May 17 2013

Spinster aunt says something about rape on TV

A propos of the other day’s post on “The Bletchley Circle,” here’s a question what often comes up. Blamer Michelle writes:

Are portrayals of rape on TV and in movies unavoidably misogynistic? I watched the Stieg Larsson movie awhile back – the Dragon Tattoo one — and was infuriated by the portrayals of sexual violence… then had a heated debate with my partner about whether or not they were gratuitous. I HATE portrayals of rape in fiction – in print or on screen – that are even mildly explicit, because I think they reek of salacious, prurient voyeurism. But rape happens in life. Should it be censored in fiction? This issue hits my fury nerve, but I’d like to be able to make some reasoned arguments.

It’s all a matter of tone, isn’t it?

Rape scenes rarely do anything but provide an opportunity for plot-driven pornography. These scenes may be used to illustrate the evil of the antagonist, but the tone never suggests jack about the victim beyond “she’s a pitiful dominated half naked sexy lady; look!” If a rape scene is necessary to drive the plot — which, by the way, it isn’t — it certainly isn’t necessary to film it pornulationally. The Greeks always committed their dramatic murders off stage.

Women are the sex class, right? The ridiculous proliferation and popularity of TV rape scenes — there’s a sexual assault about every 10 seconds on television — is proof enough of that, as if you needed it. When TV rapes women, if there is ever any underlying high moral purpose serving Truth and Beauty, I have never seen it. Popular writers and directors almost universally choose to throw the mighty weight of their office behind the goddam GAGFUW. All media serve and perpetuate our misogynist world order.


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  1. Snampingit

    I thought the rape scene in Boys Don’t Cry was pretty necessary to the plot and managed to actually say something useful about something (misogyny, queer-phobia etc…) without gratuitously sexualizing the victim. However, maybe because the victim in question was a self identified male, the character wasn’t shown as a “normal”, gratuitously objectified, feminine rape victim and the scene was almost akin to the main character being “emasculated” through his rape (as the rapists obviously set out to do: “correct” his sex)

    I found the rape scene in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” to be unbearable to watch but crucial to the heroine’s character and story. I thought it worked to highlight misogyny rather than exploit it. I felt similarly about the rape scene in “For Colored Girls”. I guess what I’m trying to say is that if the reality of slavery, oppression and racism should be captured in a moving and disturbing way that makes the audience’s stomach turn, then the realities of rape should be portrayed in a similar manner as well. Obviously only if it is done in a way that highlights the dehumanization of the victim while managing to not objectify or dehumanize them to the audience. There are very few rape scenes “done correctly” or in a feminist manner, but I think having ones that are is necessary in film. It may be idealistic and naive, but movies have the power to slowly change society and the good ones (in my opinion) have a duty to accurately reflect life, and life includes a shitload of misogyny and rape. I think these realities need to be addressed in a way that debunks sexist myths and ideas about rape. I would love to write a film that juxtaposes the reality of the rape of “some high school slut” who was “asking for it” with how she was treated afterwards and how everyone around her understood the situation (their victim blaming, their ideas about what actually happened etc…) The realities of rape, misogyny and prejudice can be used as a tool to wake people up a bit, if done properly. I could be completely wrong and maybe the way forward isn’t to highlight the realities of misogyny, but personally, I feel more films like “Boys Don’t Cry” are necessary progress.

    This is my first comment here. I’ve been reading this blog since I was a teenage girl and I’m not that much older now so…I dunno, maybe go easy on me. You’re all very intimidating.

  2. Kathleen

    Yup, yup. TV rape scenes are some gratuitous bs.

    Over in movies, I will say I *know* that the rape scene in Thelma and Louise changed minds. Married lady goes out drinkin’ and flirtin’ — read about it in the newspaper, she deserved it! See it happen to a sympathetic character: oh.

    I watched this movie with people with whom I’d argued about the William Kennedy Smith rape case on a previous occasion, and afterward brought it up again and they really did have to agree that drinking and flirting = TOTALLY DESERVES TO BE RAPED DUH was possibly not as defensible a position as they’d previously supposed.

