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  • Writer's picturezandaleeindigo

Challengers and What We Mean to Each Other

When a movie comes out and you see it three times in the span of a week, I think it only makes sense to talk about it.

Challengers is by far one of the most riveting films I've seen in a while. Not only is it incredibly aesthetically pleasing and features some incredibly attractive people but it has one of the most fascinating and interesting screenplays I've ever seen put to screen. Everyone who knows me knows that there are a handful of topics and themes I love being examined in media: sex, power, passion, all of which are central to the story of Challengers.

While people online debate about who "really loved" who and who the "villian" of the film was I find it far more interesting to interrogate the ecosystem as a whole and understand what each spoke of the wheel does. Every combination of the Art/Tashi/Patrick throuple is complex and fascinating to inspect. Patrick and Art refer to themselves as fire and ice (Patrick likely being fire, Art being ice) and many have noted Tashi is firey too, they balance each other out.

Patrick gives Art support. He gives him encouragement. He pushes him. He makes him step out of his comfort zone, whether its through teaching him how to masturbate when they were young or introducing him to Tashi in the first place. Art makes Patrick happy. I'm a firm Patrick is in love with Art truther, you see hints of it throughout the film. The masturbation conversation features Patrick adjusting his shorts as they recount their intimate moment, not to mention he remembers every detail so well (details I fully believe Art remembers too but pretends not to). He thinks Art's interest in Tashi when they're dating is a turn on (coupled with the infamous churro scene), and even when Art attempts to meddle and break them up Pat respects it and Tashi and him talk about Art whenever they get hot and heavy. Patrick holds Art's opinion of him in high regard and that's clear when we see Tashi's malice toward him treated as foreplay and Art's harsh words treated like bullet wounds. Art is home.

Tashi gets something different from both boys as well. I am a firm believer in the fact that from their first interaction at her party it was always going to be Art, even though she cheats, just because of what each boy provides.

Art gives Tashi stability. Loyalty. He's willing to listen and learn. From the first night it's clear he admires her talent, between his awe at her scream and him adorably dubbing her a "remarkable young woman," it's clear he understands her drive for passion and what tennis means to her. He respects her obsession and loves her because of it, not in spite of it like Patrick would've. He's the president of her fan club. And in the wake of her injury he want's to play for her to make her happy. Tashi gives Art drive. She makes him a better player. Her continued support of him and his abilities, always reminding him "you can beat him," gives him the confidence to stand up to Patrick in the sauna with more bite than he's ever had.

But Tashi and Patrick have a special connection too. Patrick is probably Tashi's first love and by extension her first heartbreak. Patrick gives Tashi a headache. He riles her up, challenges her. He threatens her control of every situation, he brings out her bite. They have a passionate relationship but I don't think their attraction runs deeper than that. Tashi gives Patrick a boner. To me, even though Patrick says they're peers, he doesn't view Tashi as much more than a trophy to win. While I do believe there is some fondness and care in the relationship he has with Tashi, I almost see their relationship as a way for Pat to feel closer to Art at times. Both of them really use their infidelity in different ways to tease out the more aggressive side of Art, Tashi by giving him her ultimatium and Patrick by using their signal to provoke him.

Scenes between Art and Tashi are intimate and sweet, like the ending of their unoffical Applebees date outside Art's car, filled with nervous looks and bashful smiles. Conversely the car makeout scene between Patrick and Tashi are full of tension, lustful and uncontrolled.

Not Thee car scene but equally palpable tension

Now, the way I view the world is definitely colored by my theatrical background (have I mentioned recently I have a BFA in musical theatre? One I don't use nearly enough) but it's a way of viewing the world and understanding interactions that kind of broke my brain when we learned about it. Every interaction a character has, or even every interaction we have with other people, you're always fighting for something. And as corny as it sounds, when you're an actor tasked with finding your motivation in a scene you have to ask yourself, "who wants what from who? And how do they get it?"

Recently I went through a breakup of sorts and I'm choosing to process it in the only way I know how, through film.

As I've mentioned in multiple posts before, I have very little romantic experience. My longest "relationship" (or facsimile of a relationship) was this most recent one and even that fizzled out after a few months and never amounted to anything real. While it's a bummer to have to go back to square one in terms of dating, I do feel like I learned a lot and for once in my life seriously started to ask myself what I want in a relationship.

In a weird way, following the constant tennis match and shifting power dynamics throughout Challenegers and considering how each relationship benefited Tashi, as well as what each relationship lacked kind of clued me in to the fact that things weren't working before we even had the conversation. And it's done a lot for me in terms of processing my feelings and figuring out what's best for me moving forward.

He's a good man Savannah!

When I really stepped back and looked at how the connection broke down and ask myself, "what was this giving me?" I come up short. Similarly to Tashi, I met someone during an incredibly tumultuous time in my life and they provided me comfort and a sense of normalcy and affection I'd been in need of. And while I really liked them, over time it began to feel like they weren't providing me much more.

People try to divorce their favorite pairing (Art/Tashi, Art/Patrick, Patrick/Tashi) from the narrative as a whole without realizing the machinery doesn't work without all the cogs spinning together. That's what the final tennis match showed us. Tashi crumbles without a solid foundation and is bored out of her mind without that spark of passion.

His personality? Gutterbutt. That smirk? Everything.

Honestly apart of me heavily identifies with Tashi. I'm someone that makes my passions my personality. I don't think a day goes by where I'm not discussing some form of media I've consumed or working to create something new. I found Art and Patrick to be my Two Types of men I usually go for. One is crude and infuriating in a way that's devastatingly enticing and the other, sweet and docile and homey. And I find more often than not having one but not the other is a good way for them to wear out their welcome far too quickly, I find I'm easily bored and have little patience for those who don't excite me.

Some view Tashi's actions as selfish, I simply see her understanding what each man is able to give her (security, an orgasm, some good fucking tennis) and operating in kind. And I don't have the luxury of calling Josh O'Connor in to spice things up, so it's on to the next.

Can you blame her?

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1 Comment

May 04

I am glad you found a movie--and anticipation of finding what you want--to help process what's going on right now. 🍔

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