Jan. 23rd, 2010

sun_set_bravely: (kali)
You know what I hate? You know what fills me with firebrand rage?

Filmmakers -- usually male, simply because so damn many movies in the world are made by men, but surely some women filmmakers, too -- who portray violence against women in their movies with a certain relish.

You have seen this before, even if you didn't notice it.

It's almost imperceptible, and the violence is often portrayed in order to say, "See how *awful* men can be? See what terrible things men do?" (Like we didn't already know that. Like every single woman on this planet isn't aware that things like rape, domestic violence, sex slavery exist and could, under certain circumstances, be inflicted on her own body.)

For example, I'm 15 minutes into Luc Besson's The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc. Not a classic or even good film, but one from a well-known filmmaker. Right off the bat, the English invade a French village. A British soldier captures Joan's sister, tears off her clothes, kills her, then rapes her. The audience is, presumably, supposed to be appalled at this horrible man's actions.

But did you notice? The thoroughness with which the director paints this scene. We see the soldiers, leering, close off every route of escape. We see all of their faces as the ringleader grabs the woman. Now, we know what's going to happen. Audiences are not stupid. The indicators of rape and torture are clear.

But this scene is not over. As the solider tears at her clothes, there are quick but definite shots of the woman's bare cleavage, her long neck, her naked thigh interspersed in this supposedly appalling moment.

Why?

For fuck's sake, WHY?

Why does a rape scene need to show such titillating parts of a woman's body? There could have been no doubt what was happening.

It's because the filmmakers have not checked their own misogyny at the door. They throw these images up on the screen without seeing how their own unresolved power issues thread through every female character's line and action.

I have this problem with Joss Whedon, often. In service of his desire to show women kicking ass, he frequently places them into awful, misogynist, violent situations. They usually fight their way out and triumph, but still -- we the viewers have to watch and take in the visual impact of men beating the shit out of women. It's why I stopped watching Dollhouse even before it was canceled. I haven't got the stomach to watch a man hunt a woman for prey anymore.

I understand that this drawn-out portrayal of violence often makes "good" storytelling by setting up just how bad it is before the situation turns.

But my tolerance for watching women get kicked around, blown up, pawed at, and on and on JUST FOR A PLOT POINT diminishes every time I watch another movie.

I can no longer collude with the habit of violence as entertainment.

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