    The march of progress. The march, I tells ya!

  3. Humanbein

    The problem of capitalism destroying any ideals humanity has managed to dream up when not actively oppressing women has always perplexed me, because the sledgehammer of censorship did make it impossible to show us the soul-destroying degradations that have become so commonplace as to enjoy no possible opprobrium whatsoever outside of feminist circles, but censorship also was a highly efficient tool of oppression and served to uphold the patriarchal order in every way.

    Lately the idea occurred to me that perhaps a monetary fix would be preferable for what is partially an essentially economic problem, because, as you’ve noted, resorting to the most obvious possible solution and using prurience and titillation to attract the jaded attention of a pornsick populace is donw in the service of the quick easy buck, and from some concern over the competition doing it as well.

    What if, as a culture, we charged more money for sex, violence, and other themes that degrade our culture? What if it were taxed more? It’s not censorship to put up roadblocks to gratifying these base impulses. Like taxing smoking, it would simply make those who chose to harm themselves pay more.

    Censorship didn’t put an end to sex and violence, it just made it much harder to see on a daily basis. Something like this would just put a little friction in what is now, something so easy to consume that not consuming it requires more effort.

  4. noshoes

    This is a thought-provoking topic indeed, in that all “art’ (i.e. movies, paintings, photography, et al) produced within a system of patriarchal oppression will in some way serve the patriarchy, even art produced in criticism/revolution/subversion of the patriarchy. I found the initial rape scene in “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (the original Swedish version, that is) to be horrifying. Did it advance the plot? You bet. Did it turn some (male) viewers on? For certain. But I wonder how these same viewers felt when the “Girl” enacted her own rape upon the rapist and even tattooed him with the words “I am a pig and a rapist” on his abdomen. Probably not so turned-on! Not so hot, no! I guess the question we might want to ask is: is this entertainment? Do we want to watch graphic scenes of sexual violence and call it entertainment? Even if it’s the rapist dude who’s being violated? It’s confusing for a self-identified feminist like myself, who enjoys it when bad people get punished but enjoys it even more when rapists stop being rapists, if that’s possible. Help me understand!

  5. quixote

    Humanbein: “something so easy to consume that not consuming it requires more effort.”

    Exactly. And that’s another part of what bothers me. Tossing so much suffering around as if it was entertainment jimmies is revolting.

    Tone is indeed the point. I was just going to say that I’ve never seen it portrayed as evidence of indomitable human spirit, but then I remembered I had. Two Women. The story was in WWII Italy; Sophia Loren and whole slew of excellent actors were in it.

    But, like the murders in Greek tragedy, the horrible stuff was off stage.

  6. ags

    Noshoes – “This is a thought-provoking topic indeed, in that all “art’ (i.e. movies, paintings, photography, et al) produced within a system of patriarchal oppression will in some way serve the patriarchy, even art produced in criticism/revolution/subversion of the patriarchy” – can you tell me if that brilliant statement is yours alone? I suspect it is something I have read Twisty espousing but can’t quite remember.

    I’m currently writing (trying/hating/crying) an essay on two contemporary creative arts case studies and Adorno’s famous quote that to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric. We have to say whether we agree or not or agree or not with his later retraction and use the case studies to support out argument. I decided to say he’s right and the horror and barnarism haven’t stopped in life under patriarchy and got approval to use D&G banned gang rape ad and Sarah Kane’s ‘Blasted’ as my case studies and your statement just lit up all my argument light bulbs. Thank you. So I’m looking at exactly this – rape depiction in art. How the woman’s rape in Blasted is elided because it’s men’s rape that is serious business and woman’s just ‘is this my rape’ and to be expected and hence more merely entertainment like the D&G ad.

    Anyway – sorry for rambling – this post and comments just made my day but I’m wondering if anyone can point me in the direction of a Twisty post about the fact that after patriarchy we’ll be so busy being unoppressed we won’t make art anymore? (If I’m remembering that at all right)

    Thanks a bunch,

  7. shopstewardess

    It’s a matter of quantity as well as quality, isn’t it? So many examples already.

