The “Rape Turns Ladies Into Superheroes!” Trope

[caption id="attachment_10713" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Tomb Raider video game Tomb Raider video game[/caption]

 

This cross-post by Melissa McEwan previously appeared at her blog Shakesville and appears as part of our theme week on Rape Revenge Fantasies.

So, this weekend, Iain and I were watching some show about video games (as usual), and it featured the “controversial” scene in the origin story of Lara Croft in the new Tomb Raider, during which she fights her way out of an attempted sexual assault. Aphra_Behn recently wrote about it here, and Lake Desire has an excellent round-up on the subject at The Border House. The scene was shitty to watch, and made me not want to play the game, even though Tomb Raider is one of my favorite all-time games (and I battled my way through 3-D navigation issues caused by an information processing disorder just to play it).

More than being shitty to watch, it just pissed me off to 10 because I hate with the fiery passion of 10,000 suns the ubiquitous trope that surviving sexual violence (or attempted sexual violence) turns women into superheroes.

(Geek Feminism has published the Rape As Back Story page TVTropes recently decided did not meet their content policy, which has some examples of the rape-as-empowerment meme mixed in among the plethoric examples of rape being used as short-hand for character development, especially for female characters. Quentin Tarantino has used this device in multiple films, with rape revenge arcs serving as either primary or secondary plots.)

It’s lazy storytelling, but, more than that, it’s wrong.

In Aphra’s post, she noted: “No, fending off an attacker didn’t turn me into a badass fighter, sirs. It turned me into a fucking mess who blamed myself for getting into the situation.” She is certainly not alone in having been temporarily or permanently changed in ways that can send a survivor tumbling headlong into feelings of vulnerability, doubt, fear, and other things that feel a lot like weakness as they undermine one’s senses of self and safety.

Survivors are not “broken,” but sexual violence can be injurious, and to pretend instead that it magically imbues women with superhuman strength and ability is to pretend that a broken leg turns a fella into LeBron James, rather than a dude with a cast who needs to heal like the mortal that he is.

Which is not to say that women who have survived sexual violence and gone on to do amazing things directly related to sexual violence don’t exist. They do. There are female prosecutors, cops, social workers, counselors, activists, writers, actors, and artists for whom victims’ advocacy is central to their work. Many of them are as close a thing to superheroes as there are in this world.

But they didn’t arrive at that point by magic. And they aren’t where they are because sexual violence filled them with some kind of special superhero-making pixie dust. They are there by virtue of their own strength and resilience and tenacity.

To credit sexual violence with the creation of heroes robs them of their agency. And, worse yet, it gives the credit to rapists.

 


Melissa McEwan is the founder and manager of the award-winning political and cultural group blog Shakesville, which she launched as Shakespeare’s Sister in October 2004 because George Bush was pissing her off. In addition to running Shakesville, she also contributes to The Guardian‘s Comment is Free America and AlterNet. Liss graduated from Loyola University Chicago with degrees in Sociology and Cultural Anthropology, with an emphasis on the political marginalization of gender-based groups. An active feminist and LGBTQI advocate, she has worked as a concept development and brand consultant and now writes full-time.

She lives just outside Chicago with three cats, two dogs, and a Scotsman, with whom she shares a love of all things geekdom, from Lord of the Rings to Alcatraz. When she’s not blogging, she can usually be found watching garbage television or trying to coax her lazyass greyhound off the couch for a walk. 

18 Comments

  • MightyAphrodite
    Posted April 24, 2014 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    I absolutely agree with what you are saying, but playing that game led me to believe that the scene you’re referring to was an attempted murder scene, not an attempted rape scene.

  • Arakiba
    Posted April 24, 2014 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Very good article.

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    Posted April 25, 2014 at 5:15 am | Permalink

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  • bigfeet
    Posted April 25, 2014 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    You can also credit manslaughter with the creation of Batman, Spiderman, Harry Potter, etc. as these heroes have all witnessed the death of at least one family member.
    People are not just born heroes. Do you really believe Batman would have cared about Gotham City if he had had a happy childhood with his parents? If nothing dramatic had happened, he probably would have never felt the need to take revenge on the baddies of Gotham City.
    But, as you said, it is not the event that made them heroes. It is the strength and resilience and tenacity in reaction to the event.

  • anonsaga
    Posted April 30, 2014 at 3:46 am | Permalink

    “…surviving sexual violence (or attempted sexual violence) turns women into superheroes.”

    This statement and this entire article, is disingenuous.

