22.9.12

Rape in the Media

Reposting this comment on the Whitechapel forum, as blog-padding but also so I don't lose sight of it.

I wrote this after seeing Fincher's version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, pasting relevant paragraph below:
Depiction of rape is complicated. One argument is that it can only be justified when it is done from the P.O.V. of the victim, with his or her lack of consent irrevocably clear to the audience. Thus you try and limit the circulation of potentially dangerous sexual fantasies, which might lead to imitative behaviour in the real world. Another is more liberal, one that the Alan Moore who wrote Lost Girls might support. Fantasies are fantasies, who are you to judge what is criminal or not, if it remains inside people's heads? You can be as disgusting as you like, as long as you respect the rules of consent in the real world and ensure you do not hurt anyone. There are difficulties with such a John Stuart Mill view, but I tend to lean towards it rather than try and legislate on how sex should be portrayed in art. We should live in a world where we can be trusted to control our desires, rather than have them controlled by someone else.
The Alan Moore reference above may be a bit off. A better example might be Milo Manara, who I remember saying somewhere that the erotic aspect of his work (which includes depictions of rape) is ok because it's not real, it's just a book. From what I remember, he then goes on to suggest that porn actresses who debase themselves for their viewers' pleasure are performing a kind of public service and should be venerated, which strikes me as an infantile response to the porn industry, and may indicate some of the problems with his attitude.

But basically, I think my liberal belief that you should be able to produce whatever filth or stupidity you want and have it tried in the court of public opinion is compatible with my desire for beauty and intelligence in the art I consume. When judging the latter w/r/t rape, I prefer to do it case-by-case, that is to say, look at what a work's intentions are, what it says about rape and whether that's ok, rather than build rules for the portrayal of rape to be applied to everything you consume.

Fwiw, I thought the rape of Lisbeth in Fincher's movie overstepped the line, the scene should have cut when the door closed. More broadly, I thought the film failed in its intention to condemn violence against women. Manara's intentions as a pornographer are pretty clear, so I tend to give him a pass, tho once you get past the astonishing artwork the dude strikes me as pretty creepy. Moore's fixation on rape is certainly creepy as well, but it looks like he's aware of it, and that makes a massive difference (tho should say haven't read anything of his after the awful LoEG 1910).

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