On Milk-Bones, Toothed Vaginas, and Adolescence: ‘Teeth’ As Cautionary Tale

But when Dawn learns that Ryan has bedded her as part of a bet while he is still inside of her, Dawn’s evolutionary adaptation intercedes and Ryan is punished for his use and abuse of Dawn. So now two trusted boyfriends and a doctor have initiated Dawn into the world of oppressive sex and violence, and all three times her vagina—the thing that has left her most vulnerable—has acted as a protector.

What Shakespeare Can Teach Us About Rape Culture

william-shakespeare

In ‘Titus Andronicus,’ Lavinia is brutally raped and disfigured (including having her tongue cut out so she couldn’t speak). This nod to Philomela in Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ echoes the themes of the brutality of rape and the need for revenge. The women needed to name their rapists and share their stories (Lavinia writes in the sand; Philomela weaves a tapestry that tells her story). The women have as much power as they can in the confines of their society, and we the audience are meant to want justice and revenge.

Cowboy Justice: Rape Revenge in Mainstream Cinema and TV

1

So maybe what had looked like a trend toward marginalizing rape survivors was actually a move toward bringing them into the fold of the American action hero? This is a move that discloses a terrible truth about the handling of rape cases in our legal system, but can be viewed as a genuine attempt to find a way to make the cowboy narrative, and the catharsis that comes with it, available and relevant to survivors of rape.

When Biopics Go Awry: ‘Bandit Queen’ as Rape Revenge

Bandit Queen movie poster

When considering female agents of violence in a film, there is a troublesome tendency that plays to the audience’s anxiety about a women disrupting the essentialist notion that women are naturally gentle and nurturing: the tendency to have the woman acting in response to sexual violence, that only after a woman is overpowered and assaulted can she find a place of violence in her. Once the naturalness of a woman is disrupted by an outside force—a (usually male) perpetrator—she is no longer required to be viewed as “womanly.”

Women As Perpetrators of Violence in ‘Freeway’

WitherspoonFreewayAim

In films, as in life, women aren’t supposed to be violent. Women make up the majority of violent crime victims (domestic violence, assault, rape, and murder) but they rarely retaliate in kind. Even in the relatively rare film where a woman seriously injures or kills a rapist, like Thelma and Louise she does so with lots of tears and anguish–in that film both from the woman pulling the trigger and the one who the man attempted to rape. The unwritten rule in movies seems to be that in order to justify a woman killing or even assaulting someone, we need to see her or some other woman suffer, a lot, beforehand. Contrast that rule with the male heroes of action films who leave dozens of corpses in their wake, and not one of the dead, usually, has raped or otherwise tortured the hero beforehand–though the hero may be avenging some great wrong the dead guy (or guys) did to his wife or daughter.

The Fractured Rape/Revenge Fantasies of Julie Taymor’s ‘Titus’

unnamed

Julie Taymor’s contemporary approach to creating a film of ‘Titus Andronicus,’ then, has to address a variety of factors: 1) she has set up for herself the challenge of filming a Shakespeare play that has been called both an “early masterpiece” and an “Elizabethan pot-boiler”; 2) she’s a female director approaching a play that has, at its center, a ritual killing, a rape, and revenge cannibalism; and 3) she’s creating this piece of art during a historical moment during which entertainment media is rife with violence and there much alleged desensitization, as well as within a culture full of complex and problematic attitudes about rape.

“I’ll Make You Feel Like You’ve Never Felt Before”: Jennifer’s Power in ‘I Spit on Your Grave’

Jennifer, before she murders the final man

No movies ever had to justify a cowboy going on a rogue revenge kick after his log cabin was burned to the ground or his family was killed; certain sufferings of injury, murder of loved ones, robbery, etc., have been accepted throughout cinematic history to merit revenge at all costs. ‘I Spit on Your Grave’ was a large part of a relatively new phenomenon, possibly born out of the feminist movement, to add rape—based on the woman’s experience of rape, whether validated by law or not—to that list of worthy harms, which is an important statement in our rape culture.

‘Irreversible’: Deconstructing Rape Revenge

Pictured: Not Jesus

‘Irreversible’ deconstructs the ethically dubious pleasures of the rape revenge genre through its structure as well as its plot. Its reverse chronology inverts the formula of rape-then-revenge, thereby robbing the viewer of any sense, however questionable, of justice done, and subverting the whole economy of violence.

Revenge Is a Dish Best Served … Not at All?

Kill Bill movie poster

Tarantino’s narrative requires The Bride to murder her rapist and to defend herself with some of the masculine characteristics that are used as institutionalized power to oppress women, such as physical strength and aggression. The film insists that she seek revenge, instead of demanding that men simply do not rape. This is barely better than teaching rape avoidance. It dictates that women must assimilate to a male culture of violence in order to have autonomy over their own bodies.

Bitch Flicks’ Weekly Picks

recommended-red-714x300-1

Check out what we’ve been reading this week–and let us know what you’ve been reading/writing in the comments!

Portrait of the Dead Girl: Victim, Saint, and Enigma of the Crime Narrative

Laura Palmer’s homecoming portrait is a central image of the series

More often than not, the victim of violent crime in film and TV is a woman. With your average procedural, almost every episode features a woman who has been raped or one who has been raped and murdered. In real life, women are disproportionately the victims of violent crimes and these stories increase awareness of the physical and psychological aftermath faced by these women, their friends and family and society.
However, by positioning a narrative to begin with the victim already dead and voiceless, she is only that, a victim in the story, never allowed to become a person.

‘American Indian Comedy Slam’: “Fighting hundreds of years of stereotypes”

While these Native American comedians are trained and practiced in Western stand-up forms, they are adept at mediating between the worlds of indigenous experiences and Euramerican ignorance of the mess, mayhem, and trauma of our shared histories. Native American stand-up comedy performances of today are commissioned and composed for a public purpose, as well as sharing an outsider status as simply entertainment rather than powerful and convincing forms of discourse that can create social and cultural change.