The Villain in ‘The Power of the Dog’ Isn’t Who You Think It Is

Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog virtually begs you to question whether the movie’s villain is actually the movie’s villain. 

Not many critics have done so, though. That’s unfortunate because the film is much more interesting when you realize that toxic masculinity is a hat that isn’t just worn by cowboys—and for that matter, isn’t just worn by men. 

For most reviewers, though the cowboy and the toxic masculinity have seemed like a natural fit. 

The black hat that says “bad guy” in The Power of the Dog is perched atop the sneering visage of swaggering, bullying rugged dude Phil.

Phil and his quieter, cleaner brother George (Jesse Plemmons) are wealthy Montana ranchers who often sleep in the same room—until George falls for innkeeper Rose (Kirsten Dunst). 

Phil is angry and jealous, and bullies Rose, just as he’s always casually bullied “fatso” George.