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A Very Special Edition of Sexist Beatdown

… one in which the lovely Amanda Hess of the Sexist and I actually use the same headline!

Well, as the number of anonymous “DARN RADICAL FEMINISTS ALWAYS COMPLAINING ABOUT THE RAPING” troll comments in my moderation queue informs me, it is Rape as Entertainment Week here at Tiger Beatdown! Thus, Amanda Hess and I discuss: are there good rape scenes? How has the critical response to rape-themed entertainment changed in our lifetimes? Why is dude-on-dude rape so surprisingly common in film? Doesn’t Anna Faris deserve better, really? And why is Roger Ebert the WORST GRANDPA-FOR-HIRE EVER?

Join us, won’t you?

ILLUSTRATION: A film about hope and the triumph of the human spirit. Oh, and multiple gang-rapings.

SADY: good afternoon or evening!

AMANDA: any time is a good time for high-brow discussion on the art of raping women on film

SADY: ha, yes! i myself have been spectacularly dour and serious on the subject as of late. i think i’m going to stop posting words and just type frowny faces from now on. seth rogen, :(. it’s funny, because i think that telling stories about rape from the perspective of ladies who’ve lived through it can be totally important, you know?

AMANDA: are there any rape scenes in movies that you think are important? i think the scene in Boys Don’t Cry was important.

SADY: yeah, that one was huge. it was intense and it was scary and it totally centered Brandon Teena and the fact that the rape was a crime about power and gender and the fact that they viewed him as “really” a woman and wanted to drive that home through forced sex. it’s funny but i think a lot of the more interesting rape scenes i’ve seen have been in TV. Mad Men – Joan gets raped, and it’s the same thing, it’s about the fact that her boyfriend is threatened by her power and her sexuality and wants to take that away from her. I guess what I’m saying is that you can have rape in your movie and I will NOT EVEN YELL AT YOU, if it’s a story about sexual assault and what that means and what it does to a person. not something that uses sexual assault to add spice or shock value or whatever. because the thing about rape: once that shit happens, you have to LIVE with it. it’s not a thing that you can just resolve with some punching or with a laugh line or whatever.

AMANDA: yeah, and I think it’s an interesting dynamic when it happens that way—particularly when the rape is committed by the protagonist, as in Observe and Report (ostensibly). because, really, rape is actually a pretty common thing to happen to a woman, and a lot of times the people who commit them are otherwise normal seeming friends, etc.—people who might even be protagonists in motion pictures!

SADY: Ha! Indeed! I think the thing about “Observe & Report” style rape, which is not even that different from your usual how-do-we-make-it-clear-this-guy-is-a-villain-oh-I-know-raping move, is that in each case it’s kind of about deploying rape as your “edgy” move. Oh, look, rape, BUT SHE LIKES IT, isn’t that crazy? Oh, an incredibly brutal rape, LOOK HOW BRUTAL THIS RAPING IS, isn’t that crazy?

AMANDA: Yeah, Hollywood will just sneak that rape in anywhere!

ILLUSTRATION: Dag-blasted hippies, always with the raping!

SADY: Ha ha, yeah, PITCH MEETING: “So, this dude is totally crazy, and kills some people.” “BORING.” “Oh, but he’s also a rapist!” “SOLD! MAN, you’re edgy!”

AMANDA: another common pass: having the man rape ANOTHER MAN. that way, men can watch the rape without feeling awkward sexual feelings, and can just say, heh, “Ouch!” you know, and also laugh in embarrassment at the man being treated like a lady. So that resolves the guilt problem. a la your critique of Pulp Fiction.

SADY: Yeah, the “Shawshank Redemption” rapes, too. It’s fun to make your gay men sexual predators, I think, if you are a douche. See “Irreversible” which has a nine-minute rape scene of a lady, which is perpetrated BY A GAY MAN for reasons unknown, but which allows for various scenes shot in a club known, I believe, as “The Rectum.”

AMANDA: Deliverance, too, the movie that launched 1,000 man rape jokes

SADY: Well, it’s funny if men get raped, because that only happens to ladies! And, I mean, not to get all painfully academicish here, but the reality of rape is that it is typically a crime about power, sexual entitlement, and humiliation, perpetrated by a privileged person on a non-privileged person. That’s how it works. But portraying it that way gets complicated and challenges people and it’s easier to just be like “sex! violence! boobies! gays! vomit! EDDDDDGGGGGEE.” Men get raped, but more women get raped, and women can rape, but more rapists are men: it’s always inexcusable but the context in which most rapes happen is, yeah, The Patriarchy.

AMANDA: EDGE. Also, “rape,” according to the FBI, is still technically only defined when a penis violates a vagina. so even if a woman wanted to rape a man—not endorsing that—she couldn’t do it. May I share with you my favorite examination of rape in film, courtesy of Roger Ebert?

SADY: Indeed! I love Roger Ebert more with every passing day, by the way. I want to hire him to be my Grandpa.

AMANDA: When I was a Freshman in college, I had to watch this movie, “Absence of Malice,” for my Journalism class. It’s a Very Serious Look into Journalism Ethics starring Sally Field as a spunky lady journalist who falls in love with handsome Mafia spawn Paul Newman. anyway, Sally Field ends up doing a bunch of semi-ethical stuff, causes Paul Newman’s friend to kill herself, and so he gets back at her by almost—but not quite!—brutally raping her, showing her how to “respect limits” or something. anyway, the movie was terrible. Roger Ebert’s review from 1981 says a bunch of stuff about how what Field’s character did was wrong, but that he didnt care because the movie was really “romantic” and “entertaining.” Here’s the only mention of the near-rape scene: “Paul Newman’s character is a liquor distributor who is (presumably) totally innocent of the murder for which he is being investigated. But because his father was a Mafioso, he finds his name being dragged through the press, and he achieves a vengeance that is smart, wicked, appropriate, and completely satisfying to the audience.”



