Rapey Pop Culture
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.