“The outside” is the fourth episode of the anthology series Guillermo del Tori’s Cabinet of secrets. It is directed by Anna Lily Amirpour. She famously directed “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night.” “Cabinet of Curiosities” is an American horror series on Netflix. This series’s first three episodes were “Lot 36”, “The autopsy,” and “Graveyard Rats.”
This particular series is based on a webcomic named “Some Other Animal’s Meat.” It is written by Emily Carroll. Here the protagonist Stacey Chapman is played by the fantabulous Kate Micucci. Unlike the previous three stories, this fourth one is more realistic. It is also a longer episode than usual, almost an hour and five minutes long.
The story is set at Christmas time when a tiny house is shown in beautiful lighting. The festive mood is everywhere. We’re shown a middle-aged woman preparing her chicken wings. She makes her food and starts eating as she likes it. She was eating those wings with her hands. Others can find it gross, but it’s more comfortable for her. She was watching tv, and suddenly an anti-aging cream commercial popped up. “Alo Glo” is a miracle cream that can fix every problem. The advertisement actor, aka “Alo Glo” man, is played by Dan Stevens. She quickly changed the channel as she felt comfortable in her own skin. But it will quickly change in the first half of the episode.
Stacey heard a sound from outside the house. She panicked and went into her basement. There she keeps her Taxidermy art, which is an art where people make figures with the stuffed dead animal body, thus preserving them. She gets an axe from her basement and starts searching for the intruder. When she found nothing, she called her husband, Keeth. He is a cop. Keeth told her that it was her hallucination and old house made out of wood sometimes makes sounds.
Next, we’re shown her work life as a bank employee. Where she is an “odd duckling” with her co-workers, they’re considered beautiful swans. Although from their gossip, we learn that they are obsessed with beauty products and facial beauty enhancement surgeries. Being good-looking is not enough; they crave youth for a longer period of time. Which clearly shows how uncomfortable they are in their own skin. They show blatant homophobia in their gossip, yet they’re publicly touching each other. Stacey felt isolated because of her looks. They didn’t give much thought to her existence.
Stacey saw that one of her co-workers, Gina, was applying the “Alo Glo” lotion from the commercial. She later got an invitation from Gina. Gina invited her to their birthday party. Although, the invitation was not out of friendship but out of pity. She prepared a bird taxidermy as a gift for Gina. Gina provided her and other co-workers with the Alo Glo beauty kit. In their gossip, she again felt isolated due to her lack of “beauty.” She applied that cream as others but felt an intense burn on her skin. She is allergic to beauty lotion. She went for her home as her allergy kept increasing.
In her home, she started a toxic cycle of chasing “true beauty.” Keeth told her several times that she was beautiful as she was. She is not just beautiful but good at maths and arts. But no kind words of affirmation went into her mind. She kept watching the Alo Glo commercial. Keeth warned her that the capitalist beauty industry would create a need for their product which she obviously doesn’t need. They pry on her self-doubt and feeling of isolation.
She started directly talking to her tv commercials, Alo Glo man, through her tv. Her beauty lotion keeps coming out of tubes. But seeing the realistic setting of the show, these incidents aren’t possible. She stopped going to work and drowned in madness as her skin and mental health kept getting worse. Keeth felt the need to see a doctor. But she killed him as she saw him as an obstacle to achieving “true beauty.” She made a taxidermy doll out of her husband. This scene was genuinely horrifying. Finally, she embraced the personification of that beauty lotion and drowned herself in the bathtub filled with lotion.
In the end, her skin came off, and she got flawless skin. With rejuvenated confidence, she enters her bank. Keeth’s doll was watching the same cartoon as she was watching at the start. Her co-workers were shocked by her appearance. They gave her attention and kept praising her beauty. Amidst all the happy feelings and warm lights, we can still catch glimpses of her past self. Even with her makeup, we can see her unfocused eye and similar facial structure.
“What Actually Happened In The End”
There can be many explanations for the ending. We can clearly see that this story is told from the perspective of Stacey. But it was established that she has hallucination issues. A clear case of Psychosis. Maybe, after killing her husband, she drowned and died in the bathtub full of lotions. And she imagined the ending in her dying imagination. Although, even in her dying imagination, her “imperfections” could be seen in the end. It proves that no amount of beauty lotion or facial surgery can get rid of the impurities unless you feel comfortable in your own uniqueness.
We can also think that the entirety of the ending did actually happen but not as we’ve shown. Maybe her co-workers were shocked because she looked more horrifying due to skin damage. But she took those horrifying expressions as compliments in her delusional mind.
I don’t think the whole lotion-person incident is real because the realistic setting doesn’t allow it. No matter how you see it, Stacey’s delusion is clear. So, the whole story’s incidents are not in accordance with reality. It’s an open-ended story.
This short story is a perfect example of an open-ended story. There can be multiple explanations, as provided earlier. It is up to you how you see the story. No matter how you interpret it, one message is clear. No amount of beauty products can get rid of your unique qualities. In a post-modern capitalist world, we feel isolated if we don’t fit in with societal norms. Those flawed societal values create alienation. That alienation is exploited by beauty corporations to earn more profit. Accept your uniqueness. Because, what makes you unique, makes you beautiful.
Happy Halloween to all my readers. You are all beautiful. Enjoy this life to your heart’s content.