TFW No GF by Alex Lee Moyer is a very watchable documentary about “disaffected young men searching for meaning in the dark corners of the internet”. These “dark corners” are mostly popular Twitter accounts posting Wojak memes, but hey — you gotta titillate the normies with the blurb. The normies are fulfilling their part of the bargain, posting cringe reviews about “the rise of extreme violence” and “ramifications of terrible misogyny” that Moyer “fails to investigate”.
It’s inevitable, in part by Moyer’s own design, that TFW No GF will become forever known as “the incel documentary”. The only question is: does it document incels?
The movie follows five men, all sharing a similar story of growing up alienated in families that don’t support them and a society that shits on their aspirations. They go online, find solace and brotherhood in forums of sad personal stories and edgy memes, then master the sadposting and memetrolling art themselves. Having come out the other side with some pride and a bunch of followers and friends, they assure their 18-year-old past selves that life gets better if you meme instead of hanging yourself.
What about the whole celibacy part? Aside from a few jokes about virginity, none of the subjects seem particularly preoccupied with seeking out girls, being rejected by girls, or thinking much about girls at all. Words like “Chad”, “Stacy”, “beta” don’t appear even once. Also: one of the guys is much taller than me, one is a much better dresser, one is in much better shape, one is funnier and more popular — yet even I manage to date somehow. The fifth guy, spoiler alert, has a girlfriend. The movie is about “that feeling”, not about “no GF”.
This is reminiscent of that other “incel movie”, The Joker. Arthur Fleck deals with mental health issues, family issues, money issues, political issues, and rage. Women and sex are not at the forefront of his mind. And of course, after finding an avenue for his creative expression, the Joker (in the extended universe) finds his self-esteem and gets to bang Harley Quinn. This is perfectly echoing the theme of TFW No GF, only with actual gun violence replacing our own universe’s gun violence memes.
The movie’s star, the esteemed Dr. Kantbot, agrees:
Now this is all fine and uplifting, except for the fact that involuntary celibate men very much exist. No one is making movies about them, but they show up in my comments every single time I write or tweet anything about dating. They fill the subreddits and MRA forums in their hundreds of thousands. They’re not all white, not all misogynists, and almost none of them are violent. But they can’t get laid, and they certainly don’t have any culture-shaking artistic talent (neither do I). That sort of talent is very rare, and it’s very attractive to romantic partners.
So what’s actually happening under the “incel” umbrella?
I know I’m going to get shit from both incels and incel-haters for attempting this psychography no matter how I write it. The epistemic status for everything below is if you think I’m full of shit you’re right, now fuck off and read another blog. But my theory of the red pill and blue-haired pill was quite well received, so fuck it, let’s do the black. (The pill colors mean different things in different contexts, so just follow along with what I’m gesturing at.)
An End to Suffering
Suffering comes from unfulfilled craving; if both the Buddha and Kaj Sotala agree then it must be so. I laid out the predictive processing gloss on suffering and the black pill on Ribbonfarm, so in brief:
Craving creates a loop. You first imagine a desired reality (money/sex/power), then suffer when that reality or any reasonable plan of attaining it fails to materialize. But mere disconfirmation doesn’t eliminate the craving, and it arises again and again to cause pain. To stop the craving from arising, one has three options: attain the goal, attain nirvana, or deeply internalize that your goal is utterly impossible. The first two are very hard.
The third is very hard to do by yourself, but it can be done with the help of others. If a community constantly reinforces a story about your craving being unattainable, eventually the craving may go away.
There are two such stories: the red and the black. The red lays the blame at the feet of female sexual strategies and the society which promotes and reinforces them. It vows, like Neo, to fight back. The black gives up the fight — the world is too cruel, and you’re too much of a fuckup to do anything about it.
I don’t know what pushes a man towards the red or the black, whether it’s mere circumstance or political leanings or psychological factors of neuroticism and disagreeableness. The merits of each worldview as an accurate model of the world are also not important since the goal of each is not to describe reality but to alleviate the immediate suffering. But the two pills have very different impacts on the men who take them.
Humans who feel pain and anger need those feelings acknowledged and validated; young men are no exception. But they are exceptional in that large swaths of society aren’t set up to provide that validation for them in particular. Male suffering is often met with scorn, male anger with fear. Both are met with discourses on “toxic masculinity” which are the exact opposite of respect and compassion. Men who aren’t lucky enough to have supportive families or close friends turn to the online pilled communities.
