Unfortunately, assaults are a part of our lives, no matter who you are or where you’re from. From Taylor Swift to Evan Rachel Wood, celebs are very publicly dealing with sexual assaults, and the world is taking notice. And though movies and shows often reflect IRL issues, that doesn’t mean we should be lazy or unwilling to face things as they are in order to change things for the future. That’s why some shows are now banning sexual assault as a plot device.
Though it can’t be denied that assaults of all kinds are faced IRL (which would make it a valid storyline in that manner), it’s the rampant use of it over other options that doesn’t make sense (as well as the way it’s sometimes employed). Michelle Lovretta, executive producer and showrunner of Lost Girl and Killjoys told Variety, “It’s a fast-hitting combo of a lot of powerful inputs — titillation, taboo, character conflict, deep betrayal.”
Another writer who didn’t want to be named further explained, “It’s become shorthand for backstory and drama. Everyone knows rape is awful and an horrific violation, so it’s easy for an audience to grasp.” She also added that with males dominating showrunning positions and writing rooms, it’s an easy option. “For male showrunners, sexual assault is always the go-to when looking for ‘traumatic backstory’ for a female character. You can be sure it will be brought up immediately, like it’s the obvious place to go when fleshing out a female character.”
Jeremy Slater, who is heading the revival of The Exorcist for Fox, says that while looking through spec scripts for possible writers, rape was overwhelmingly present. “I would say out of those 200 scripts, there were probably 30 or 40 of them that opened with a rape or had a pretty savage rape at some point.” Holy geez.
He added, “One of my hard-and-fast rules when reading spec scripts was, the second that there was a rape that was used for shock value and that didn’t have any sort of narrative purpose, I threw the script aside. And I was shocked by the number that had that… It has become a plague on the industry.”
That’s why plenty of folks in the biz are banning it. Bryan Fuller, who’s currently behind American Gods, made an official rule when making Hannibal. Though there was plenty of violence, there was to be no sexual violence and no rape scenes. “I personally think that it stains a story, in a way, in that it prevents you from being able to celebrate different aspects of sexuality. America as a country has a very fucked-up attitude regarding sex and sexuality, so there is something [troubling] about the punishing of characters for their sex and sexuality.”
It will be interesting to see how shows handle provocative storylines without the use of sexual assault. And seriously, it’s about time.
What do you think about some shows banning sexual assault as a plot device? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(h/t Jezebel; photos via NBC, Prodigy Pictures Inc.)