Wednesday, February 1, 2012

India Bans the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, doesn't want Rape Entertainment

A couple days ago I heard that India has decided to not let The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo screen in the country. Anyone who is somewhat familiar with Indian culture and film may know that they're a much more conservative type. Although there is violence and occasionally sex in Indian movies, it's not often shown. Kissing in public is taboo, so it's pretty rare for even that to be shown. So... you know... this news isn't really out of left field. I can understand the desire not to want to pay to watch graphic depictions of rape on screen.

This got me to thinking. What is it that makes movies and television portraying rape so entertaining? I have seen all the Swedish movies, read the first book and saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo... it's rough. It is not easy to watch or read. But the process of reading the book I still really enjoyed for some reason. Maybe "enjoyed" is not the right word. I had seen the movies prior to reading the book and I was still reading large portions with my jaw dropped. But it's not like sexual violence is "so shocking" (unfortunately). I don't know how many episodes of Law & Order: SVU I've seen, but it's a lot. It's not even something that if I turn it on and it's on I'll watch it, but I actively seek SVU out. Why??

I have very little theories on why people--women especially--are interested in watching portrayals of sexual violence or violence against women. I think part of it has to do with the "final girl" theory--that we derive some sort of education from watching these things, like, if I see how Laurie survives Michael Myers, then I will know what to do the next time my serial-killer-psychopath-brother tries to kill me. It can't be all that though, right? I mean, it's not like I came out of Dragon Tattoo HAPPY. I don't watch SVU and then skip around making cupcakes. It's sad! Why is this!??

So I'm opening this up to you, internet-world:

Whatever your gender, do you watch media that depicts sexual violence? Why? What do you get from it? If you don't why not?


  1. I don't know if I watch those things to educate me, because when I'm watching them, I never think that those things could happen to me. I've thought about this before, not so much as it relates to gender, but to the culture in general. Why do we love violent crime dramas? Why is Law and Order one of those most popular shows on television?

    I think it all comes down to two things: escapism and justice. In these crafted shows, justice is served about 98% of the time. If it's not, we get pissed and say it was a bad episode, that we're angry with the ending, etc. The fact that rapists and murderers pay for the brutal things they did in the end is a kind of cathartic escapism from the real world, where those types often go undiscovered or use legal loopholes to weasel their way out of what they did.

    I think it's also possible that violence toward women is shown more frequently because we have the cultural conception that women are vulnerable and need to be protected. I think any man or woman would have a stronger negative reaction to violence against women than violence against a man because in our minds, men are supposed to be capable of protecting themselves. Is it right? No, not really, but it is one way of understanding why we see it so often.

    1. That is an interesting point... I know the rates of male sexual assault are higher than people think (I don't know them off the top of my head), which largely has to do with sexual assault in prison, but I think there's an interesting divide between male and female victims on SVU. Women are victims of both random and targeted violence, and are shown assaulted sometimes by strangers and more often by people the have connections to. Men are much more often shown as victims when there is some sort of retributive female violence coming his way, or sometimes in same-sex relationships.

      And I agree, I think there is something to the entertainment value of knowing that justice is being served, even when in the process of said justice being served there's graphic violence... It's a weird balance.