When you’re going through a time so rough you’re idly wondering whether you should kill yourself, and then you post your story to r9k and a commenter idly suggests that you should kill yourself — that’s validation. It means that at least one other person out there agrees that that suicidal desperation is a legitimate emotional reaction to your circumstance. You may despondent, but you’re not alone.
The red pill does a better job of validating anger than it does pain, but at the cost of feeding it. Since it places the onus on things a single angry man can’t change (female sexuality and modern society), it sustains a feeling of eternal frustration that drives the sort of mass movements that move nowhere in particular. It can end up making a man feel more powerless than if you told him you’re a powerless loser, lol.
But again, the story itself is less important than merely having a community you can feel a kinship with. No one thinks that spending their days in online spaces that are ~99% male is a good way to get laid. Getting laid is far secondary to the goal of being accepted as a human, equal and not inferior.
Of course, groups of men have their own dynamics. If a group agrees on what is valuable and can tie value to people’s identity, it will develop a hierarchy and men will compete to climb it.
It is no coincidence that the red pill, with its focus on Greek-letter hierarchies, lives mostly in places like Reddit which prominently displays the karma of every user and post. Red pill conferences sell thousand dollar tickets for men to listen to more alpha men on big stages.
In contrast, the black pill with its message of “we are equally fucked” thrives on anonymous forums like 4chan. With no persistent identity, there can be no hierarchy. The best shitposters, however, having honed their skills and tested the boundaries of acceptability under the protection of anonymity tend to find their way to Twitter where they can accumulate followers and status.
Both communities are also hostile to female encroachment, and for the same reason. When women enter a space, at least some men will compete to please the women rather than to provide value to the community, which subverts it. This is why I think the bellyaching about incel misogyny is overblown. The overt misogyny is usually not an expression of genuine hate but a defense mechanism designed to keep the space free of (known) women. A safe space, if you will.
And finally, a community creates an identity of belonging to it. Here’s a shocker: being attached to an identity of involuntary celibacy is going to keep you from getting laid. As the meme goes: sex is nice, but have you ever felt part of a group of guys who understand your deepest pains and insecurities?
Back when I was young and foolish and thought that inceldom was actually about not knowing how to flirt with women I was constantly surprised at how far incels would go to self-sabotage in the dating arena. Now I’ve stopped trying to offer incels dating advice, thank God.
A Different Game
It’s too late for trigger warnings in this post but trigger warning, incels.
Haha, I was just kidding. Incels don’t get triggered, let alone by 4chan screencaps. It’s triggering to the guy who was the quarterback in the photo 20 years ago and now he’s divorced and on his way to Orlando for the red pill convention. The guy who’s chained to this image, forever nostalgic for a time when “women were women” — aka when they kissed him without asking uncomfortable questions about the actual value he brings to a long-term relationship.
But the black pill says: You were never going to be the quarterback. And inside the black pill is a white pill that says: It’s OK. Being the quarterback is not the only game in town.
Normality is a difficult game. If you don’t look normal, working out won’t always help. If you’re too autistic to make normal small talk and have normal political opinions, you won’t be able to fake it. Normal women will not date you because normal people are extremely good at identifying who’s normal and who isn’t. No normal person wants to be contaminated by your weirdness.
The message of TFW No GF, and of the black/white pill in general, is one of radical acceptance. Posting Pepe memes under anime avatars isn’t going to gain the respect of normal society or shake it up, but at least it gives you something to do and some friends to do it with. If you discover a talent for it you may gain some self-confidence and subculture notoriety. Eventually, a woman will make a movie about you and other women will want to date you. Women can be weirdos too, as many guys discover to their shock and delight.
But even if you don’t climb the incel hierarchy out of literal inceldom, radical acceptance will still save your soul. The craving to be rich/sexy/powerful is the craving to be someone you’re not, and accepting who you are will lift that craving and the suffering it causes. If the movie is about “TFW” and not “No GF”, the suffering is about the “involuntary” and not the “celibate”.
I would rephrase Kantbot thus: incels don’t exist, for insofar as they do it’s because they want to. If you no longer want to, you are free.