Home Top Story Scenes of sexual offences order of day

Scenes of sexual offences order of day

Entertainment industries world over seem to be taking a wild pleasure in depicting scenes of sexual violence on films and television shows

(The News Network)

If you’ve followed movies or television at all for the past few years, you may have noticed a common complaint: scenes depicting sexual assault have become seemingly ubiquitous in pop culture.

While depictions of violence against women, in particular, have been an issue in the feminist

consciousness for decades, it seems to have become a much larger phenomenon in recent years. With so many channels on TV and so many series available to binge-watch, showrunners seem to be greenlighting increasingly shocking material in an attempt to hook viewers.

But there are some showrunners at major networks fighting back against this trend. Maureen Ryan of Variety sat down with several of them this week to discuss their thoughts on the industry and their efforts to take a stand against rape culture.

Many critics have complained over the years that rape is often treated as a shortcut for character development in female characters. (Sexual violence against male characters, in contrast, is either treated as a joke or a complete non-issue.) In Ryan’s article, one unnamed female television writer explained, “It’s become shorthand for back story and drama. Everyone knows rape is awful and an horrific violation, so it’s easy for an audience t

to grasp.”

Michelle Lovretta, executive producer and showrunner of “Lost Girl” and “Killjoys,” calls sexual violence “the cinematic equivalent of a cheap sugar rush.” She doesn’t blame writers for falling back on rape as a trope in their work, explaining the reasons creators might find it tempting to include in their fiction: “It’s a fast-hitting combo of a lot of powerful inputs — titillation, taboo, character conflict, deep betrayal. In one scene, you could change the narrative arcs of a whole swath of your characters, and that kind of bomb can be pretty tempting for storytellers.”

While it’s easy to understand why writers find it alluring it include rape as a plot point, the fact that it’s become so ubiquitous in our culture’s fiction raises other problems. Sure, it’s a quick and easy way to raise the stakes in a story. But when an estimated one in six women in the U.S. has been a victim of a rape or attempted rape, it’s worth stopping to consider whether a violent story arc is in the best interest of a story or character. Is it worth potentially alienating or triggering millions of viewers in order to avoid developing a deep and complex back story?

A growing number of Hollywood showrunners, directors and producers are beginning to draw a line in the sand. Jeremy Slater, executive producer of Fox’s revival of “The Exorcist,” told Ryan he’d started simply throwing out spec scripts that included rape merely for shock value and without a deeper narrative purpose. Out of 200 scripts, he said 30 or 40 alone were scrapped for this reason.

He calls the trend “a plague on the industry.” It’s worth noting what all of these shows have in common: female showrunners and writers. While many of the male creators Ryan spoke to preferred to avoid rape storylines entirely, these women prefer to

dig in and offer painful, but realistic depictions of sexual assault and the fallout it has on victims.

They don’t attempt to wrap up these traumatic storylines within a single episode or sugarcoat the long-term effects of trauma on its victims – instead, they’re using the subject to fight back against rape culture.

And in doing so, they’re making a very important point: that being assaulted is traumatic, but that there is also life after trauma. In a world that still often sees victims as “damaged goods,” this is a powerful statement indeed.


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