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Author Topic: Depictions of Sexual Violence in Films
audra trower williams
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posted 26 January 2002 11:26 AM      Profile for audra trower williams   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Inga Muscio, in her book Cunt, said that women should start demanding their money back when they are at the movies, and there is a rape/sexual violence scene. At first, I thought that was daft, but then I saw The Accused and The Shipping News within a week of each other, and started to think she was maybe onto something. Both films -- to varying extents -- depict forced sex, and I think both films did it in a way that was more graphic than the films required.
From: And I'm a look you in the eye for every bar of the chorus | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
'lance
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posted 26 January 2002 12:15 PM      Profile for 'lance     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
My ex-girlfriend successfully demanded her money back after the rape scene in Pulp Fiction. Now, she did this less as a feminist than just as a movie-goer; it was a man being brutalized. Still, I concluded later that she was absolutely right. It was over-the-top and pointless.
From: that enchanted place on the top of the Forest | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
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posted 26 January 2002 12:20 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Did you think the rape in The Accused was gratuitous? Interesting. I didn't. I was horrified when I watched it, but I felt that this was the point. People are desensitized. They would have said, "Oh yeah, rape" - but this made the horror real. I appreciated that.
From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
agent007
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posted 26 January 2002 02:00 PM      Profile for agent007     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Movie producers insist that their work is Art. They are right (I think!).

Why should anyone dictate what form Art should take?

No one is ever forced to attend a particular movie. If it's offensive, then don't pay to see it.

Asking for your money back is, to use audra's word, daft ... big time!

(Hope no one, here, is advocating selective-censorship.)


From: Niagara Falls ON | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
audra trower williams
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posted 26 January 2002 03:54 PM      Profile for audra trower williams   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I don't know that boycotting is the same as advocating censorship.
From: And I'm a look you in the eye for every bar of the chorus | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Twilight-Cedar
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posted 26 January 2002 03:55 PM      Profile for Twilight-Cedar        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
The solution -- educate yourself BEFORE attending an art gallery, buying a book, seeing a movie, attending a play. I don't think people in the various art genres owe anything to people who are offended by content. Simply walk out -- chalk it up to experience. Aren't movies rated (PG, R etc.)? Plays have warnings too, as do t.v shows. You can browse through a book before buying it.

If someone refunds your money at a cinema, they're doing it for P.R. purposes (keeping the customer happy) rather than for moral purposes. They don't owe you anything.


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'lance
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posted 26 January 2002 05:53 PM      Profile for 'lance     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
No one is ever forced to attend a particular movie. If it's offensive, then don't pay to see it.

You mean we could decide something's offensive without having seen it? Isn't that what mullahs do with novels and such?

quote:
I don't know that boycotting is the same as advocating censorship.

Absolutely it isn't. The one is an expression of that freedom of choice, and of speech, we're all supposed to enjoy. The other is the invariably clumsy, absurd, and even oppressive action of the state.

Movies may be Art, but most of them are also Commerce as well. None of us, even collectively, can "dictate" what they'll be, but we can influence them, chiefly by spending money on them -- or not, as the case may be.

Edited to add:

quote:
If someone refunds your money at a cinema, they're doing it for P.R. purposes (keeping the customer happy) rather than for moral purposes.

But it doesn't matter why they do it. They didn't make the movie and won't take your criticisms into account, it's true. But they could pass them on to the studio. Actually, the only way to be sure this is done is to do it yourself.

I can imagine a campaign that involved not only moviegoers demanding their money back, but mailing their tickets direct to the studio or distributor, explaining just why they'd demanded refunds.

[ January 26, 2002: Message edited by: 'lance ]


From: that enchanted place on the top of the Forest | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
Twilight-Cedar
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posted 26 January 2002 09:08 PM      Profile for Twilight-Cedar        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
I can imagine a campaign that involved not only moviegoers demanding their money back, but mailing their tickets direct to the studio or distributor, explaining just why they'd demanded refunds.

