“F*cking Rich People” and Games of Death: Investigating Satire, Ridicule and Black Humour in Ready Or Not

Samara Weaving’s Grace, in Ready or Not, portrays the reality of a new bride with an interesting twist in the image of an innocent bride-turned-soldier in a torn wedding dress, sneakers for glass slippers and a belt of bullets as she prepares to fight against her bloodthirsty in-laws big on “family traditions” and their “hide-and-seek” cultic sacrifices to Satan.

This paper aims to argue that Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s film, Ready or Not (2019), illustrates the association of power with that of games which becomes the overarching frame to satirise the mannerisms and temperament of the rich, shatter the sacred in socially constructed institutions while exposing the absurdity of marriage, family and religious fanaticism.  

Game and Structures of Power

The Game

Fundamentally, a game is any kind of structured play that involves one or more participants who are bound by the internal logic of the game, governed by its well-defined rules and where the participants have a well-defined goal. Many scholars such as Anthony Manser and Anna Wierzbicka suggest one of the aims of a game to be the evocation of pleasure [1]. Moreover, the word ‘game’ is derived from the old English word gamen meaning “sport, joy, mirth, pastime, game, amusement, pleasure”[2]. Thus, the general understanding of a game is also that of pleasure and entertainment.

However, one might play a game for sheer pleasure or boredom but once within the logic and universe of the game, the outcome or goal of the game can either be a victory or a loss, which is sustained by a desire to experience pleasure through winning the game. For instance, in board games like chess, monopoly or competitive sports games like football, baseball et cetera, the goal of the game is to win against one’s opponent.

Even the simplest games of chance, such as a coin flip, also revolve around either a victory or a defeat. The goal of games such as sudoku or puzzles is to defeat the game-maker or the puzzle-maker, or simply to win against world of the game itself and find pleasure in one’s ingenuity to prevail against obstacles posed by game.

Therefore, games are not merely innocent forms of entertainment but contain within themselves latent structures of power and power play since the motive of the participants is winning the game and in doing so, they participate in the creation of the binary of a winner, that is, a superior or victor or survivor, and a loser, that is, an inferior or a failure.

The Hunter and The Prey

Similarly, the game of hide and seek in the film is also a game of power. Hide and seek evokes an image of the hunter-gatherer society where the act of hunting becomes a kind of game where killing the prey is the goal translating into the survival of the hunters and their community, and therefore victory. It is not a coincidence, then, that the word “game” also denotes the animals being hunted. This idea of hunting as a game has also been associated, historically, with the elite, aristocratic class where the entire logic of the play is to assert the hunter’s power over the prey and to find pleasure and entertainment in that power.

This association can be explicitly understood in the arena of the hunger games in Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games trilogy where the less fortunate tributes from poorer districts hide while the rich tributes hunt them. Similarly, hunting as a form of recreational play is highlighted in the satirical tragicomedy TV series Succession (2018) where the media conglomerate Roy family visit Hungary for a hunting trip in episode 3 of season 2 accurately named as “Hunting” within which they play a hazing game called “Boar on the Floor”. This episode, again, illustrate the association of power with hunting as a game and as a recreational activity.   

This confluence of the idea of hunting and the game of hide and seek in Ready or Not reveal the structures of power in the film. Grace is an orphan, an outsider whose “blood isn’t blue enough”, who marries into the Le Domas family of the Le Domas gaming “empire”, and has to participate in the initiation ceremony as a “tradition” where the “initiate then has the privilege of drawing the card. Mr. Le Bail will tell us which game to play”.

The initiation ceremony and the game itself, then, becomes a form of a filter by which a new family member, an outsider, is judged on their ability to “sign their soul away” in a Faustian bargain. Grace is “the opposite of all of [them], she’s good” and therefore Mr. Le Bail picks the game of hide and seek, as a method of sieving her out, where she is to be hunted by the entire Le Domas family until dawn or the Le Domases die.

The idea of the game, then, becomes central to the film and lays out the overarching framework of the film’s pointed satire which unravel the hegemonic structures of class hierarchy, patriarchy, marriage, family and religion, where Grace as the other, an orphan and a woman, is hunted by her elite, rich, fanatic in-laws.

Satire and Black Humour

Ready or Not mocks the ridiculous manners, murderous traditions, hypocrisy and nonchalance of the Le Domases, who are clearly detached from realities of the world outside, the blue-blooded members of a gaming “dominion” are “as they say, the rich really are different”. Moreover, humour in the film arises from the incongruity between the Le Domas’ goal of hunting and sacrificing a defenceless Grace and their sheer inability in achieving this simple task which is suggested by Tony’s frantic outburst: “she’s taking us out, how’s she doing it?”.

This statement exposes the fragility of patriarchal and class anxieties since Grace is not only a lower-class subject but also the protagonist of a modern-day witch hunt in the film. The insistence on using pre-modern weapons for the sake of tradition further fuels a series of funny sequences. For instance, Fitch watching a YouTube video titled “How to Use Your Crossbow” in the bathroom and the dramatic tension created around Charity’s sheer focus in shooting down Grace while she runs for her life, only for the dramatic tension to suddenly shatter in the arrow not even travelling a significant distance.