    Just like the examples on that TvTropes page imply, the ‘rape as backstory’ trope is used to inform about a state of mind more than anything else. No one said it turns women into superheroes. The trope is considered lazy writing because there are other ways to give female characters motivation for their ‘edge’ or ‘angst’ and that rape is generic because of its simplicity and ubiquitous useage. The same is true for the ‘dead parents’ trope that commenter, “bigfeet” alluded to.

    The title of this article should be, ‘how female superheroes are all written with generic backstories’ rather than ‘rape turns ladies into superheroes’.

    Like I said: disingenuous.

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    Posted May 12, 2014 at 6:52 am | Permalink

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  • Emily Becker
    Posted October 23, 2014 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    Why is it that media makes women into superheroes after they
    have been victims of sexual violence? In your Bitch Flicks post “The “Rape Turns Ladies Into Superhero’s!” Trope”, you argue the idea of woman who are victims of rape in media magically getting superpowers and seeking revenge on the abuser. More often, victims of sexual violence do the opposite; it sends a woman into a deep depression. You call the “theory” into question and brings to light a problem in our society that we so often over look. The media takes awful experiences and gives these leading women a reason to rise up and act against the man who did his heinous crime to her. Movies like this are extremely popular and all they do is give a false sense of hope to women who have experienced sexual violence. There are rarely movies made that tell the story of a rape victim taking the proper road to recovery after being raped, and frankly I don’t think anyone would ever go see that movie.

    You talk about Tomb Raider and how that rape scene almost turned you off from the game. However there is another popular movie that I believe covers this topic; Kill Bill by Quentin Tarantino. I’m sure we all know the basic plot line of this movie: revenge. But what some don’t know is that there is a rape scene in this movie. Just as The Bride is waking up for a coma, she finds that the orderly who was supposed to be taking care of her is actually raping her and selling her body to other men. As she comes to, she immediately kills the orderly and then continues on a revenge fueled blood bath that lasts the rest of the movie (and a sequel too!) Why are the only empowering women who rise up against injustice rape victims? What about the women who overcome sexual violence in real life? You don’t see them running around as masked vigilantes and superheroes. So stop romanticizing something as serious as sexual violence.

  • Abbey Dinger
    Posted October 24, 2014 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    This is an issue that, as a woman,
    really upsets me. Sexual abuse and violence does not make a woman a super hero,
    and I can only imagine it does not make them feel like one. Sexual abuse breaks
    a woman down, and makes them feel so horrible about themselves. The idea of
    them becoming so strong and powerful afterward is possibly just as harmful to
    women. This idea allows others to brush off sexual abuse as if it never
    happened, because the victim will come out strong and, as the article words it,
    a super hero. I do agree with what is written in the article, that there are exceptions
    to this, some women do come out of these horrible times and make terrific lives
    for them; but this does not apply to all women. This theory allows sexual
    violence to be looked at on a much lighter note, because after all, the woman
    will become much stronger afterward.

    That isn’t the only problem though.
    It’s also a huge problem that this theory is used so frequently to explain why
    women are powerful. Lara Croft is only a superhero because she was able to
    overcome her abusers. Women like those discussed in Foxfire only became powerful
    after they all had bad lives. There is never a woman represented as becoming
    powerful by some spur of the moment excitement, or just a genetic trait. For
    instance, Spiderman only became powerful when he was bit by a spider. He didn’t
    have to overcome some awful, life deteriorating event like rape to become a
    superhero. So why must a woman? The fact that sexual abuse is being used as a
    means to empower women really disgusts me. Unfortunately it has just become
    such a normal part of entertainment that it is really hard to even avoid it.
    Women can be powerful, and should be looked at as powerful. Not because they
    were raped or abused, but because they are strong and beautiful creatures from
    birth, and can do whatever they want in this crazy, messed up world.

  • Ashley Crawford
    Posted October 24, 2014 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    This article shines light on a key point and issue in all types of texts today. Everyone, including women, enjoy watching or reading texts that subject women to sexual violence with the result of those women rising from the ashes and playing the role of a superhero. As much as we all
    would like to think that is the case for women who have gone through such trauma, it is not. As you mentioned within this article, women are injured from these encounters physically and emotionally. Women who have had acts of sexual violence committed against them are not magically stronger, as this article correctly points out. In this article, you mention that this type of trope is “lazy storytelling”. I agree that this type of story line in any text is wrong and I further wonder why authors of texts continue to think that portraying women like this is justified. Yes, having a woman raped and become stronger makes for great character development of those women, but that still does not give any justification in the larger picture. Women of all ages in today’s society watch or read texts that show women becoming stronger after they have been raped. As much as this is empowering for women to see, it is dangerous for all women to believe in. In this article you stated that “to credit sexual violence with the creation of heroes robs them of their agency. And, worse yet, it gives credit to the rapists.” This statement sums up exactly why this idea is so detrimental to women. If all women begin believing that in order to be a strong independent woman they need to be sexually violated, this world will become a place where
    women actively seek out their own rapes in order to feel empowered. Overall, I think that your article presented a crucial issue that is very prominent in today’s texts and society. In my opinion, this issue needs to be addressed before it truly becomes a belief that cannot be undone from the minds of men and women worldwide.