But let's take the analogy a little further... what if there was an art exhibition, showing rather graphic depictions of gay sex (but not all the content was sexual). And suppose someone who had paid admission, was offended. Should they petition the artist for a refund? Ask the gallery owner for a refund? I guess I believe part of the risk of partaking in culture is that sometimes you'll be offended. Otherwise, all art is pretty safe, and fairly stagnant.


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'lance
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posted 26 January 2002 09:59 PM      Profile for 'lance     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Should they petition the artist for a refund? Ask the gallery owner for a refund?

Well, if they did the artist or gallery owner could always refuse, just as the movie chain could easily refuse. A certain freedom of action prevails on both sides.

quote:
I guess I believe part of the risk of partaking in culture is that sometimes you'll be offended. Otherwise, all art is pretty safe, and fairly stagnant.

This, I agree with. Nor, really, do I see a whole lot of sexual violence in movies that I think really objectionable. Perhaps I don't see that many movies. But I'm more offended by the banality and stupidity of the average movie, at least the average Hollywood production.


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Tommy_Paine
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posted 26 January 2002 11:42 PM      Profile for Tommy_Paine     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I can't disagree with Muscio. If that's how a part in a film makes you feel, then your feelings about it are certainly valid.

I guess I grew up watching a lot of "B" horror movies as a kid, and I became a bit of an afficionado. With the advent of VCR's and movie rentals, I was able to indulge my hobby quite a bit. But after a while it just started hitting me that many of the more modern ones where actually trying to use sexual violence in an attempt to titilate. Maybe the older movies were always like that too, just a little less unabashed about it, or maybe I changed, or both, but I stopped renting them, and I don't find the genre interesting anymore.

I could make an argument that the rape sceen in "A Clockwork Orange" was necessarily brutal, so that we could see the brutal evil that was Alex de Large. And there was a time I saw it like that. Today though, I'd probably skip that part, I don't need to see it anymore.

I think it extends beyond movies too. This rather misnamed genre refered to as "Reality T.V.", where horrific crimes are shown to us over and over again, until we believe it's happening all the time, right next door, seem to me to pander to this kind of thing.

Even on shows like "America's Most Wanted" and other such shows we are often treated to graphic re-enactments that really are not necessary.

What we are seeing is a T.V. version of the old "True Detective" magazines which were thinly vieled excuses for the bondage magazines that were forced out of business in the 50's purge on pornography.

I think it's rather unhealthy on several fronts.


From: The Alley, Behind Montgomery's Tavern | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
notjerryspringer
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posted 27 January 2002 02:23 AM      Profile for notjerryspringer     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I too think it is “daft” to demand money back after seeing a movie that one finds offensive or doesn’t like etc. Buying a movie ticket is certainly at an “at your own risk” transaction. When I saw “Kids” I was deeply bothered by the rape scene, but I knew the movie was controversial before I went (one should know a little about the film they are about to watch). There is always the option to walk out of the theatre. I bought a copy of “American Psycho” a few years ago and couldn’t bring myself to finish reading it because I found it horrifying, offensive and over-the-top. I didn’t ask the bookstore to refund my money (“gee, I bought this book called ‘American Psycho’ and guess what, it’s disturbing”). My sister is the assistant manager of a theatre (“art house” as she calls it) and is constantly issuing refunds in the forms of free passes because people are walking out 5 minutes after a movie starts because there are subtitles or because a character said “fuck”! I think the only reason to demand a refund is because the sound or picture or something technical is off.
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Slick Willy
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posted 27 January 2002 02:32 AM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Let me hazard to say that being provocative is the refuge of the unartistic.
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Anna
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posted 27 January 2002 02:59 AM      Profile for Anna     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Um, I also think that the analogy of the gay sex themed exhibit is not a great one since Audra's objection is to sexual violence, aka something that is undoubtedly wrong, whereas gay sex is not (gasp!). Also, this objection to gratuitous sexual violence (and I'm not trying to speak for Audra, but I know this is why it bothers me so much more that other violence you tend to see in films), come from the fact that, as Tommy_Paine lucidly put it, it tends to be used "in an attempt to titilate", which is pretty disgusting.

I remember Allison Anders was interviewed in Bust Magazine a few years ago and talked about how she doesn't believe in showing rapes in movies because they inevitably make rape look like sex and it will inevitably arouse people and obviously, that's not a desired effect.


