Swiss Army Man’s TRUE MEANING #ConTENders 2016

There have been many films this year that I’ve been lucky enough to witness, both new and old, good and bad, at which I’ve stated: “I’ve never seen a film like this before;” and Swiss Army Man fits that bill to a T, and that is why the movie is definitely a #ConTENder for Top Ten of 2016.

I will get into SPOILERS pertaining to my theory of the film at THE END of this post. For now, I just want to talk about the film itself. But please ONLY read up until that point if you still haven’t seen the film.

Buy it today!


“Multipurpose Tool Guy” is a divisive film; you’ll undoubtedly love it or hate it. Ironically, I fell on the love side, but after a slight pause of rumination; teetering on the “like/indifferent knife edge.”The film truly is a one of a kind experience, and will leave you with questions and odd emotions.

At times, the film felt as though it was trying to be indie for the sake of being indie (coming close to being renamed Indie: The Movie). Truthfully, this could be the source of the backlash. Now, I don’t necessarily agree with the Indie sentiment based on the fact that these forthcoming elements were most likely instituted to differentiate against other films being released in theaters, or creativity born out of their limited budget.

The first alienating concept used in this manner is their brilliant film score. Now, this soundtrack deserves more than one written sentence. The music starts with the lead, Hank (played wonderfully by Paul Dano [There Will Be Blood, Little Miss Sunshine]), as he lays down the base track “bah bah bah bah,” then the soundtrack takes that sample like a DJ creating layers to a song, and ramps up into a choral level of sublimity.

Another Indie element “for the sake of being Indie” is the low-budget design of the creations Hank makes to teach Manny the dead guy (perfectly captured by Daniel Radcliffe [Harry Potter, Horns]) about life outside of this remote location at which they’re stranded. I believe The Daniels (the two directors named Daniel: Kwan and Scheinert) decided to made a creative aesthetic choice.

And finally, another Indie element is its against-type casting; between Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead to name the big ones, it has Indie Darling written all over it. But it’s this phenomenal cast that truly sell the idea and allow you to feel for these characters. Without their unusual performances, it wouldn’t be the same film.

This will be a movie that I re-watch at least a few more times to dig deeper into the themes and theories.

But NOW… Here’s my theory:



————————-NOW FOR THE SPOILERS————————–











This film is about a gay man coming to terms with his sexuality and accepting himself for who he is, and allowing others to see his true colors.

My friend, John (also of the Not Quite Hollywood podcast) had a theory about the film based upon his first viewing of the trailer. He thought that the entire film was Hank’s last moments of life before he died of asphyxiation from the noose. To me, that was a cool theory, and I assumed that he was correct.

I’m not one normally try to guess the ending of a film; I’m rather one to allow the film to unfold and take me on its journey, but since John put the notion in my head, I was obsessed with trying to pick apart the film’s “twist.”

But The Daniels knew people would try to guess the outcome of the film, so they toyed with the audience, often throwing red herrings such as the conversation Manny and Hank had openly positing about whether or not Manny was a construct of Hank’s imagination, or near the end of the film, when it seems that Hank’s real name is Manny upon being interviewed by the news reporter akin to Fight Club logic.

Another great red herring is the juice box that’s floating on the water at the beginning of the film. You see him drink from a near-identical one in the ambulance at the end.

And while ostensibly it’s a pretty straightforward tale with an ending that seems to be “legit,” I believe it’s the message that they’re trying to convey that’s important here. Hence my theory. Allow me to explain my reasoning…

Hank was alone on an island, when he ran away from his overbearing, ignorant father. He was planning on killing himself on “this island” because he couldn’t stand to live alone.

That’s when he meets Manny (Man, as in Male). It’s with Manny that Hank truly comes into his own person. He learns to fart in front of Manny – to be open and free – to not cast himself away from his true being. He can’t enjoy himself (masturbate) because he’s obsessed with his mother who was the only one that told him he could masturbate (be gay) and not to worry about it.

It was bizarre how quickly they got off of the island too. It was almost as if, that was guaranteed metaphorical, and he just had to trudge through the woods, through other peoples’ trash, to get back to “normal” society.