    Whether rape is portrayed well or badly in a particular instance, the fact that it is portrayed so often is a giveaway of the general pornographic tone of the so-called “entertainment” industry. Straight out pay-for-rape and pay-for-putting-rape-on-camera seem now to be an acknowledged, significant and growing part of that industry. But the same patriarchal attitudes infest the whole thing – exemplified by Seth MacFarlane at this year’s Oscars singing about seeing the breasts of actresses who had portrayed rape victims.

    An actress’s best chance of getting an Oscar is to take a role in which the character is a prostitute or rape victim. Since the start of the Oscar awards, I think something over half of all the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress Oscars have gone to those sorts of roles. I suppose it’s wish fulfilment on the part of the patriarchy – here is a beautiful, high-earning, successful woman who wouldn’t give them the time of day, but they can see her prostituted or raped and get the vicarious pleasure of thinking “that could be me”.

    I used to like seeing films, but I’m pretty choosy these days. TV crime I avoid altogether, whatever the hype. There are enough real life horrors that I don’t feel the need to add any fictional ones to my burden of knowledge.

  8. Antoinette ANiebieszczanski

    On-screen depictions of rape make me throw up. I first discovered this when I saw “Looking for Mr. Goodbar” and had to run for the ladies’ during the last five minutes. The scene from “Boys Don’t Cry” had me in tears as well, But I’ll concede it was germane to the plot.

    I don’t go to the movies as much as I used to. And my Netflix selections reflect my love of 50’s big bug movies and documentaries. I figure Hollywood mostly panders to the likings of 15-year-old boys. So they can do without what I might spend on tickets.

  9. Twissb

    For pornographication of rape, try “The Rape of Lucretia” by William Shakespeare. If it hasn’t been turned into a major motion picture by a renowned director and praised by all the best critics, I can’t imagine why.

    On the other hand, movies that use rape to communicate something truthful about men’s violence against women and the purposes it serves are rare but not unknown. They just don’t get hailed by critics as works of art and showered with awards – at least in the United States.

    One example of the latter is “Lilya 4-Ever,” directed by Lukas Moodyson. in which rapes are absolutely essential to the plot, do not show nudity of the woman, and are ingeniously shown from the victim’s point of view. The other is “Blood and Honey,” directed by Angelina Jolie, that shows the destructive impact of war on every aspect of women’s lives. It is powerful, relentless, and was blamed by critics for having a defective love story when, in fact, it was precisely the opposite. No praise or prizes for Jolie and, while recent publicity describes her as “actress and director.” there is no mention of the movie she directed.

  10. tinfoil hattie

    “Scenes wherein slaves are beaten, for example, are horrible to watch, but when they’re used to, say, illustrate the indomitable human spirit of the oppressed — you know, through the proud, defiant glint in the slave’s eye or whatnot — it’s not just gratuitous violence. It actually says something useful about something.”

    This is sarcasm, right?

  11. Lidon

    Twissb: One example of the latter is “Lilya 4-Ever,” directed by Lukas Moodyson. in which rapes are absolutely essential to the plot, do not show nudity of the woman, and are ingeniously shown from the victim’s point of view.

    So it actually occurred to someone (even a dude!) that a rape could be filmed to NOT look like porn?! I’m shocked. I don’t care if characters get revenge for their rape in movies, if the rape is still pornified, it’s still degrading, misogynistic fodder in which case I’d have more fun pouring salt water in my eyes than watching that. Thanks but no thanks.

  12. Panza

    “The Greeks always committed their dramatic murders off stage.”

    Most Greek societies were also incredibly patriarchal, seeming to undermine your point.

  13. Ellesar

    Whilst I accept that there are many rapes that are integral to the plot and understanding the character, and the characters motivation, what is so loathsome is the extent to which the rape is depicted. The dragon tattoo one is pertinent, as it is far too drawn out, and unnecessarily graphic. We ALREADY know that this man has power over her (though I am pretty sure that the Swedish system is not so easily abused by the guardian of ‘wards of state’ as in the film) and that he is completely disgusting – do we need to be shown all that detail to ‘justify’ what she then does to him?

