Rape on Film

There is a brilliant article up right now about finding the line when you see a film, that line of something you just will not watch, or, in some cases, will not watch any more of.

Drew McWeeny was meaning to review "The Divide", but ended up writing a piece about the constant depiction of rape on the big screen, and our response to that, instead. It's a good read, and certainly related in my mind to all the Consent Culture work we've been discussing, particularly when you take into account depictions of BDSM in film, which often have consent violations, either for humorous, scary, or, sometimes (like in "9 1/2 Weeks" or "Secretary") romantic purposes.

It seems to me that somewhere along the way, it was decided that the easiest way to make an audience uncomfortable was to have someone rape a character onscreen. I must see 30 films a year where somebody needs to have "something bad" happen, and the go-to impulse in almost every case is rape. It is guaranteed to cause a visceral reaction, even when the scenes are badly staged and lazy, which most of them are.

What scares me most about it is that the vast majority of the scenes are directed so poorly that they become, in essence, titillation, and there is something immeasurably sick about including a scene in your film that involves rape just so you can sneak a little nudity into the movie.


I think it is absolutely the responsibility of an artist to look into darkness without blinking. I think it is important that we talk about morality and character and the way we dehumanize one another. But I also think the point has been more than made on film that rape is a terrible thing, and at this point, if you're not contributing some new idea to the conversation, then you are literally just using it as a button, something you push to get a response, and that unnerves me.

If I had to pinpoint what bothers me most about the subject, though, it's that our ratings system in this country is so broken that a film that contains a sustained, brutal rape sequence featuring full-frontal female nudity can breeze right through with an R-rating, but if you include a sequence in which two people engage in spirited, consensual sex and we see anything that resembles reality, you are automatically flirting with an NC-17 or going out unrated. We have created a code of film language in which the single most destructive act of sexual violence is perfect acceptable to depict in the most graphic, clinical detail, but actual love-making has been all but banished from mainstream film. There's no "almost" about it; it is disturbing on a philosophical level to realize how backwards the system is right now, and I think one of the reasons many filmmakers will include a rape scene is so they can get some nudity into their movie, and the context doesn't matter to them.

Worth a read and a think about!

Categories: consent, media, politics, rape culture

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