Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Is there ever a "good rape scene" in a movie?

A conversation I had a few days ago and this article on tumblr has me thinking again about portrayals of rape, assault, and rough sex in films. As a refresher, I addressed this topic when reviewing the film Unfaithful in a previous post. The article on tumblr discusses the author's disappointment with the rape scene in the American release of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. To be honest, I'm confused about this author's difference between a good and bad rape scene because is there is ever a "good rape scene" in a movie? I understand what she's trying to get at here. Rape is always bad, but the manner in which a director displays or handles the rape in the film gains different reactions from viewers. For example, some rape scenes in films can be confused with rough sex. Rape should get a strong negative reaction from the audience while rough sex should arouse the audience. 

Yet, these lines are so blurry, and I think this ambiguity has contributed to a LOT of debate about what constitutes rape. Portrayals of rape in films normalize violence against women, and more people need to be asking these directors: Is this rape scene essential to this film? Does it contribute to the character's transformation in the film?

I'm torn here because I think rape should be discussed in films, and there may be something beneficial in bringing a realistic portrayal of rape to a wide audience. But, I don't think directors in Hollywood have a woman's dignity and respect in mind when filming these scenes. No, I have not seen The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but the posters are oversexualized. Rooney Mara isn't wearing a shirt in this image:

Lisabeth is a strong female character, yet in this image she is reduced to a body to look at.  Her rape is an important part of the story, and I don't think it should be left out of the film, but there needs to be more caution when telling rape stories in films. Rape is a serious topic that should be handled with seriousness.

Thank for clarifying this, Ryan!

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