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.

SPOILERS AHEAD

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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.

Oscars – Gotta Catch ‘Em All! – Documentary edition

Jenny and I are making a concentrated effort this year to catch as many of the Academy Award nominated films as possible. Netflix is being very helpful as they have three of the five documentaries on streaming. I will warn you that none of the three are likely to be easy viewing. The two not on streaming are Searching for Sugar Man and The Gatekeepers.

The Invisible War (2012) – Not Rated

“This documentary calls attention to little-known facts about the high prevalence of rape within the ranks of America’s armed forces. Interviews with military personnel, elected officials and rape victims provide alarming evidence.”

Warning: this documentary is extremely hard to watch and is definitely not a date movie. This movie has a near perfect balance between depth and breadth. We get to hear enough different stories to understand how widespread the issue is but they focus enough on just a few stories so that they achieve intimacy.

How to Survive a Plague (2012) – Not rated

“This passionate documentary focuses on the grass-roots crusade in the 1980s and ’90s to speed up efforts at developing treatments for the HIV virus. The film follows AIDS activists to Washington, where they challenge the government to act.”

5 Broken Cameras (2012) – Not rated

“In this moving documentary, a Palestinian farmer chronicles his village’s nonviolent resistance to the presence of encroaching Israeli settlers and military. As camera after camera gets shot or otherwise destroyed, the farmer continues filming.”