    One thing I would like to point out about the idea of women being raped and becoming a superhero as a result is the disappointment that happens within texts when this does not happen. In many cases, it is expected that texts with women in it will have a scene where a woman is raped. Those rapes often do not add any substance to the text and the text would still function just fine without those scenes. A few examples of this include Kill Bill, where the Bride is sexually violated while coming out of her coma, and Foxfire (the 1996 movie version), when Maddie is almost raped by a group of football jocks. In both of these movies, these scenes are uncalled for in my opinion. These scenes serve no purpose, other than alluding to sexual acts that rile up an audience. It is sad that texts cannot entertain audiences without rape scenes or have women who are strong that have not been sexually assaulted. When discussing this idea with others, they have simply stated to me that “sex sells” and that is the reason that these scenes are a necessity within texts. However, I politely disagree with them. It is frustrating to know that without rape scenes or other sexual violence within texts that ordinary people do not enjoy those texts. Why must we accept rape scenes in texts? And when will enough be enough? I enjoyed the point of your article because it opens the eyes of many who accept these scenes to
    really take a step back and consider what they are watching. Your article put in perspective an idea that many have not considered and maybe they next time they watch or read about a rape scene they will second guess its necessity within the text. All in all, I hope that the future of unnecessary rape scenes within texts will diminish. This will only be accomplished by bring awareness to this issue and explaining how texts can still display strong women characters without acts of sexual violence being committed against them.

  • John Riter
    Posted October 25, 2014 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    This blog post raises a very important question, and it justly challenges the normative trope that implies that female empowerment is a byproduct of sexual violence. This idea that sexual violence can instill almost super human qualities upon the victims is absurd. At what point does the perpetuation of this misguided belief go from being a common trope, to a cultural norm (has it already?)? As you state in your blog post, “The ‘Rape Turns Ladies Into Superheroes!’ Trope”, using this trope is lazy storytelling. I would argue that it goes beyond being lazy. It is a crutch that the media must rely upon to justify violence and action undertaken by women. Granted, you only note that sexual violence is used a way to facilitate strength and ability, I would expound upon this idea and contend that sexual violence is used by the media as a way to explain any action that directly opposes the gender stereotypes that our culture maintains (i.e. women that exhibit strength and ability). When you see a woman that is strong willed and self-empowered, you don’t assume it is because of some innate ability that she was imbued with at birth, no, we as viewers, or should I say babies that must constantly suckle at the teat of the media, assume that this woman has had a hard past with obvious trauma that has created who she is today. You said it best in your blog post when you compared a broken leg to being the event that turns a person into LeBron James. When it is a man, usually a traumatic event is just that, a traumatic event. However, when it is a woman, a traumatic event such as sexual violence is the basis for her strength and ability. How absurd to think that a woman can be strong and powerful without sexual violence (he said sarcastically). Along the same lines, you note that, “To credit sexual violence with the creation of heroes robs them of their agency”. I would strongly agree with this statement. To intimate that a woman’s power and control is a direct result of sexual violence, does indeed take away their agency. Why cant a woman be strong and empowered because that is just who she is? Why does there have to be a reason or a cause for it? While there are some women who have undoubtedly become stronger because of sexual violence, to over generalize and think this normative of an entire gender, is detrimental to all those involved.

    With all of that in mind, it is sad to see how much this trope is ingrained in our society. There are a myriad of films and novels that feature empowerment as result of sexual violence. Take for instance, the film Teeth. In this film, we watch a naive young girl blessed/cursed with vagina dentata change both emotionally and almost physically as a result of sexual violence. It seems that the sexual violence in this film was the only catalyst that could result in the lead character obtaining any agency of her own. However, by making this the source of her power, does this actually detract from her agency? This is a hard question to answer, although, it is easy to see how sexual violence instills a sense of power into the lead character. Along the lines of sexual violence and the creation of superhuman like women, at the end of this film, we see the lead character turn to vigilante justice. Does the sexual violence literally create a superhero in this film? I would argue that yes, sadly it does. Unlike real life in which sexual violence is the cause of depression, sadness, loss of control, and sometimes suicide, this film plays to the notion that sexual violence empowers. So, with the creation of films like this, the idea of sexual violence will only permeate deeper into our society. What a disheartening thought.