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Tommy_Paine
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posted 27 January 2002 10:21 AM      Profile for Tommy_Paine     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
...she doesn't believe in showing rapes in movies because they inevitably make rape look like sex and it will inevitably arouse people and obviously, that's not a desired effect.

I wouldn't go that far. Movies that depict a rape as something brutal happening to a character that has been developed as someone multi-dimensional, someone we have come to care about, is much different from a movie that shoots a scene from the stalker angle, of a young, anonymous college girl getting undressed. We know what that's about, and I find it offensive.

I think it is valid to ask for a refund if the movie misrepresents itself in it's publicity, or tries to titilate while at the same time trying to couch sexual violence in some kind of flimsy social advocacy pretext. (Natural Born Killers? I suspect that might be one, I'm going by the adds I've seen for it)

"American Psycho" didn't try to misrepresent itself, I don't think, so asking for a refund on that wouldn't be appropriate.

The nature of mainstream and "B" films though IS to misrepresent more often than not, though, so asking for a refund isn't always inappropriate.

Getting away from sexual violence, don't you feel ripped off if you go to see a comedy if all the funniest jokes were used in the promos?

I do, and I don't go to theaters to see comedies anymore.


From: The Alley, Behind Montgomery's Tavern | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Anna
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posted 27 January 2002 02:33 PM      Profile for Anna     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Actually, I agree with you that it's not as cut and dry as "don't show rape scenes, ever". But what I think is an important point is that objecting to sexual violence in films isn't just being a squeamish whiner as some people would suggest; it's objecting to the practise of using sexual violence to titillate. This is a considerably more serious objection than, "ew, that's yucky." (This, we seem to agree on, I think?)
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Twilight-Cedar
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posted 27 January 2002 03:16 PM      Profile for Twilight-Cedar        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Sometimes sexual violence is necessary in a film -- take the previously mentioned Clockwork Orange. To show how debased Alex is, you need to show him at his morally worse.

Or take quite a different movie -- Rambling Rose, in which Laura Dern sexually initiates a young boy within the household where she works. She isn't a pedophile -- but she is terribly lonely, frustrated, confused etc.

Movies (and all art) do not function as a script to better society in some politically correct way. But they do define the human condition, warts and all.


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Slick Willy
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posted 27 January 2002 03:37 PM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Anyone remember back to the day when things could be implied rather than acted out? Are we just slower on the up take or is that just an assumption made in Hollywood?
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Guerrilla Grrl
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posted 28 January 2002 05:51 AM      Profile for Guerrilla Grrl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Movie producers insist that their work is Art. They are right (I think!).

The closest place to art that mainstream cheese culture (brainless action films, hollow star vehicles, blockheaded teen comedies, etc.) comes is possibly if someone on the catering crew is called Art.

quote:
I guess I believe part of the risk of partaking in culture is that sometimes you'll be offended. Otherwise, all art is pretty safe, and fairly stagnant.


I find safe, boring art, repugnant and offensive.


From: the caves | Registered: Jan 2002  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 28 January 2002 06:53 AM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I think a suffices for my rxn.
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Victor Von Mediaboy
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posted 28 January 2002 10:35 AM      Profile for Victor Von Mediaboy   Author's Homepage        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I once read that the rape scene in Gone With The Wind, where Rhett takes Scarlett up the stairs completely against her will, is consistently in the top ten when folk poll women on "the most romantic scene in cinema history". Sorry, I can't remember the source. I read it many years ago.


One woman's rape scene is another's sexual fantasy.

[ January 28, 2002: Message edited by: Victor Von MediaBoy ]


From: A thread has merit only if I post to it. So sayeth VVMB! | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Trinitty
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posted 28 January 2002 01:08 PM      Profile for Trinitty     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Ew M'boy, that's interesting.

I've been deeply bothered by rape scenes in moves as I see them usually used to titilate. I found Rob Roy to be disgusting.... that may have been reality for women then, but I still found it WAY over the top... I left the room as it was on tv. However, I wouldn't demand my money back.

However, the scene in the Crow, still upsets me but doesn't make me leave the room. I don't really know what the triggers are.