Also, Hank’s father used the term “retarded” a lot, and I think that’s just a thinly veiled replacement for “faggot” or “gay.” His dad was embarrassed of Hank until he saw Manny, and realized how happy Hank was with him. The father finally smiled at the end of the film.

Now, you may be asking of his fixation of Sara, right? Initially I thought that maybe this theory was ruined when he kept mentioning her. But then, it was solidified when he pronounced that he was fixated with how “happy she was.” So to him, it was never a sexual feeling, it was a jealous, emotional desire to be happy.

There are some more points I could make that may sound stereotypical. When Hank was attacked by a “bear,” it was only Manny’s love that could save him.  …Yeah, this is where the theory goes out there, but it’s me trying to get into the writers’ minds and pick apart everything that would pertain to such a theory. Therefore, I could be stretching, but I’m sure of my theory.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you have a theory of your own? Do you believe mine to be far fetched? Comment below!

-Jamie (@GuyOnAWire)

Keep up to date with which films may make my Top 10 of 2016 by clicking here.


6 thoughts on “Swiss Army Man’s TRUE MEANING #ConTENders 2016

  1. I agree with this in large part, but the idea that all those things you don’t understand are “red herrings” doesn’t fly very well. They mean something. There is an important aspect of this movie that you’re missing. There are multiple major elements that have nothing to do with him being gay per se, while all of them allude to something else entirely:

    A dead man comes back to life.

    That dead man is his savior.

    The dead man has powers, (e.g. by keeping him alive with the seemingly unlimited supply of the water of life).

    Mannie takes on the man’s name for a time.

    Hank has doubts about the reality of Mannie.

    Hank’s life is _literally_ saved by Mannie.

    Hank publicly testifies of Mannie and how Mannie’s “powers,” i.e. miracles, saved Hank.

    The homosexual theme almost always carries with it some serious anti-traditionally-religious baggage (unless you’re Milo Yiannopolis). In an interview, in fact, one of the writers says that Hank initially assumes that Mannie is his “salvation.” Interesting choice of words. Part of the movie is about Hank’s disillusionment with traditional Christianity. But he embraces a new one that ignores the shame associated with homosexuality as a sin. The writers are ruthlessly showing an anti-traditional Christianity message, while they promote a pro-homosexual, overcoming-shame message, a replacement for traditional Christianity.


    • I haven’t read this since a few days after posting it, and it’s getting a lot of traction these days. I’m going to watch the film again soon, and use your points to see it in a different angle.

      Seriously, thanks for the comment; it’s rare that anyone does!

      Now, I’m off to bed. I’ll come back here when I see it again!


  2. Cool, man. The other thing I should have pointed out is that the title of the movie alludes to the man with powers, the “Swiss Army Man.” He is useful in so many ways to Hank, because of all he can do. To me, that suggests that _main_ meaning of the film is the screenwriters’ view of the “crazy” Christian, who can’t survive without their “magic zombie.” Also, it’s clear that he creates Mannie’s personality. Mannie takes on all of Hank’s inner-life, just as critics of Christians say that they all do the same with their “Sky Daddy.” (That, to me, is a valid criticism of most Christians, imagining how God is, to make their life easy and happy; I say that as a Christian myself). Also, Hank is super crazy, having built all of that stuff right near that lady’s home that whole time. He even ventures out to see the traffic, at which point, he must have seen all of those houses and chose hers. It’s an attack on how crazy they think Christians are.


  3. Also, the fact that Mannie is so turned on by the woman suggests the film may not be as gay as you say. It’s clearly taking on the “wrongful stigma” that Christianity imposes against two men loving each other. But Mannie doesn’t appear to be gay at all, also considering how much he likes that magazine. Since Mannie clearly takes on Hank’s inner life, that leads me to believe that the film was more about the Swiss Army Man, i.e. the “magic zombie” of “crazy Christians” than it is about homosexuality. I’m not sure, honestly. The message is a bit contradictory with respect to your homosexual theory, although you make some great points, i.e. the way his father calls people “retard” representing him calling people “faggot.” Good observation. But that, too, could just be another attack on traditional Christians. No question, there are strong allusions to how the writers believe homosexuality shouldn’t have a stigma attached to it.


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