we still do. Actually now that I write that, I think I understand the expression a little more...

'The Pickup Game' is exactly like that. You strap in, it makes you angry and you know exactly where it's heading, but your eyes are glued to the screen nevertheless. Its completely fascinating, eye-opening, and surprisingly educational.

This documentary exposes the "pickup industry", a trade that teaches tactics and lessons to men on how to talk to, date and sleep with women. As it progresses, it ultimately exposes the spectrum of this environment, how it can go from naive to extreme... real quick.

That paradoxical idea above about a trainwreck being good to watch but also slightly bad - that definitely kicks in when you're a woman watching this documentary. It was quite confronting to recognise some of the strategies being taught have been tested out on myself or my friends. It was even more unnerving researching into the industry and having discussions with my male friends who had always known it existed or even read some of the books.


It's an interesting concept to wrap my head around and if you would allow me, I'm throwing my two cents in. The world, society, people - whatever you want to call it - always seem to get comfortable with feminism. It's films like this that really grab us by the shoulders and shake the daylight out of us, telling us we need to take action. And to that point, I am so glad this is a film produced to the world by men in a non-patronising way - props and congrats to you guys. I do hope this film brings you every success in support of the courage you showed to step out and shine a spotlight. In saying that, I think this documentary could also be quite confronting to men. It's a direct hit and reveals the douchebaggery that sometimes gets forgotten or overseen.

This is an industry that could have targeted increasing confidence in young men to build their courage or even working on their self-development and security from a mental standpoint. Instead, it began to equate worth with picking up women and sex stats. I love films like this because they call out people and industries for what they are. This is exposition crafted into a powerful tool of entertainment, and it's why we as people make films. Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki said, "You have to be determined to change the world with your film, even though nothing changes. That's what it means to be a filmmaker." This film is a game-changer (pardon the pun). And it's horrible to think that it will be lost on or go unnoticed by the people it's really calling out. I guess that's the way it goes; if you're a piece of shit, then you're probably not going to watch things that call you out for being a piece of shit - or at least go into extreme denial about "how it's not like that". And I can already imagine how the aftermath of this will kick up a fuss. 

The news, the media and people often place the women at the forefront...

"A girl was raped walking home"
"Woman hit by husband tonight"
"Woman drugged at club..."

For once, this film has the guts to assert that men are the foundation of all of this. It doesn't make a comment on the ladies; it's a call out. I am so fired up about this documentary that when I first watched it had me so saddened by the state of things. But very rarely do we ever receive justice or education on such topics, and this film delivers on that front. It doesn't stop there - where it educates and unpacks the truth for those of us who are naïve (me), it's also an allegory for those who participate in such experiences. Its a highlight reel of where these people end up and how they feel in the aftermath of such activities... a cautionary tale of sorts.

It's films like this that really grab us by the shoulders and shake the daylight out of us, telling us we need to take action.

I won't lie to you. I had a whole paragraph in here with an opinion on the characters in this documentary and the world that surrounds them. Then I remembered that it's not my job to make a statement on the content, it's my job to encourage you to watch this film. The documentary is more than strong enough to convince you of the rest. Please, please go support these filmmakers, spread the word of this film, and hopefully it can change the world - even if it's just a little.

Looking for more Melbourne Documentary Film Festival reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
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