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The Reflection of Rape Culture in the Media

August 8th, 2009     by Michelle Schwartz     Comments

This week, one of my friends informed me of the premature passing of filmmaker John Hughes, a man who practically defined youth culture in the Eighties with his brat pack movies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty In Pink, and The Breakfast Club. We were discussing our favorite Hughes films, our favorite brat pack members, our favorite soundtrack song, when someone brought up Sixteen Candles.

We all remembered loving Sixteen Candles when we were younger, but when we rewatched it as adults, we found certain aspects disturbing. There was the racist comic relief provided by the Asian minstrel/exchange student, Long Duk Dong, and there was the scene where Jake Ryan, Molly Ringwald’s Object of Affection, passes off his car and his bitchy cheerleader girlfriend to The Geek, the lovable loser portrayed by Anthony Michael Hall. The girlfriend has had too much to drink and has passed out in the front seat. Instead of, I don’t know, doing something crazy like driving her home, Jake Ryan, Dreamboat Extraordinaire, gives her to The Geek, telling him to have fun (read: have sex with her, she won’t even remember in the morning). Wow. Thanks a lot for that wonderful message, John Hughes.

I’m not trying to hate on the man. After all, he gave the world the forever-awesome scene of Jeannie Bueller kicking Ed Rooney in the face. But I find the casual and unremarkable depiction of men trading a woman as a commodity disturbing. Unfortunately, sexual assault and violence against women is running rampant in Hollywood. Rape or the threat of rape appears in everything from comedies to action movies. Hollywood takes our terrifying culture of misogyny, which has most recently gifted us with a massacre in a fitness club, and turns it into a punchline. And it’s becoming more and more common.

I rented Blindness and found myself sick to my stomach after a 10-minute gang rape scene. My friend Trancer was grossed out by the threat of rape playing a part in the new Terminator movie, especially offensive since the franchise has spent over two decades as a bastion for strong female characters. In response, she decided to make a list of all the movies in which sexual assault or rape occurs. The list doesn’t judge the quality of the movies. As she states, “Some of these are good movies, some are bad and some are really bad! Some of these deal with the issue seriously. Most of them don’t.” And like the Guerilla Girls statistics comparing the number of exhibited women artists versus the number of female nudes on display in museums, Trancer decided to compare the number of films depicting men being sexually assaulted or threatened with sexual assault with the number of films depicting women being sexually assaulted or threatened with sexual assault. The current count, just based on reader submissions?



Click more to see the list as it currently stands. Have another film to add? Leave it in the comments. Let’s see exactly how big this list can grow. Let’s “show how commonplace and totally cliched sexual violence against women (while presented as entertainment and something that only happens to women) has become.”

