Rape is the New Black & The Invisible War

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


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.

Anyway /rantmodeoff.

Mid-Month Update – Excellent Television

The second season of Downton Abbey is finally available. Unfortunately it is not on Netflix or Amazon (unless you want to pay by the episode) but Hulu Plus has all of the second season episodes. I can’t wait to watch this with my wife. If you haven’t seen it yet, catch the first season on instant Netflix.

Titanic (2012)

“Follows the lives of the ship’s passengers, from all walks of life, as they travel on the maiden voyage of the ill-fated Titanic. From the wealthy family of the Earl of Manton, the designers of the ship, to the stokers in the engine room – who will make it onto the lifeboats? “

This is NOT the James Cameron blockbuster but rather a British miniseries. Each of the first three episodes begin before Titanic launches and tells the story of different characters. The fourth episode deals with the sinking of the Titanic and presumably the fates of the characters from the first three episodes. I’m looking forward to this mainly because it is from Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey). Available on instant Netflix.

After watching this, do not even consider viewing Titanic II. Titanic II is NOT a sequel but the usual Asylum ripoff.

Breaking Bad Season 4 (2008-2011)

“Emmy winner Bryan Cranston stars as Walter White, a high school science teacher who learns that he has terminal lung cancer and teams with a former student to manufacture and sell high-quality crystal meth to secure his family’s future.”

I’ve recommended this series before but now we get the fourth season. This is another one I’m looking forward to watching with my wife. Too many shows, too little FREE time. I also think that it’s a mistake to premiere the fourth season on instant Netflix on the same day the fifth season premieres on AMC. This doesn’t give viewers enough time to catch up.

Aliens Attack! Downton Abbey Edition

Okay obviously aliens do not attack in Downton Abbey but my wife and I just finished the first series of Downton on Netflix and I thought I would interrupt to post a quick review.

One line review: Upstairs, Downstairs on steroids.

Downton Abbey (2010)

“Exposing the snobbery, backbiting and machinations of a disappearing class system, this series chronicles the comings and goings of the upper-crust Crawley family and their assorted servants.”

Downton Abbey was in my queue forever. I had heard how good it was but it is not a genre I would normally watch and BBC series (the better ones) require your full attention. Downton Abbey is a prime example. If you like doing other things while watching TV (reading, surfing the net, etc.) then this is probably not a good choice for you.

Downton Abbey is amazing. The acting is superb – I thought every character was well-realized and there was not a weak performance in the bunch. Maggie Smith is wonderful as always BUT part of how she is wonderful is that she reacts well to the other actors and underplays her character when necessary.

I have never seen a show with so many significant glances – another reason you have to pay absolute attention to everything going on. A lot of what is going on is actually different from what is stated.

All of the characters are highly complex, although they do make it clear who you should root for and which characters are villainous. The only exception to this seems to be Lady Mary as the show puts her in a sympathetic position yet she makes one heinous decision after another.

Creator/writer Julian Fellowes chose a wonderful period to set the series. Downton Abbey runs seven episodes and covers the period from April 1912 (Sinking of the Titanic) through July 1914 (the start of World War I). While issues pertinent to the era are mentioned (suffrage being the most prominent), the majority of the show is just showing the life and times of Earl of Grantham’s family contrasted with that of the help at Downton Abbey.

The budget for the show must be phenomenal. Costuming is marvelous and all the ladies wear incredible hats. A few anachronisms aside, the attention to detail is amazing. It would be easy to watch this show just for the eye candy but then you would miss the superb acting.

Please be aware that not much actually happens in the show – this is primarily a British acting showcase and secondarily a look at life among the rich pre-World War I.

THE FUTURE OF DOWNTON ABBEY: The second season/series of Downton Abbey is supposed to be available on Hulu starting July 7th. No word yet on Netflix or Amazon instant. There is a Christmas special and the third series is just about to start filming.

A New Year and a New Crop of Movies

Normally the first of the year brings a slew of new movies on Netflix and, unfortunately, just as many expirations. This year seems to have fewer than in previous years but it looks like a bunch of Bollywood films showed up.

I’m not a fan of Bollywood but that’s probably only because I haven’t been exposed to much of it. One of my daughters swears by them. Dhoom, Dhoom 2, Doosra Aadmi, Mashaal, Chandni, and dozens of others just became available. Hopefully I’ll get to that genre someday.

There is an excellent French thriller, Point Blank, that I caught at an Asheville Film Society screening last year. I hope to watch it again and write it up this week but I can go ahead and wholeheartedly recommend it.

For concert enthusiasts, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, Usher: Live from London, Seth MacFarlane: Swingin’ in Concert and comedians Russell Peters: Red, White and Brown and Louis CK: Hilarious.

For those that enjoy TV, the biggest one that became available is probably the very popular Downton Abbey. Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, Shameless, and Frasier are available and the U.S. version of Being Human joins the U.K. version. I have yet to watch the U.S. version but the U.K. one was pretty entertaining. Supernatural is supposed to be available soon.