  • Brandi Nielsen
    Posted March 24, 2016 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    Reading this as not only a woman, but also a student who has been actively engaging with rape-revenge works I really was struck by your post. I believe that rape does not constitute a logical rationale that women want to suddenly go out and be heroes now. This “theory” embodies the underlying idea that women could have not risen on their own to “fight” crimes of humanity single handed. Your argument suggests that by showing women in this light it actually knocks them down a peg. As if somehow rape is a sort of empowerment internally. The sad truth is this is not a justifiable theory. A popular film, Bandit Queen points to this same notion. The main character Phoolan Devi, is portrayed as empowered only after having been sexually assaulted. Every instance in which she is assaulted she revolts the powers which allowed this assault, but only after. As Professor Colleen Clemens refers to in her Bitch Flicks Post on Bandit Queen, the real life Phoolan, not the movie character, stated that she thought the rape scenes were too much for the movie. This was not because they were too graphic, but rather the producers by including these scenes, only fueled the fire to this idea that women can only become empowered if they survive a rape.

    In addition, the women that survive this hardship in most cases of rape revenge are made out to be vigilantes against the crimes they have been affected by. I feel that the reason many of these movies thrive is because media influence and Hollywood funding allow it to and the viewers do not know any better. Though this theory aids to a story line I believe this message is painful to watch not only as a story but also because it is falsely exaggerated in comparison to real life accounts. I believe to base these stories off of real life accounts or situations is not only an insult but a crime in and of itself against women and all victims of sexual assault.

  • Claire Brookens
    Posted March 25, 2016 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Rape is not an “opportunity for growth”. I can’t say this enough. I can agree with Ms. McEwan that this trope needs to go. We see this trope even more frequently today than in 2014, even IMDb has a list of what it says are the “best of”. It is everywhere. If a writer needs to empower a female character, if they decide that the piece needs females that is, the easiest way to explain that “new found” strength is through a quick rape backstory. It is uncreative, lazy and damaging. It skews the views of survivors and perpetrators alike. It shows that all survivors are granted this magical power and strength after one of the most traumatic moments of their lives. It also leads the audience to believe that woman are incapable of “digging deep” or “finding strength” or just being strong on their own. Using rape as a means for discovering female strength says that woman are not inheritably strong on their own and need another to uncover it for them.

    We see this in Kill Bill by Tarantino, Teeth, Bandit Queen and even contemporary shows like Law and Order: SVU in cases like Detective Olivia Benson. These movies and shows, however intriguing they might be, fail to give an accurate representation to victims of sexual assault and other violence’s. It tells victims that they cannot heal at their own pace but need to become vigilantes and fighters to revenge the atrocities committed against them.

  • Callie Rhode
    Posted March 25, 2016 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    When I think of any type of story that feature women that were sexually assaulted and it shows them then taking revenge, I am always left with a feeling that something isn’t right with that. I could never figure out what exactly it was, but after reading this article one thing stuck out to me that shed light on why it left me feeling so uneasy. This article says, “To credit sexual violence with the creation of heroes robs them of their agency. And, worse yet, it gives the credit to the rapist.” This idea that women become stronger after a traumatic experience further adds to the idea that women can’t be strong at all unless something pushes them to it. They don’t do it to better themselves, they do it to get revenge on their rapist. I can’t speak for someone who was sexually assaulted and I don’t know the best way to better yourself after that, but what I do know is that everyone handles experiences different. This article highlights that fact too. As much as I love a story with an empowering woman it almost feels wrong to watch a woman be dehumanized like that in order to become strong.

    While I loved the movie Teeth, I also couldn’t help but wonder what this movie would be like without he being sexually assaulted. There most likely wouldn’t be a movie. The only time the teeth came out was to protect her from the assault. In order for this story to make its point she almost had to be sexually assaulted. Not only that, but this movie also takes this concept and gives it this fun, campy feel. I caught myself almost laughing at Toby’s reaction when his penis was bit off. It was a nice feeling to see him get what I thought he deserved, but I still felt wrong for laughing. Sexual Assault is not something to take lightly, and maybe making Teeth feel sort of campy could take such a serious topic and make it enjoyable for people to watch. But that’s the problem, women being sexually assaulted shouldn’t be enjoyable at all. This article helps me be able to pin point why exactly I feel so wrong watching those rape revenge tropes because what is the reason for even making movies about women being sexually assaulted?

