I occasionally use Spoiler Weekly – I mean Entertainment Weekly – as a jumping off point for various topics. Unfortunately this time they have written about something I had intended to write about, making my point(s) moot. My wife and I have been horrified – okay, more irritated than horrified – to find television shows and movies just throwing rape in willy-nilly as shorthand for women in trouble, brutality, et cetera. I was going to call the column “Rape is the New Black”. EW called their column “TV’s Tiresome Assault on Women”.
Sexual assault is all too prevalent in society and no one wants to talk about it. While anecdotes are not evidence, most women I’ve talked to about it have experienced it at some point. It is horrifying, life-changing, and all too difficult to move on from.
The Invisible War (2012) – Not rated
“The Invisible War exposes a rape epidemic in the armed forces, investigating the institutions that perpetuate it as well as its personal consequences.”
Last year, The Invisible War was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Documentary (Searching for Sugar Man won). Netflix had (and still has) it on streaming as they do with tons of documentaries so my wife and I watched it. It took us five tries on successive days to slog through this painful, though well-made, documentary.
While The Invisible War “has been credited with both persuading more women to come forward to report abuse and with forcing the military to deal more openly with the problem.” (New York Times), very little has actually been done. I am not a political activist and generally try to stay away from polarizing political topics but I find it shameful that the Military Justice Improvement Act was filibustered (and on the very same day that the Army’s prosecutor in charge of sexual prosecutors was suspended for an alleged sexual assault). Is that the definition of cognitive dissonance?
Please accept my apologies as I had not intended for this column to get political. My complaint for this column was meant to be the cavalier use of rape to further plotlines. Rape, as an unfortunate part of the human condition, does have a place in storytelling.
There is a, to my mind, well-handled subplot in House of Cards addressing this, which is obviously drawn from The Invisible War. Rape occurs frequently in the background and once in the foreground of 300: Rise of an Empire. Unnecessary, in my mind, sexual assault subplots were introduced in Scandal and Downton Abbey – just to name the two most recent shows. If you need more examples, try: Sons of Anarchy, Mad Men, Private Practice, Law & Order SVU, 90210, American Horror Story, Reign, The Fosters, Ringer, Veronica Mars, The Americans, Bates Motel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Oz, The Shield, Nip/Tuck, The Sopranos, Chicago Fire.
My wife and I are tired of rape being used simply to advance the plot or to show that villains are villains. I suppose it is better than the days of the soap opera where the heroine would be raped, impregnated, then fall in love with her rapist and marry him. Stop using rape as shorthand.