ILLUSTRATION: He is going to write the book on getting even. Said book will contain a surprising amount of near-rapings!

SADY: FROWNY FACE INDEED, MY FRIEND. Yeah, how do you get around that? “Well, he rapes her, but it was because she was all spunky and causing trouble. CLEVER!”

AMANDA: Now, this was in 1981, so perhaps in the past 28 or so years, everybody has become more aware of rape in film and why it can’t be treated that way. or … maybe that happened, and now people are treating it that way again, to be “edgy”!

SADY: Well, you want to think that. People will let the rapeyness of Superbad slide, but I haven’t seen a critic who hasn’t squirmed a little when trying to justify their enjoyment or support of the rape scene in “Observe & Report.”

AMANDA: especially Anna Faris, who, seriously, has endured so much on film in her short career. Jesus.

SADY: Right? I read some article where she was like, “well, I didn’t want to be a stick in the mud, so I did it, but I honestly didn’t think it would end up in the movie because it was too awful.” Ha ha, WHOOPS, Anna Faris! And the critics I’ve read, specifically in Variety, were like, “Anna Faris is a remarkably good sport in this movie.” Which, that’s the dichotomy I think we are working with: people think that being sensitive to the realities of rape is “P.C.” and they want to be BOLD and PUSH THE ENVELOPE, but they don’t seem to get that trivializing or justifying or reveling in rape isn’t that bold: that’s the status quo, we live there.

AMANDA: yeah. and i’m actually all for rape being portrayed MORE in movies, even by protagonists, because i think it’s the reality. I just wish it weren’t resolved with a punchline. and all those test moviegoers who made the rape scene “okay” by laughing might feel kind of bad that rogen’s now using them as an excuse. it’s like—well, i put this joke in there at the end and everybody laughed, however nervously! this means that the movie was a good movie. rape: it was all worth it … for the laughs.

SADY: Maybe we could get more edgy! “Paul Blart: Mall Rapist,” “Pulp Rapists,” “Raperbad.” An entire new genre awaits you: the feel-good rape comedy! Bring your date! IF YOU NEVER WANT TO HAVE SEX AGAIN.

ILLUSTRATION: Ladies, gentlemen: coming straight to a DVD near you, a new Rob Schneider comedy, the entire point of which is that he is worried about getting raped. Ha ha, aren’t we all?


  1. snobographer wrote:

    The Shawshank rapes were bad? They were maybe kind of gratuitous, but it was prison. I don’t remember whether it was in the movie, but at least in the novella it was made clear that the rapists weren’t necessarily gay, they were just cruel power-trippers. I’m sure a lot of people would sail past that clarification to embrace the old “gay guys want to forcibly sodomize everybody” predatory stereotype, but some effort is made at least. And it wasn’t – for shit sake – played for laughs.
    Or maybe I missed something.

    Rogen and Schneider though – fuck those guys.

    Friday, April 10, 2009 at 12:30 pm | Permalink
  2. Caitiecat wrote:

    Hiya – Shaker Caitiecat here, just wanted to say how much I’ve enjoyed reading your beautifully acerbic takedowns of these rapetastic horrors, and will be coming by regularly from now on. 🙂

    Friday, April 10, 2009 at 12:31 pm | Permalink
  3. Sady wrote:

    @snobographer: Yeah, I think classifying “Shawshank” with those other movies was kind of wrong on my part. I did like the fact that Morgan Freeman’s character made it clear that it wasn’t about those guys being gay (if I recall, he even said they weren’t gay) but that it was about them needing to dominate and gain power through acts of humiliation and violence. So, thanks for calling me out. It was just the first movie that came to mind when Amanda mentioned men raping men in film. And gay dudes as sexual predators, and rape as feminization, and all the rest of it. Remarkably, my mind did not immediately go to the Schneider place! Which is because my brain does not spend a tremendous amount of time or effort on trying to comprehend the existence of Schneider.

    Friday, April 10, 2009 at 1:43 pm | Permalink
  4. snobographer wrote:

    Whether Tarantino consciously plays rape for laughs is a little more ambiguous than Rogen or Schneider, who obviously, unabashedly do (I’m associating Schneider and Rogen together now. Great career move there, Rogen!), but I think Tarantino does do it for laughs and is just slightly less obvious about it. Tarantino’s rape scenes are just as gratuitous as Schneider’s and Rogen’s though.

    Friday, April 10, 2009 at 2:35 pm | Permalink
  5. cheekyweebisom wrote:

    1) I just started reading your blog today, and I’m enjoying it immensely.

    2) The Observe & Report scene sounds like an (intense) example of a movie phenomenon I call “rape, not Rape”: when one character starts raping another, but the victim turns out to be totally into it. See, for example, Blade Runner or Croupier.

    I call it “rape, not Rape,” because usually, when people defend these scenes, their arguments look something like, “Well, I guess it was a little shady, but I’m not sure I’d call it rape.” You know, it was just rape-ish. It had a rapesque feel to it. A little rapey, but not Rape.

    These conversations–as well as the movies that prompt them–are pretty depressing.

    Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 12:18 pm | Permalink
  6. So Very Unhip wrote:

    This is a super-ridiculous-late comment but I’ve just been reading and reading your blog because it’s made of pure, distilled awesome and I wanted to say that I don’t think you need to backtrack on including Shawshank; IIRC, the rapists are called “the Sisters” and I feel like the movie was definitely trying to code them as gay with that. It pissed me the fuck off, especially since the rest of the movie was really good.

    Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 2:28 pm | Permalink