I'm against most censorship, but, I find the rape scenes in many film offensive and I wonder how they are enlightening the audience. This is my problem.


From: Europa | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
'lance
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posted 28 January 2002 01:15 PM      Profile for 'lance     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
The closest place to art that mainstream cheese culture (brainless action films, hollow star vehicles, blockheaded teen comedies, etc.) comes is possibly if someone on the catering crew is called Art.

Hmmm. Most people seem to think

  • art is a Good Thing, and good for you;
  • "mainstream cheese culture" is neither;
  • therefore, MCC is not art.

But the way I see it, the first premise is wrong. The word "art" doesn't have any moral content, or connotation of quality or worth, necessarily.


From: that enchanted place on the top of the Forest | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
Victor Von Mediaboy
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posted 28 January 2002 01:18 PM      Profile for Victor Von Mediaboy   Author's Homepage        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I tried to find the poll I'm thinking of, but to no avail. I did find this anecdotal tidbit:

quote:
A friend of mine who has investigated romance novels told me once that many of what outside observers might call "rape" scenes in bodice-rippers are actually more accurately described as "aggressive seduction," in that the woman is initially resistant to the hero's advances, but deep in her heart of hearts truly wants him and eventually gives in. This is best illustrated by the scene in Gone with the Wind in which Rhett Butler carries Scarlett O'Hara up the stairs while she kicks and beats at him. The scene then dissolves to her lying contentedly in bed the next morning. An ex-girlfriend once told me that this was the most romantic scene she'd ever seen.

From http://www.wulfarchives.com/opinion.html. Admittedly, this isn't the best source one could imagine, being a personal website.

[ January 28, 2002: Message edited by: Victor Von MediaBoy ]


From: A thread has merit only if I post to it. So sayeth VVMB! | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
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posted 28 January 2002 01:35 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Actually, I find rape scenes in romance novels repugnant too. I think I mentioned before quite a while back in another thread that I read a bunch of new Harlequins that my husband had found in an alley and brought home for me, thinking I would like them. I read them and was completely disgusted. All I kept thinking throughout them was, "Oh my God, call the police, he can't do that to you!"

That said, the idea of being swept off my feet and having a guy convince me romantically that I want to have sex despite my hesitancy can be quite romantic - as long as I really wanted to have sex to begin with.


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
vaudree
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posted 28 January 2002 02:39 PM      Profile for vaudree     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I think promoting the idea that women/men/children like to be raped or that in some instances a person who rapes is justified in their actions is promoting hatred. The problem is that a law against the depiction of rape in movies could also be applied to movies such as "Boys of St. Vincent" which I feel was a very important movie to make. Nothing was actually shown, but you cannot watch part I of the movie without feeling fear and anxiety and utter helplessness and I think that is a good thing.

If the only depiction of rape we see promotes the idea that "She wants it, but she can't admit it because she doesn't want to appear easy so you have to take it from her" we aere all in trouble.

Same with smoking. If the only adds we see associate smoking with being active and beautiful and energetic and rebellious - of course we will smoke - we would see nothing wrong with it.

Advertising making rape look desireable prevents people from taking this crime seriously, and prevents perps from thinking they are doing anything wrong.


From: Just outside St. Boniface | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Timebandit
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posted 28 January 2002 05:48 PM      Profile for Timebandit     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Okay, after listening to much slamming of the movie biz and producers, here is my take on the subject.

Rape scenes in general are disturbing on a number of levels. Generally speaking, they are meant to be. And many rape scenes in poor-quality commercial motion picture ventures cater to the old cultural notion that no might actually mean yes. And what's more, those who have posted that this is disgusting are right.

However, there are contexts in which a rape scene is justifiable and necessary. Someone mention The Accusation, and in the context of that film, the rape scene was used justifiably. The film would have been more ambiguous and would have had a great deal more difficulty setting up the Foster character if it had been implied, but not shown. And that would have changed the message that the filmmaker was trying to convey.

Then there's Cronenberg's Crash, which was considered art by a number of other people I have read or spoken to... Personally, I think sexual violence was used to a gratuitous level. I'm still not sure he had anything interesting to tell me with that one.