MOVIES IN WHICH WOMEN ARE SEXUALLY ASSAULTED OR THREATENED WITH SEXUAL ASSAULT: 28 Days Later (2002) 300 (2006) .45 (2006) 8mm (1999) Accused, The (1988) Alien 3 (1993) American Haunting, An (2006) An Eye For An Eye (1996) Apocalypse Now (1979) Apocalypse Now Redux ( Atonement (2007) Attack Girls Swim Team vs. The Undead Axe, aka Lisa, Lisa (1977) Bad Lieutenant (1992) Baise-Moi (2000) Barbarian Queen (1985) Barbed Wire Dolls (1975) Beast in Heat, The (1977 - Italy) Black Gestapo, The (1975) Black Snake Moan (2006) Bladerunner (1982) Blindness (2008) Blood Debts (1983) Bloodrayne (2006) Blue Desert (1991) Blue Steel (1989) Blue Velvet (1986) Boy and His Dog, A (1974) Boys Don’t Cry (1999) Braveheart (1995) Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) Bully (2001) Cannibal Holocaust (1980) Carpenter (1988) Captivity (2007) Casualties of War (1989) Caveman (1981) Chaos (2005) - not to be confused with the 2006 movie starring Jason Statham. Chained Heat (1983) A Clockwork Orange (1971) Coffy (1973) Color Purple, The (1985) Condemned, The (2007) Crank (2006) Crash (1996) Cruel Justice (1999 TV) Crow, The (1994) Death Wish (1974) Death Wish II (1982) Death Wish 3 (1985) Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987) Demon Rage aka Satan’s Mistress (1982) Demonlover (2002) Devil’s Advocate, The (1997) Dirty Harry (1971) District B-13 (2002) Don’t Answer The Phone! (1980) Don’t Go Near The Park (1981) Eden Log (2007) Entity, The (1981) Evil Dead (1981) Excalibur (1981) Expose (1976) Exterminator, The (1980) Face/Off (1997) Fame (1980) Feast (2005) Fight For Your Life (1977) Flesh & Blood (1985) Forced Vengeance (1982) Foxy Brown (1974) Freeze Me (2000) Frenzy (1972) Funny Games (1997, 2008) Geography of Fear, The (2000) Gia (1998) Gladiator (2000) Gran Torino (2008) Gravedancers, The (2006) Handgun (1983) Handmaid’s Tale, The (1990) Heaven & Earth (1993) Heavy Metal (1981) Helen of Troy (2003 - TV) Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) Highlander, The (1986) Hills Have Eyes, The (1977/2006) Hills Have Eyes 2, The (2007) Hollow Man (2000) Hotel New Hampshire (1984) House on the Edge of the Park, The (1980- Italy) I Drink Your Blood (1970) I Spit On Your Grave (1978) Images In A Convent (1979 - Italy) Incubus (1981) Insaf Ka Tarazu (1980 - India) Irreversible (2002) I Stand Alone (1998) Jack Frost (1996) - not to be confused with the 1998 movie with Micheal Keaton Jacob’s Ladder (1990) Kids (1995) Kika (1993) Kill Bill (2003) Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects (1989) Kiss The Girls (1997) Last House on the Left (1972/2009) Legend of Billie Jean, The (1985) Lipstick (1976) Loha (1997) Man Bites Dog (1992 - France) Man in the Iron Mask, The (1998) Maniac Cop 2 (1990) Maya (2001 - India) Messenger, The: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999) Mercy (2000) Mindwarp (1990) Monster (2003) Motor Psycho (1965) Ms. 45 (1981) Nail Gun Massacre (1985) Naked (1993) Naked Weapon (2002) New York Ripper, The (1982 - Italy) Nightmare Man (2006) NightThirst (2002) Observe and Report (2009) Once Upon A Time In America (1984) Once Were Warriors (1994) One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) Original Sin (2001) Pathfinder (2007) Planet Terror (2007) Platoon (1986) Pretty Woman (1990) Prey for Rock and Roll (2003) Prince of Tides (1991) Quick and the Dead, The (1995) Red Dawn (1984) Red Sonja (1985) Relax, It’s Just Sex (1998) Revenge (1990) Revenge of the Nerds (1984) Rob Roy (1995) Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) Rosemary’s Baby (1968) Sacred Flesh (1999 - UK) Saturday Night Fever (1977) Savage Dawn (1985) School of the Holy Beast (1974 - Japan) Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) Sin City (2005) Sister Emanuelle (1977 - Italy) Sixteen Candles (1984) Slumdog Millionaire (2008) Spartan (2004) Stabilizer, The (1984) Straw Dogs(1971) Stir of Echoes (1999) Switch (1991) Switchblade Sisters (1975) Talk to Her (2002) Tape (2001) Teeth (2007) Terminator: Salvation (2009) Thelma & Louise (1991) Thriller - A Cruel Picture (1973) Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990) Time to Kill, A (1996) Trick Or Treat (1986) True Lies (1994) Twin Peaks: Fire, Walk With Me (1992) Vatel (2000) Virgin Spring, The (1960) Visiting Hours (1982) Watchmen (2009) Women In Cages (1971) Young and Dangerous (1996 - Hong Kong) V for Vendetta (2005) Zombie Doom (1999)


American History X (1998) Bad Education (2004) Boys Don’t Cry (1999) Cruising (1980) Deliverance (1972) Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS (1974) Irreversible (2002) Mysterious Skin (2004) Mystic River (2003) Pulp Fiction (1994) Scum (1979 - UK) Shawshank Redemption (1994) Sleepers (1996) Species (1995) Tenebrae (1982)

Tags: body politics, film reel, media savvy

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