Monday, October 5, 2015

That gross feeling when...

[Content note: rape culture]

I've written about rape culture ad nauseam, but every now and then one of its artifacts pops up and takes me by surprise.

Well, maybe not "surprise," but "disgust," at least.

Last week I had free tickets to Sicario, Emily Blunt's latest starring role. It's a rather grim film about the government's work against drug cartels on the boarder. It's also one of the more violent things I've watched recently...but that's not why I'm writing.  All I knew about Sicario going into it is that there had been some rumblings about how Blunt's character was almost rewritten to be a man. So my interest was mildly piqued. I kept looking for some interesting gender dynamic, but nothing really emerged that was of much interest to me anyway.

But then came the moment that stuck with me. It was something so "small" but is truly my take away, and it has very little to do with the actual film and a whole lot to do with the audience and our society. In one scene, Blunt's (male) partner, played by Daniel Kaluuya, was being subdued by a Navy Seal and the Seal says something along the lines of, "Just lie back and take it baby."

Then half the audience laughed.

It sent a gross chill down my spine and Ronald immediately looked at me and temporarily broke his "never, ever speak in the Alamo Drafthouse" rule to say, "That's not fucking funny..." with a concerned/confused look.

And the thing is, it wasn't funny. Not only because it's a disgusting reference to rape, but also because, as mentioned, this movie is GRIM. It's not one of those serious flicks with a periodic laugh to break the tension. I mean, I think there was maaaaybe one other light, slightly humorous moment where Kaluuya pokes fun at Blunt's character for her bra, but that's it.

My point is that even against the current emotional place this film puts you in, many people still chuckled at an allusion to rape. That's how strong rape culture is. That's how lightly we take it.

(And it's not lost on me that Kaluuya is the film's only prominent black character, too.)

Just to be clear--I don't even know if I'm calling out this film itself for that line, necessarily. In the context of the moment and the characters present, it's not unrealistic that one of those digesting men would have said something disturbing. Blunt and Kaluuya are outsiders in the world they're dropped in, and they're frequently unnerved by what the other characters are doing. It's not like these are "nice" people. They're actively abusing their power throughout the time. So maybe this moment was not written as a punch line.

But the audience thought it was chuckle worthy, regardless.

It still makes me kinda sick thinking about it. And like I said, this is a "small" thing. A throw away moment. Probably didn't stand out to or strike many other people. But to me, it's just another of the thousands of sad, daily examples our rape culture.

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