Freire in Midsommar (2019): performative critical consciousness as social ritual

John C. H. Hu


This paper analyzes the horror film Midsommar through the lens of Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, centered on the concept of critical consciousness and its modern renditions as digital or even performative activism.  Midsommar extends upon familiar narratives like The Lottery to present a blurring of the binary between those who only appear critically-conscious and their adversaries. The stark contrast between a murderous religious cult, the Hårga, and a group of graduate students in anthropology fades throughout the film as the director meticulously presents ritual among the former group in relation to gaslighting among the latter. The emphasis on gore which almost borders on exploitative serves to emphasize not just the perils of compromised critical-consciousness, but also how individuals can choose to exploit social justice towards personal gain. Midsommar breaks through the digital divide to illustrate that even in the film's "screenless society", those who only claim to be critically-conscious likewise observe with stillness through an invisible barrier between the self and the victimized other. The beautifully lethal ceremonies observed by the film's antagonists ultimately reminds us of our own dissemination and simultaneous dilution of critical consciousness towards performative activism as our parallel dogma.

Received: 13 April 2023 Accepted: 21 August 2023 Published: 06 September 2023


critical consciousness; performative activism; Midsommar; digital media; social justice

Full Text:



Arts, Irma, Anke Fischer, Dominic Duckett, and René van der Wal. 2021. “The Instagrammable Outdoors – Investigating the Sharing of Nature Experiences through Visual Social Media.” People and Nature 3 (6): 1244–56.

Frank, Roberta. 1984. “Viking Atrocity and Skaldic Verse: The Rite of the Blood-Eagle.” The English Historical Review 99 (391): 332–43.

Freire, Paulo. 2000. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. 30th anniversary ed. New York: Continuum.

Graham, Sage L. 2019. “A Wink and a Nod: The Role of Emojis in Forming Digital Communities.” Multilingua 38 (4): 377–400.

Jackson, Shirley. 2013. “The Lottery.” In The Lottery, 391–98. Harvard University Press.

Kutlaca, Maja, and Helena R. M. Radke. 2023. “Towards an Understanding of Performative Allyship: Definition, Antecedents and Consequences.” Social and Personality Psychology Compass 17 (2): e12724.

Sachs, Ben. 2019. “Midsommar Is Nothing More than a Dressed-up Piece of Scandinavian Schlock.” Chicago Reader. July 3, 2019.

Sargisson, Lucy. 2009. “Chapter 9 Sustainability and the Intentional Community: Green Intentional Communities.” In The Transition to Sustainable Living and Practice, edited by Liam Leonard and John Barry, 4:171–92. Advances in Ecopolitics. Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Schwartz, R H, R Milteer, and M A LeBeau. 2000. “Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault ('date Rape’).” Southern Medical Journal 93 (6): 558–61.

Spadoni, Robert. 2020. “Midsommar: Thing Theory.” Quarterly Review of Film and Video 37 (7): 711–26.

Styslinger, Mary E., Jennifer Stowe, Nicole Walker, and Kayla Hyatt Hostetler. 2019. “Becoming Teachers for Social Justice: Raising Critical Consciousness.” The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas 92 (1–2): 9–14.

Sutton, David. 2022. “The Horror/Beauty of the Harga: Midsommar as Western Imaginary of a Screen-Free Life.” Visual Anthropology 35 (4–5): 448–68.

Thimsen, A. Freya. 2022. “What Is Performative Activism?” Philosophy & Rhetoric 55 (1): 83–89.

Turner, Nancy J., Łukasz Jakub Łuczaj, Paola Migliorini, Andrea Pieroni, Angelo Leandro Dreon, Linda Enrica Sacchetti, and Maurizio G. Paoletti. 2011. “Edible and Tended Wild Plants, Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Agroecology.” Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences 30 (1–2): 198–225.

Wolfe, Monica. 2021. “Mapping Imperialist Movement in Postmodern Horror Film Midsommar.” Journal of Popular Film and Television 49 (4): 210–22.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2024 John C. H. Hu

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Insights into Language, Culture and Communication
E-ISSN: 2812-491X
P-ISSN: 2812-4901 

Published by:

Academy Publishing Center (APC)
Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport (AASTMT)
Alexandria, Egypt