The Bloody Humour

Le Domases become the butt of a scathing satire and ridicule by employing black humour in the film. One of the most hilarious and ingenious use of black humour and satire is through Emilie’s character who, amidst the chaos of the hunt, and because of her unfamiliarity with the medieval weapons, keeps killing the house helps of the Le Domas manor. A gunshot through one’s head and an arrow through one’s mouth while the help is trying to speak, signifying that the lower classes should neither think nor speak. Further, the helps are treated as disposable subjects: “does the help count?”, the only speck of remorse that Tony displays at Clara’s brutal death is that “she was [his] favourite” similar to how one of the helps confess “I’m not even a maid, Mr. Le Domas just likes how I dance” while she is tragically crushed by the dumbwaiter.

These accidental deaths of all the maids in the manor inform the viewers of the capitalistic relationship between those having access to the means of production while those who do not. The shallowness and nonchalance of the family is bizarrely evident when Becky responds to Emilie’s killing of Clara instead of Grace: “why did you shoot her in the face sweetheart, you’re supposed to maim her, she needs to be alive for the ritual”.

The trope of the game further becomes a source of amusement and ridicule when they flip a coin to decide who gets the legs of the corpse in order to clear it away. The self-centricity of the rich is further heightened in a humorously tense encounter when Grace begs for a speeding car to stop only for the driver to exclaim “get the f*ck out of the road” following Grace’s, and the film’s, semantically laden question “What is wrong with you?…F***ing rich people!”. The irony of Grace’s conversation with Justin, employee of the car-onboard assistance adds another drizzle of situational comedy:

Justin: Sorry, the computer’s acting up again. Let me quickly reboot here.

Grace: Justin, just call the f*cking police.

Justin: Ma’am, it says here that the car was reported stolen.

He informs Grace that he has to shut down the car while responding to Grace’s frustrated expletives under the situation of urgency: “‘kay, there’s no need for profanity”. Such instances in the film suggests the utter apathy of the rich and the pervasiveness of power and wealth where the stolen car takes precedence over the life of an individual.

Satirizing The Society

Ready or Not satirises not only the Le Domases which are a reflection of the rich but it also satirises the inherent patriarchy in the institution of marriage. The Le Domases are quite literally hunting their new daughter-in-law while she fights to stay alive.

Grace is othered and objectified suggestive in Tony’s proclamation that she is “just another sacrifice…just another goat”. The entire film is a satire on the treatment of the outsider in marital relationships where the film summarises its satirical point of view in a witty exchange between a police inspector with Grace drenched in blood, sitting in front of the burning Le Domas manor:

Inspector: Jesus Christ. What happened to you?

Grace: In-Laws.

The film also ridicules the sacred nature of the spousal relationship where Alex quite conveniently helps his family to capture Grace in order to complete the cultic ritual once he realises that Grace is going to leave him. Alex and Grace’s relationship is steeped in anything but sacredness as Alex deceives Grace highlighting his own self-interest quite early in the film:

Grace: You said your family was f*cked up, you didn’t say psycho killers. You brought me here; you didn’t warn me.

Alex: If I told you, you would’ve left.

The satire is also on the idea of the family and the ridiculousness of the family as the basic ideological, cultural, religious unit where “you’ll do pretty much anything if your family says it’s okay”.  It is reflected in Georgie, Emilie’s son, and Grace’s encounter in the shed where Georgie shoots Grace because “that’s what everybody was trying to do”. Moreover, interestingly Becky, who seemed to be the best of all the characters in the beginning as a laid-back, liberal, supportive mother-in-law, is revealed to be no less different when she says, “In my defence, it’s been a while” suggesting how becoming a member of the Le Domases has changed her for the worse. The change in Grace’s character is even more ironic as she becomes an antithesis of Becky.

Initially and ironically, Grace is passionately practicing her wedding vows: “Till death do us part” and expressing her desire to have a family of her own only for her to exclaim “F*ck your family” and “Alex, I want a divorce” by the end. Thus, the film questions the societal importance given to the idea of marriage and of family and suggests a counter narrative of what if the family, including the spouse, is only a bunch of murderous “psycho killers”. Then, can these socially constructed institutions justify the sacredness of such institutions? And if so, at what cost?

The film also satirises religious fanatism when the absurdity of the entire blood-sacrifice and the hunting game of hide and seek is on display in the final scene of the film when the Le Domases remain alive even after sunrise and the confusion that follows. Suddenly, all the bloodshed and deaths become completely ridiculous. Grace becomes the final girl in the film as Ready or Not subverts the trope of the genre of slasher films where the “psycho killers” meet their equally ridiculous end by exploding into pieces of flesh and blood.

In Conclusion

Therefore, the overarching structure of the game exposes the power play in the film where Grace being hunted by the Le Domases become analogous to the relationships of stakeholders in capitalistic and patriarchal structures. Moreover, Ready or Not emerges as a layered social satire, complex in nature, where themes of ridiculing the absurdity, manners and nonchalance of the rich merge with poking fun at the fragility and hilarious hypocrisy of the “sacred” institutions of marriage, family and religion.


Works Cited

Mooney, Annabelle. “Games That People Play: Capitalism as a Game.” OAPEN, library.oapen.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.12657/45947/1/book.pdf. Accessed 25 May 2023.

 “Game (n.).” Etymology, www.etymonline.com/word/game. Accessed 23 May 2023.


[1] Annabelle Mooney distinguishes between games and play. The act of play is broader and also encompasses those kinds of un-structured play, such as a child playing with a toy, along with the structured play, which cannot be included under the umbrella of games. She also provides a survey of scholars who aim to define games such as Manser and Wierzbicka.

[2] “Game (n.).” Etymology, www.etymonline.com/word/game. 

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