The Twilight Zone episode 7, “Not All Men,” explores the concepts of toxic masculinity and free will through a science fiction premise. When a meteor shower enraptures an idealistic community, the local men begin showing signs of increased anger. The Twilight Zone's “Not All Men” takes a heavy-handed approach with its message, but effectively demonstrates how unchecked aggressiveness can affect social circles and society as a whole.
In “Not All Men,” Taissa Farmiga portrays Annie - a young professional who just wants to play by the rules and be happy. Her ideals are challenged when co-worker Dylan (Luke Kirby) invites her to watch a meteor shower, and then gets too aggressive with his sexual advances. Upon leaving Dylan's home, Annie watches in horror as the man freaks out inside his home, and not long after he collected a fallen meteor rock. As the rest of the community’s men became increasingly rude and violent, Annie's brother-in-law Mike (Ike Barinholtz) appears to be the only nice guy left. But even he falls victim to a mass toxic masculinity affliction, one that’s seemingly connected to red water. But is it really the water? Or do people just choose to be awful, rude, and violent?
The Twilight Zone's “Not All Men” uses a restaurant scene to raise the stakes. Annie learns that she may be paired with Dylan on a work project, and she’s uncomfortable when she sees him while dining with friends. Meanwhile, a seemingly drunken man melts down at the bar. Within moments, the entire restaurant is full of angry, fighting men, and the message is clear: something has gone horribly wrong after the meteor shower. And it’s only affecting the men, all of whom continuously hurl nasty insults at the local women.
Once “Not All Men” establishes the fundamental horror - which includes Mike's inevitable transformation from woke nice guy to a raging bull - the action moves to the streets, something akin to The Purge. As the women attempt to understand why the men have gone crazy, a stylized and operatic fountain scene further establishes the males as a collective Big Bad. But as the title suggests, not all men are complete lunatics, and the narrative then transfers to Annie’s nephew, Cole, who drinks beer with a male friend/love interest on a boat. As it turns out, one of them received a bad batch, so to speak, and thus another local male loses control.
The Twilight Zone's “Not All Men” ends with the return of Dylan, who takes a slow zombie walk towards Annie and her sister Martha (Rhea Seehorn), who is the aforementioned Cole’s mother. Dylan is ultimately knocked into the water, and both Annie and Martha realize that Cole’s free will overpowered the spread of toxic masculinity. The community doesn’t need a “cure,” they just need the men to make wise decisions, to not be horrible, rude, and aggressive. By end of "Not All Men", Annie stands up for herself after being patronized and insulted by a passive-aggressive man. The script has been flipped.
As a whole, “Not All Men” features sharp direction from Christina Choe, who directed the acclaimed 2018 indie film Nancy starring Andrea Riseborough. And the slightly-campy performances lend the episode a wink-of-the-eye quality as well. The Twilight Zone's “Not All Men” makes accessible, clear points via dark humor, highlighting the fact that masculine bravado can be infectious, and that some males will spiral out of control if they’ve never been confronted about their questionable behavior.