Hubby and I have been trying to get out and see a movie for some time now, which has proven difficult due to our respective schedules and the inability of the theaters to actually play any movies at a normal hour, i.e. 8 PM. They’re all either too early (6 or 7) or too late (9 or 10). Why is it impossible to play a movie at a time that allows people to eat dinner before seeing the movie? Why?

Anyway, since he just gave his last night lecture for the quarter, we decided to celebrate our first free Thursday evening together by seeing a movie. Being a history geek, I felt it was necessary for me to see The Other Boleyn Girl. It’s not my period (as I’m so fond of saying by way of disclaimer when I’m totally ignorant about a certain aspect of history), and I hadn’t read the book, but I was interested in it nonetheless. I had read one of Philippa Gregory’s other books on our honeymoon, and was amazed at how sordidly bad yet hugely entertaining it was. I had high hopes that the movie would possess the same two traits, which are always required for a mindless evening of film.

Now, the last movie we saw was over a month ago, and that was Cloverfield. It made me so carsick that I almost walked out about 30 minutes before the ending, and really, I didn’t give a damn if those obnoxiously trendy and totally unsympathetic New York hipsters got eaten. Frankly, I cheered when they did. So there was some pressure on Boleyn Girl to bring our 2008 movie-going experience up to par, but really, it wasn’t that hard a task considering the existing track record.

Unfortunately, we had no such luck. While I was highly entertained by the sets and costumes, and the plot did indeed draw me in to its sordid twists and loops, the movie played a cruel, unnecessary trick on me: [SPOILER ALERT] about three quarters of the way through, there was a very graphic rape scene. From what I’ve read after the fact, there was no such scene in Gregory’s book. As such, it was completely gratuitous, and a perfect example of the unthinking way in which sexual violence is portrayed with far too much impunity in our media.

There are movies, such as Boys Don’t Cry, where the rape scene is a crucial part of the plot. So OK, I just close my eyes or fast-forward through it, no problem. But when rape is included for no real reason other than to make the main character seem like a sleazeball (which had already been very conclusively established by this point), well, that is just wrong.

In 2004, the University of Buffalo conducted a study of 1000 women between the ages of 18 and 30. Of those, 38% were victims of sexual violence, including 17% who had been raped. And that was just reported rapes, let alone those were too afraid or repressed to reveal their rapes to the researchers.

Imagine then that even half of those 383 women go to see this movie, because after all 18 to 30 is the ideal demographic for a movie like this one. Hell, that’s my own demographic! That means that in practically every showing, there will be at least one victim of sexual violence, someone who still has trouble sleeping at night, who has panic attacks and flashbacks on a regular basis. What does this kind of imagery do to that person? What makes it OK to portray these things up on a big screen like that?

I know, now I’m getting into the whole censorship drama, but all I’m saying is that there should be a specific warning on movies that contain sexual violence. I mean, it’s like asking a war veteran to go see a romantic comedy, and then all of a sudden — BOOM! — a bomb blows up on screen. What the…? Especially when your guard is down and you’re immersed in the movie, an unexpected trigger like that can be hugely destructive.

As for artistic license, well… it’s true you can’t shield everyone from reality. Shit happens, it’s terrible, and it’s all a valid subject to use in artistic expression. After all, what is art without the darker side of the human psyche? So no, not all movies should be about rainbows, butterflies, and happy endings. But like I said, when it’s just a cheap dramatic ploy to get the audience’s attention, I just think it’s unnecessary.

And the moral of this story is? Let my husband pick the movie next time. I for one am done choosing movies, because so far this year, they have either made me carsick, emotionally sick, or both.

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