|Rapey Pop Culture
||[Apr. 25th, 2014|10:54 am]
I did not like watching Jaime raping Cersei on Game of Thrones. It's going to make it much harder to like him from here on out and he is one of the better characters in the later books. This scene also revived all of the Game of Thrones is just about the rape (an interpretation which Martin probably encourages - especially when you read his new chapter for Winds of Winter that begins with "Mercy was going to get raped and killed that night" before revealing that Mercy is Arya in a theater troupe and that the play they are doing is pretty much Tyrion=Richard III but with more Rape - and the fact that the midget playing Tyrion is wearing a fake cock that Arya threatens to rip off and throw in the audience just really pushes the whole "I'm a bad person for laughing at this" trope that Joan Rivers has based a career on)|
Seriously, Joan Rivers is like the hardest working woman in show business.
And while that is a valid criticism and the rape card does get played too often, I think we are stuck in this current cultural trope for the moment and that's not necessarily a bad thing. That's not to say that I love rape in my television shows and movies. Nor does it mean that I don't notice how it becomes a lazy way to create tension. Hell, I read Piers Anthony and that creepy shit imprinted on my brain for years.
But I don't see that in Game of Thrones and here's where I echo Alyssa Rosenberg in noting that the point of GoT is to de-romanticize the medieval world and one of the primary concerns of that world was rape by Vikings. The Book of Judith which is only a slightly cleaned up version of the story of Yael and Sisera (yes both stories are about rape - or revenge for rape) was one of the most popular stories, re-painted several times by classical artists. L'Morte d'Artur has a scene where the knights find a farmhand who seems more noble than most. Turns out his mother was raped by a knight before her marriage. Everyone is happy about this turn of events since the knight gets a son and the farmhand gets an advancement and it's up to future generations to read that and notice that it's totally fucked up.
Beyond Game of Thrones - which depicts rape as brutal and a natural part of patriarchal gender roles - rape is getting depicted because we as a culture are more sensitive to rape. The story of a football team raping a woman and then posting about it becomes news especially when the media talks about how their lives are ruined by the pathetically easy jail sentence. Ed Kramer rapes 10 year old boys and he manages to get away with it for over a decade. Joe Paterno is getting a fucking statue in Penn State and yes, I know it's because he led the football team to victory but like the joke that ends with "but you fuck one goat..." his legacy should be permanently ruined by letting Jerry Sandusky get away with molestation.
So we're depicting rape in the popular culture. It can be shitty and stupid. It can be unintentionally hilarious in its wrongheadedness (did Oz always have to have that jazz score going?) but it can also be more realistic and angry. And that's infinitely better than pretending that it doesn't exist, that it can be dismissed or that it's not the problem.
This actually reminds me of the report that Minnesota has more rapes. Upon investigation, it was discovered that Minnesota is not a particularly rapey state. It just has a police department that puts down a rape as a rape instead of "aggravated assault" or whatever lesser charge that people come up with to pretend that rape isn't happening and juke the stats (damn the Wire gets to you). In other words, we got a problem with rape culture and we should deal with rape culture instead of the things that are calling attention to it.
That particular scene didn't seem to be fetishizing anything. It wasn't beautiful and it was highly sympathetic of Cersei who usually doesn't get much sympathy. I agree that there are ways that rape gets portrayed as if it's some kind of fetish or "hot romance" including the rape scene from the remake of The Postman Always Rings Twice. Or the scene in Animal House where the student is "hilariously" trying to decide whether or not to rape a passed out girl.
And it seems like American Psycho and Wolf of Wall Street are both based on mocking the hell out of male power fantasies. The gender of the director isn't as important as the director's skill and sensitivity to the issues. Granted, women are more likely to direct scenes of sexual aggression and prostitution with sensitivity, but that's no guarantee since we live in a sexist society that fosters rape culture.
My point is more that rape culture is the main issue. Depicting rape culture can be just as problematic as endorsing it,but depiction is not necessarily endorsement.
Edited at 2014-04-25 05:23 pm (UTC)
And it's beautiful; filmmakers can't help but make things beautiful in the same way dancers always stand like dancers even when they're not dancing.
It's Truffault Was Right
, pretty much. Or would be, if that particular sequence wasn't so badly lit.
I just saw an article about how Central American migrant women prepare for the journey through Mexico by taking precautionary birth control. Ninety percent of them are raped along the way.
I don't think anyone (anyone sensible, at least) would argue that we should never portray rape, though. For me, that scene was bad for a bunch of reasons:
1. It was one of my favourite scenes in the book, hands-down. It was so delightfully fucked up. I was pretty sure they weren't going to include it, because a brother and sister fucking in front of their dead incest baby in a church while she's on the rag? It's flawless and if they weren't going to do it justice, they shouldn't have included it. Rape makes it more normal.
2. The pattern they've now established where consensual-according-to-the-standards-of-the-universe sex gets turned into rape. First Drogo/Dany, now this.
3. It's a terribly shot sequence. It's dark, poorly-choreographed, and whatever point it's trying to get across doesn't get across or they wouldn't have to keep explaining it. We don't get any reaction shot from Cersei (which I guess is true to the book, but she gets to say more in the book so we kind of know what she's thinking), and it just feeds into the whole blurred-lines, maybe-she's-into-it toxic cultural garbage.
It's probably only the second creative decision they've made that I totally disagree with, too. But it's a huge one.