    Snampingit – the kind of film you say you would love to make has been made (though I am sure not in the way you would make it). It is called ‘Blackrock’ and it is an Australian teen film. Very well done. Does NOT have gratuitous sexual violence in it.

  14. KittyWrangler

    Aggs: Here you go. It was helpfully tagged, “art is my LIFE,” which you might want to search as well.


  15. KittyWrangler

    I hazily recollect a very young Kristin Stewart’s character being sexually assaulted (or having a close encounter) near the end of the movie “Speak,” and being impressed with the disenpornulation with which it was depicted. It’s a screen version of what is apparently a very popular and helpful young adult novel about a girl dealing with the aftermath of rape and slut shaming, and which the godbags tried to have banned from libraries.

    TwissB: I’ve always wondered (wryly) why no one has filmed a rape scene like the one you describe in Lilya 4-Ever. So I’ll stop pining. I also thought this would be a more relevant way to shoot the next re-make of Lolita– and there WILL be another– since most of the book is spent examing the narrator and his “thoughts.” One would barely need to turn the camera on the actress at all, especially since the actual actress is a child.

    I do have a feeling that IF such a scene could pass radical feminist muster, people would still be upset that the film “punishes” the character who is raped. This angle of criticism– that the filmmakers are necessarily punishing a character simply by depicting bad stuff happening to him or her– has never clicked with me; if we cannot show the horrible ramifications of Kyriarchy for women, how are we even going to have any women in movies at all?

  16. KittyWrangler

    “So I’ll stop pining.” Ech, I take that back. I pine to do things better than people who have pissed me off, but not for that particular scene. That sounded a little creepy.

  17. ags

    Thankyou muchly KittyWrangler.
    (I’ve been making my way through a search of IBTP with art and couldn’t dredge another keyword
    from my memory of the post)

  18. Redpeachmoon

    I had the misfortune to pick up a copy of British Elle yesterday,( the one with the sexed up Hannah Montana on the cover) and to read the article about the empowered and chosen career of porn star Sasha Gray. It was so disturbing. So I googled her, read more about this child’s ‘career’, and then made ONE OF THE BIGGEST MISTAKES EVER: watched a free mini porn movie. That I will never get out of my head I’m afraid.

  19. That Girl

    I confess to a secret love for Girl with a Dragon Tattoo. Secret because which of us wouldn’t rejoice in the humiliation of our rapists?

    It is the contention of patriarchy everywhere that if we just took ourselves in hand, just didnt “stand for it” we would not be raped, or hurt, or victimized. The fantasy that the power to not be a victim lies within is an essential lie. The entire movie is a fantasy.

  20. Tw

    Lidon: Perhaps I should explain for those who have not seen it, that Lilya 4-Ever is a bleak, headlong, painful look at trafficking in a chaotic post-Soviet world in which social connections are broken and children are destroyed. Lilya is a teen-age girl betrayed and abandoned by all the adults and acquaintances on whom she should be able to rely. The last betrayer is the “boyfriend” who picks her up, quickly wins her trust, sends her on an airplane to a brutal pimp in another country where she is slammed into captivity, ruthless prostitution, desperate flight, and suicide. Only the most warped sensibility could find anything erotic in this grim but relentlessly honest and angry indictment of prostitution and trafficking. This clumsy summary doesn’t do justice to an intense depiction of the interlocking societal and economic forces that determine the fate of this exploited girl.

  21. Kali

    I think if there is anything on TV (or screen) which shows rape from the victim’s point of view and without pornulation, it is the TV series “I Survived”. It shows the ugliness of rape (and other types of assaults) and the survivors narrate their own stories of survival. They come across as heroes, not as pitiful. There is no gratuitous graphic depiction of rape or nudity. So, I guess it can be done on (at least) two conditions – 1) non-fiction, 2) narrated by survivor.