My point (if I have one) is that even good producers (and there are a few out there) will and sometimes should show sexual violence. It's a matter of context and message that makes it either ethical or unethical.


From: Urban prairie. | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
vaudree
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posted 28 January 2002 06:59 PM      Profile for vaudree     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
It's a matter of context and message that makes it either ethical or unethical.

So we are back to the definition of whether on not it promotes hate and violence against a group of individuals. Is that where gratuatious rape scenes belong?

My vote is "Yes" violence is OK as long as it is used to show that violence is wrong - and you can't get any more violent than rape.


From: Just outside St. Boniface | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
uh clem
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posted 01 February 2002 06:31 AM      Profile for uh clem   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
There are a number of movie theatres here, in Toronto, that offer a full refund if you leave within the first half hour. I first came across this policy in Whitehorse which had fewer theatres than T.O. does....

I'd mention Clockwork Orange as an offensive rape scene (two actually), gratuitous and pointless. But I'm with Guerilla Grrl...if it doesn't challenge me, make me think or feel differently from where I started, it's not art.

"Art: a friend of mine when I was growing up in Kansas. A lot of pseuds today are taking his name in vain"

Chad C. Mulligan. "The Hipcrime Vocab"


From: Toronto | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
Lima Bean
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posted 02 February 2004 04:01 PM      Profile for Lima Bean   Author's Homepage        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
anybody seen Monster yet? What do folks think about the violence depicted in it? I've mostly held the opinion that violence against women doesn't actually need to be rendered very graphically or "realistically" on-screen because it just perpetuates the whole problem, without actually adding anything to the story or serving uch purpose at all.

Monster made me rethink that position a little. Or rather, made me allow for exceptions. In the context of that scene, it was pretty essential to have the brutality of her assault made viscerally clear to us so that we would understand and sympathise with her reaction. It informs the whole rest of the movie, as it informed the rest of her life.

What do others who've seen it think?


From: s | Registered: Aug 2002  |  IP: Logged
Meow
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posted 02 February 2004 11:40 PM      Profile for Meow     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I can think of a fuckton of other movies where rape has been eroticized....

Some that are marketed at the teen set....

I remember Jason Biggs did a movie called "Loser". It came out after American Pie and was marketed as a light sex comedy, akin to the predecessor....

Anyways, there was a whole lot of dialogue where the frat boy characters (who were hardly characterized as "evil") talked off-handedly about purchasing drugs for the purpose of raping girls at a party they were going to (the word rape was never used of course)....the casual nature in which the subject was discussed, and the way in which it escaped any kind of judgement was bizarre....especially considering how the movie was marketed. I'm sure a lot of young men saw it too after the popularity of American Pie....which bothered me a lot more than some actual rape scenes.

I can also think of a lot of actual rape scenes that were HIGHLY eroticized. The standout is one with Kevin Bacon in the horror movie "hollow man"....Absolute gratuity....

I guess that is my principal problem with the use of rape in movies....it is treated to casually, and often without judgement.


From: Toronto | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
bittersweet
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posted 04 February 2004 01:57 AM      Profile for bittersweet     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Inga Muscio, in her book Cunt
Of course, the author chose her book title to attract attention, to sell copies. It's at least partly a commercial decision. She could have called it something more demure, but that wouldn't have had the same marketing punch, and if that were the case, then possibly Audra wouldn't be familiar with the opinions expressed in it. Many people--not a few, mind, but many--feel that the word cunt is deeply offensive, and would describe the title as gratuitous, despite what may be compensating merits within the book. After all, there may be compensating merits in movies with gratuitous violent sex scenes.

Also, I wonder if Muscio singles out movies alone. Does she recommend returning books that contain gratuitous rape scenes? (As Michele experienced with old Harlequins.) Or plays? Paintings? Comic books? Any and all possible forms of commercial expression that depict gratuitous sexual violence? If movies alone, why is that?

BTW, the phrase "pulp fiction" refers to a particularly lurid, sensational kind of writing. The last person to misrepresent his films is QT. Buyer beware.


From: land of the midnight lotus | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged

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