  • Christine Siravo
    Posted March 5, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    The fact that we are so normalized to a trope such as this is disgusting and is very telling about our society. Rape is not the catalyst of some undiscovered superpower but something that is disgusting and horrific but we live in a rape culture. A rape culture that makes survives of sexual violence into revenge ridden superheroes. In reality, as you stated, this isn’t the case. It is extremely common for people that have been raped to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. The experience was so traumatizing they develop an anxiety disorder that disorients their life. This isn’t something to idealize or normalize. Rape culture is something to get angry about and strive to fight for change.

    While this trope is present in video games it is not the only place in media today. TV-shows, movies and online video content all have a representation of this. A huge amount of heroines in media are sexual assault survivors. One of the most popularized instance over the past few years would be Marvels Jessica Jones. Jessica Jones was once at the control of Kilgrave, a villain who can use mind control to force people to do what he wants. Throughout the first season, we don’t see an explicit scene of rape but we do see the horrific acts of physical and emotional abuse he put his victims through. In the end, it is Jessica Jones that takes down her abuser and saves countless civilian lives, becoming what she dreads most a superhero.
    While this show has helped to talk about rape culture it also demonstrates the over told story line of a woman being sexual assaulted and coming out the end as a superhero. We as a society need to continue to talk about rape culture and stop idealizing what happens to survivors of rape. It puts pressure onto victims in the real world to strive to quickly overpower their traumatic experience instead of coming to terms and taking care of themselves. A pressure from society that they do not need.

  • Tony Williams
    Posted March 5, 2017 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    “To credit sexual violence with the creation of heroes robs them of their agency. And worse yet, it gives credit to rapists” – Melissa McEwan. After reading the post titled “The Rape Turns Ladies Into Superheroes! Trope”, it made me think about how a person is never the same after experiencing or dealing with sexual assault. That quote comes from a post that was written by Melissa McEwan in response to a scene in a video game called “Tomb Raider”, in which Laura Croft fights her way out of a sexual assault. McEwan uses that example to address a larger issue regarding people using rape as a backstory for female character development. I think that this is an issue that is worth being addressed, because as a society, we can’t expect survivors to think that by surviving their experience will make them a “stronger” person. By doing so, in a sense, is glorifying something negative. It makes it seem as if experiencing something along the lines of sexual assault and feeling hurt or vulnerable is wrong, because society expects it to make you a stronger person. Referring back to the “Tomb Raider” example, this is giving credit to the person who committed the act of sexual assault, because they would be viewed as the “reason” for why Laura Croft became the great fighter that she is and gave her a purpose. Using that mindset and applying it to a real life example is extremely degrading, because it essentially gives the rapist credit for whatever accomplishments the survivor achieves.

    McEwan later mentions that using rape as a way of character development for female characters is lazy. When I think about rape being used in female character development, I think about the film “Monster” starring Charlize Theron, in which she plays a character named Aileen, who is a “prostitute turned serial killer”. While prostituting, Aileen comes across a man who beats her, ties her up, and rapes her… resulting in Aileen killing the man. Aileen killing the men that she prostitutes for becomes a habit, because she is constantly reminded of the time where she was raped. With that thought in her mind, she continues to prostitute to make money, but kills the men to keep them from hurting any other woman. We can argue that by prostituting and later killing the men, Aileen is using that as agency to prevent the men from harming anyone else. At the same time, it is important to note how much of an impact being raped has had on Aileen (her lack of trust in men/ thinking every encounter with men will result in being raped). Going back to McEwan’s post, she references a post by Aphra, stating “No, fending off an attacker didn’t turn me into a badass fighter, sirs. It turned me into a fucking mess who blamed myself for getting into the situation”. This quote relates to the importance of not victim blaming and making sure the victim is being supported. Like I previously mentioned, we have to get rid of the idea that sexual assault makes people stronger and be realistic. Surviving sexual assault should not be a driving factor in character development because it allows people to think that the sexual assault experience made that person who they are, which is nonsense. Sexual assault victims are more than their experience. Of course there will be times when the victim may feel broken, but it is important that they are given the opportunity to go through the roller coaster of emotions.