  22. Cyberwulf

    The attempted rape of Sally Jupiter by the Comedian in the comic book version of Watchmen is about the only nuanced, non-sensationalised depiction of rape I’ve ever seen in any media. It isn’t something just thrown in there to show what a bad man the Comedian is – it’s something that happened to Jupiter and the book follows the impact on her life and how she deals with it. There’s a newspaper interview from the Seventies (some 30+ years after the event) in which she says she felt like she was partly to blame because she was attracted to him. She gets mad at Hollis Mason for writing about it in his autobiography, because it wasn’t his fucking story to tell. She keeps the truth about Laurie’s real father a secret because she feels ashamed that she slept with the Comedian after that, even if it was just once. And she never forgives him, warning him to stay away from Laurie.

    At no point does the reader get any sense from the narration that one is supposed to blame Jupiter for what happened to her – it’s clear that isn’t the writer’s intent. This is a danger faced by a lone woman who works with a gang of men, some of whom are, to put it mildly, slightly unhinged. The movie adaptation didn’t do it justice at all.

  23. mearl

    I like the scene in “Kill Bill Vol. 1” where Uma Thurman’s character wakes up from her coma, and overhears a conversation between a male nurse and one of his many clients. She figures out that he has been allowing men to rape her comatose body for cash. She then takes very satisfying, bloody revenge upon both men, biting off the tongue of one, and killing the pimp nurse by repeatedly slamming his head in the hospital room door with what strength she has.

    No rape is shown; it’s only implied. No male rescuer is required; The Bride (Uma) gets revenge on her own.

    I like some of Tarantino films for their revenge scenes. Unfortunately, the one movie where he could’ve done rape survivors justice – “Death Proof,” he instead depicts the long, drawn-out objectification of otherwise strong female characters (recall, if you’ve seen it, the lap-dance scene, the terrorisation of the female leads by Kurt Russell’s misogynist character, and then the extremely brutal slo-mo murder of first Rose McGowan’s character, and next, the four women in the car). And what do viewers get treated to in the “revenge” scene at the end? *Spoiler alert* Four NEW women characters get terrorised by good old Kurt, have a crazy car chase with him, then finally cause him to crash his car. The movie closes on the women taking turns punching and kicking him around. That’s IT.

    I’m sure that if a slew of directors and actors conspired to make graphic, sexualised rape scenes involving MALE victims (i.e., Nasty-Bloody-Revenge-On-The-Rapist scenes), or if screenwriters and directors wanted to depict rapists having their weiners cut off, blended up in a blender and fed to them, the censors would all scream in unison that it was too violent or too graphic. Meanwhile, implied rape porn in mainstream movies and TV is just another extension of, well, rape porn.

  24. Languor

    I find the implication that the depiction of a woman getting revenge against her rapist is totally awesome and cool and empowerful really infuriating. Maybe this just touched a raw nerve for me but I hate to see rape reduced to something that can be fixed or even addressed by characters like that. What violence could equal that violence? I hate thinking about rape as a quantifiable wrong. Men love this scenario, it is a porny concept that has been around forever.

    Tone is the important thing but it goes hand in hand with intention. I am reluctant to accept that almost any dude could produce content where rape is depicted as entirely a bad thing. Even if it is portrayed as entirely negative, is it likely to explain rape as a product of rape culture and not just the wild, passionate or evil act of a villain?
    Until men understand that rape is as common and as terrible as it is (truly understand, not just agree that it is terrible in concept) I don’t trust them to depict it in a way that doesn’t support or accept it as a fact of life.

  25. polarcontrol

    DId you see how Girls puts the issue of “grey rape” on TV?


  26. Kat G

    I think it IS truly the ‘enpornulation’ of rape scenes that makes me sick. When a scene depicting scary and horrific violence is consciously made to look sexy and turn people on, it is just more of the rape culture indoctrination.

    The constant linking of sex and violence- that rape is a turn on, resistance is sexy, domination is erection producing- feeds and supports rape culture. Men get yet another experience of feeling sexed up while watching violence against women. Unless they are paying attention to the Disgusting Fact that it’s RAPE, they indulge in the “woman on screen as sexy object – oooooh f*** it – aaaah gratified” cycle and add another instance of disembodied objectifying rape ideology to their sexual arsenal.

