Most people can identify with the struggle to fit in. Finding your position in this world is a difficult endeavor for anyone, young or old, especially when society seems to be shouting at you what you should and shouldn’t be. The Outside, the fourth episode in Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, uses surrealism to show the extreme measures some people would take in order to fit in.
In The Outside, Kate Micucci plays Stacey, who struggles to blend in with the sexy women she works with at the bank. Stacey is shocked to learn that she has been invited to their Secret Santa party and receives an expensive lotion called Alo Glo as a present. Stacey applies the lotion despite the fact that it causes a full-body rash because she wants to fit in. She is willing to pay whatever it takes to experience the body, mind, and soul transformation that the Alo Glo infomercial man (Dan Stevens), who appears to be speaking to her through the screen, promises.
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The Outside’s director, Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, The Bad Batch), explains to Den of Geek that the film is about how we value the outside, the surface, and how we assess everything by it. No matter who you are, what’s within is very different from what’s on the outside. And that applies to everyone. And I believe that becoming overly fixated on the outside can drive someone insane.
And Stacey is plagued by this lunacy as she develops an obsession with Alo Glo. She purchases a whole case of the lotion and hides it in the basement from her husband Keith (Martin Starr). As he becomes more and more alarmed, the lotion starts to ooze out of the tubes and eventually takes the appearance of what Amirpour calls the lotion lady.
However, Amirpour never intended for the lotion lady to be as terrifying as it was described in the original script. Instead, she argues that the lotion lady symbolises the allure of the perfect version of yourself that you think may exist if only a genie in a bottle could provide the solution. She continues by saying that before you realise it has a sense of impending doom or something sinister about it, it has to be something that is in some way attractive.
The Outside’s conclusion, in which Stacey and the lotion vendor virtually merge into one another in a moment evocative of Annihilation and 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, is best described as ominous. But in this instance, Stacey is prepared to meld with this force and change into the persona she thinks to be her actual self. Stacey emerges changed and smeared with Alo Glo goo from the bathtub like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. When she gets to work, she finally feels like her coworkers appreciate her, but at what cost? After he attempted to persuade her to stop taking Alo Glo, she killed and taxidermied her husband, one of the few individuals who had accepted her prior to her change. The superficial ladies she works with are currently all she has.
The closing shot of The Outside features Stacey in a disturbingly blissful state as the sound of her slanderous coworkers fades away. But Stacey’s story doesn’t have a happy ending just because she’s at last found the acceptance she’s been seeking. When questioned about the conclusion, Amirpour emphasized that although Stacey had realized her desire of being the ideal you, the euphoria and degree of “utopic acceptance” she had attained were only a passing phase.
Many people can identify with Stacey’s situation if given the chance to become the ideal version of themselves. Would you accept it? Even though Stacey’s change is visceral and horrific, Alo Glo would be extremely well-liked if it were a real thing. Alo Glo, despite its magical aspects, is completely in line with the wellness services and products that celebrities and Instagram influencers promote as ways to enhance both our lives and our beauty.
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The Outside definitely hit home for me as someone who was tormented in school and still battles with self-acceptance. I’d like to think that the two years I’ve spent in treatment have prevented me from falling for Dan Stevens’ dulcet infomercial voice, but I also realize that a part of me still yearns for the utopian acceptance of others that Amirpour writes about. Even while we are aware that Stacey’s experience will probably not last indefinitely, it is alluring to watch her look directly into the camera as she experiences this delicious ecstasy.
However, Stacey’s story is neither a call to action nor is it a cautionary tale. The Outside makes us examine ourselves and what we would do to fit in by giving Stacey what she wants, even if it is just temporary. In his introduction to The Outside, Guillermo del Toro states that this short film “forces us to reckon with what we are, and what we are told we should be.”
Netflix Now offers four episodes of Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities for streaming. Up until Friday, Oct. 28, there will be two brand-new episodes released every day.
The following article initially featured on Den of Geek: Cabinet of Curiosities: The Outside Shows the Horrors of Fitting In.