  • Brittany Barlup
    Posted March 5, 2017 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    This is an issue in media that I am personally very invested in. The idea of using rape or sexual assault as a form of character development for many female characters is weak and lazy at best. While I haven’t played this Tomb Raider game (yet), I’m very familiar with the scene being discussed as I tend to follow a lot of the gender issues within the gaming community. This trope is honestly so common that I could immediately guess what it was as soon as I saw the title of the article. It immediately made me think of the show Jessica Jones, in which the titular character’s main motivation and driving force is the realization that her abuser is still alive, which causes her to go from her normal life of sleeping, drinking, and doing private detective work to trying to track him down and stop him continuing his abusive behaviors to other women.
    Knowing plenty of people who have been sexually assaulted, this trope definitely has a lot of negative consequences on abuse survivors. It instills the idea that the victim either should’ve fought back harder to get away from their abuser, or that they should essentially feel empowered by their abuse and use it as a driving force in their life. This isn’t how abuse works, which is obvious if you’ve ever talked to anyone who has experienced sexual abuse in any form. Yet again, it just continues the stereotype that something has to happen TO a woman to advance a plot, not that a woman has to DO something to advance the plot. A woman has to be raped to be able to strengthen herself. A woman has to be raped to explain why she is how she is. A woman has to die or be kidnapped to motivate a man to do something. In media, violence against women is used as a plot device so often that it becomes normalized when you interact with media. If this violence is normalized in media, what will stop it from being normalized in society as a whole?

  • York
    Posted March 5, 2017 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    Honestly this article hits the nail on the head regarding the, “Rape turns women into superheros,” trope so right off the bat this was an excellent article. The entire videogame industry is rife with this type of dismissive crap that essentially, as you pointed out in your article above, robs a female character of any control over their story. It’s taking what could have been a complex three dimensional character and turning them into another byproduct of lazy male writers who think that rape as a motivator. Its dehumanizing and offensive in one of the worst ways physically possible. Often times the rape that occurs in a videogame character’s backstory is less outright stated but implied, tying into the larger issue of sexual assault imagery geared towards female characters in videogames. Whether it be through physical, emotional, or mental pathways, it seems writers always manage to slip in some type of rape allegory.

    Including rape as a backstory for every female character normalizes sexual assault, harms real sexual assault survivors, and diminishes the real harm that comes as a result of rape. It turns the horrifying reality of living in a society where sexual assault is such a prevalent theme into some bland, mundane aspect of everyday life. Most noticeably, as mentioned in your post, it does give credit to the rapists. Lara Crofts suddenly becomes an ass-kicking powerhouse not because of her own strength and list of talents, but because she managed to survive seuxal assault, it takes away from her identity and agency. Rape is not character development. It is not empowering. And it most certainly is not the reason many female characters become ‘superheroes’. The mostly cis, mostly male writers of these characters need to understand that.

  • Oriana Kramer Almquist
    Posted March 5, 2017 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    I definitely agree with McEwan’s statement that the trope of “Rape Turns Women Into SuperHero’s” has become unoriginal and lazy storytelling. The backstory of rape in female character’s backstories, especially women who are characterized as violent, has become so common its almost expected. Frankly, the rape revenge fantasy speaks volumes about the interaction of women and society. What does it say about how our society and the judicial system treat rape that the fantasy of rape revenge even needs to exist? In Monster, for example, Aileen is so traumatized by her rape that she is convinced that every client is now out to get her. While the main focus of the film may be on Aileen murdering men, it also sheds light on the fact that society does not help women who are in need. While the rape revenge genre can be seen as a type of female empowerment it also teaches women as they grow up that they must defend themselves because no one else will. Perhaps if real world society handled rape and rapists the way they should, the trope of the empowered rape survivor would feel more empowering and less as evidence that people would rather glamorize the problem rather than admit that we have a rape problem that American society is doing very little to stop.
    Another argument McEwan makes is that sexual violence isn’t some magic pill that creates strong women. A great example of the is Beatrix from Kill Bill. During her years in a coma, Beatrix’s body was exploited and assaulted sexually. When she awakens and finds out what has happened to her, she beats the nurse to death. This is not because her sexual assault turned her into a violent person, rather Beatrix is a retired assassin and is dealing with the situation in a way that someone who made a career enacting violence would. I wholeheartedly agree with McEwans argument that we should get ride of the “rape turns women into superhero’s” trope if only because it will hopefully will give way to telling more stories of villains like Amy Dunne who are just evil and hero’s such as Katniss Everdeen who are just being who they are, women with true agency.

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