    For my part, watching sex on TV, no matter what the context, almost always brings up sex energy/body memory etc. Bodies respond to sexual images whether our conscious thoughts like it or not, sort of like molestation can be so confusing in that bodies sometimes respond to the touch even while it feels and is so wrong… Explicit rape on TV exploits this bodily reaction to sexual images in men and in women and can be very confusing and sickening…

    It’s totally insidious. I avoid movies with rape (never saw the Dragon Tattoo for that reason) I also avoid all misogynistic/patriarchy espousing movies (which means i mostly read)

  27. Carpenter

    I wonder if there has ever been a rape scene filmed with the camera shot entirely from the victim’s POV. I cannot recall any but maybe maybe that could “work”. I definitely think all of the scenes I have ever seen are from the good old intrusive all seeing gaze-which is almost always should have the modifier “male” in front of it.

  28. AMM

    Re: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

    I didn’t see the film, but I read the book. The violence and violation in the book creeped me out.

    It came across to me as a man’s fantasy of the revenge he would take if he were a woman suffering the sort of violence he’s heard about. It’s like how, in comments threads on articles about women suffering violence, you’ll see men responding with suggestions of and fantasies about violent revenge, but I’ve never seen women doing so (they mostly offer sympathy and support.) I’ve read that the (male) author, when young, watched his friends rape a girl and did nothing about it, and the series of books is some sort of working out of his guilt.

    The thing is, the victim — and her humanity — still disappear. The point of the story is revenge, and the violence and the violations are sharpened and exaggerated in order to make the revenge more satisfying. The main character is made into a super-victim so she can come back with her super-revenge. If it’s not a kind of pornography, it’s a close cousin.

    I’d love to see what a good woman author would do with the same basic story idea.

  29. Shelby

    I love this website and I love you women. Another bloody epiphany! Of course watching rape scenes has always been disturbing and provoked an over-reaction from me. Of course I’ve always wanted to close my eyes or run away or punch something with my heart rate doubling. It’s because I’ve been watching from the view of the voyeur. The porn maker. Patriarchy in all it’s ugliness. It never occurred to me that there might be another way to film a rape and watch the attack which would make it honest.

  30. Twissb

    Just a weak little shout out from me here in Mediation durance vile since May 20 and wondering what I said to bring the Cone of Silence down on my innocent head.

  31. skeptifem

    @AMM- revenge fantasies are common in PTSD, and rape is a major cause of PTSD in women. It is probably just harder for women to talk about it openly because it is deeply personal. To the men who are guessing what kind of revenge they would want its all hypothetical, there isn’t any emotional risk in disclosing it.

  32. Twisty

    Hey TwissB I have no idea why you were in moderation. You are out now.

    As for the slave-beating remark in the post, I didn’t express myself properly. What I was getting at was that in those scenes where an oppressor is cinematically oppressing Kunta Kinte or Spartacus or whoever, the purpose is universally to underscore the humanity, rather than the victimhood, of the enslaved person, making some statement about his/her virtuous character and awesome inner strength, and by extension, enbiggening the audience. Which is not to say that beat-down violence can never be gratuitous. I do argue, however, that it is never sexualized or fetishized in the mainstream.

    Rape scenes aren’t the same. This is because in our pornulated culture rape is fetishized and normalized. Porny rape scenes do not enbiggen an audience.

  33. urbangypsy

    I read an account by a woman who wrote a screenplay for a major US film of her conversation with the director once she turned the screenplay in. He was very pleased with it, but told her to add a rape scene. She asked why, given that there was no call for one in the plot. His response? A lot of men get off on watching rape scenes. I also read that in France, the average person sees 7 rape scenes a week on TV.

    I haven’t watched TV or movies for years (too sexist, classist, racist, violent and vulgar). However, I did recently start watching episodes of “Lie To Me”, which very often has scenes of young women in great danger . .. all of them have unnaturally large breasts, are very attractive in the conventional sense, and most of them have long blonde hair. And the female professionals are also all young, very attractive, very voluptuous, wear lots of makeup (usually bright red lipstick, sometimes pink lipgloss) and dress in extremely revealing clothing. It is always tight, frequently low-cut enough to show plenty of cleavage, short skirts, and heels. Also, when they wear pants, they wear tight tops that they don’t tuck in that extend to the roundest part of their buttocks (and in a color that provides plenty of contrast to the pants). There was even a shot, when one woman left the lead character’s office in one of these outfits, following her but focused on her buttocks!

    Unfortunately, I am well aware that this isn’t the way women dress for work just on TV anymore, they do it in real life too. I worked on Wall Street as a lawyer for over a decade starting in 1990 and never would have dreamed of dressing provocatively, it was hard enough to be taken seriously being female (at that time, the top law schools were 1/3 female but incoming classes of lawyers at top firms were only 1/4 female, and half of those women left by their third year (in fairness, half of the men only lasted five years), young and soft-spoken, the *last* thing I wanted to do was sexualize myself. Yet, three years ago, I went to N.O.W. headquarters and the women worked there were dressed in outfits that I would only ever wear for a hot date. Women my age (52) look at the way women dress for work now and while I do not want to criticize them or prostitutes, that’s what they look like to us.

    It’s a very sad state of affairs.

  34. tinfoil hattie

    I get it, Twisty. I believe the stereotypical scene involving the noble, long-suffering, yet utterly dignified black person being tortured and/or killed does usually intend to depict the victim’s point of view. However, there comes across (to me) a kind of self-congratulatory feeling to these scenes. They’re not from the male gaze, but rather the white gaze. And the filmmakers console themselves that the Indomitable Black Spirit shall overcome such degredation. I imagine their conversations with one another: “Ahhh, yes. Tsk, tsk. We, unlike our southern neighbors or Civil War ancestors, KNOW that this is wrong!”

    At any rate, rape is ALWAYS portrayed as something sexy. There is always a flash (or more) of leg or breast, or a bunch of dudes watching, and waiting for their turn. The more graphic the woman’s humiliation and pain, the “better.”

    I do remember that when Pulp Fiction was released, people were warning against the “very graphic rape scene” in horrified and/or solemn tones.

    Well, of course it was horrifying. A man was being raped. Everybody knows that’s not entertainment.

    I hate all things Quentin Tarantino. He makes me sick.

  35. Quinn del Eskimé

    I fail to see how the rape scene in “Dragon Tattoo” was sexualised.
    In fact, the only feeling aroused in that film was utter disgust and a conviction to help the poor woman. Her bloodcurdling screams were filled with terror. The entire scene was disgusting. You would have to have a mental illness to get sexual pleasure out of that scene. I felt physically sick. Talking with my friends, they all found the scene exactly the same.
    Speaking as a male, this film had a greater feminist message than any other film I had seen in my life.

  36. M.K. Hajdin

    TwissB, Jolie ripped off her entire movie from a book written by a Croatian journalist, and she got major facts wrong.

  37. Twissb

    tinfoil hattie: Re Quentin Tarantino, I agree with you. The worst aspect of his work is the way it thrilled the critics (until recently when his particular shock value seemed to have dulled.) I saw the video of the acclaimed “Reservoir Dogs” and found it unbelievably stupid. Oddly, it was a limping chronicle of men killing men.

    A few more women film-makers who don’t seek acceptance by conforming to men’s plots seem to be getting their chance, but mainly movies and TV shows seem to be sticking to the old narrow formula. The only things that they can imagine women doing is being nightclub singers, or prostitutes by nature, being raped, slashed or beaten, being heavily pregnant, having a baby at the most inconvenient time, comforting men they adore, being crazy, evil, murderous spinsters bent on making men pay for whatever in the past. The women seem to have no existence independent of their relation to men who are the main focus of the story. So boring.

  38. AMM


    Re Quentin Tarantino,… The worst aspect of his work is the way it thrilled the critics

    Reminds me of Jack Abbott (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Abbott) and the literary lions of the time (Norman Mailer et al.)

    Funny how the patriarchs of the patriarchy go into absolute raptures of puppy love over sociopaths. At least until the sociopaths in question go after them or their friends.

    I remember how stunned Norman Mailer and his friends were when the violent criminal (and convicted murderer) they’d been lionizing turned around and murdered someone else within weeks of getting out.

  1. Weekly Feminist Reader

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