Thursday, January 01, 2009

I'm Not Sure What Message We're Sending Here ...

It's been a little while since I ranted. I hope you enjoyed the vacation, 'cause here I go again.

I've recently discovered the Netflix feature that allows you to watch films on your computer. Last night I found "Marnie," an Alfred Hitchcock film starring Sean Connery and Tipi Hedrin. I love Hitchcock films, so I settled in to watch it after the kids were asleep.

Hedrin plays Marnie, a young woman who has mental issues following a traumatic incident in her childhood. She is a predator, going from job to job and stealing money from her employers. When she comes into the employ of Mark, Connery's character, she gets more than she bargained for as Mark falls in love with her and then discovers her past. He is determined to get to the bottom of her disorder and protects her from the law by marrying her and paying back all the money she stole. On their wedding night, Marnie tells him she can't be intimate with him, and he promises he won't touch her. He continues to love her and take care of her, hoping to someday break through her shell and that she'll fall in love with him in return. He's the perfect gentleman - thoughtful, considerate, protective - until one night when he's not anymore and breaks his promise.

Yeah, yeah, I know - in that era, it wasn't considered rape if you were married to the guy, but that's what it was. The next morning, he acts like nothing has happened, seems surprised when she tries to kill herself over it, and continues to seek help for her mental distress. At the end of the movie, she shows signs of having feelings for him and we are left with the impression that they will live happily ever after.

On the soap opera "General Hospital," critics were shocked when character Luke raped Laura and they ended up falling in love. They not only fell in love, but coined the term "supercouple." No soap couple (with the possible exception of Bo and Hope) has received more attention, more sighs of rapture, more accolades for the very romantic-ness of their romance.

I've seen other films and television shows with this same basic premise, and while I won't go into them, I do want to point out that these two cases are not isolated. They are also not limited to the big screen - they take place in real life, all too often.

Now, don't get me wrong. I believe in repentance. I believe we can overcome and be forgiven of the things we've done and we can change our lives and our patterns of behavior. But that's not the topic of this blog. My question is: What message does it send to the viewer when we see an unrepentant rapist become the object of respect in the eyes of his victim?

I believe it sends the following messages:

"He's a wonderful guy. Look how romantic he is. He's absolutely perfect. Okay, so, there was that rape thing, but surely we can overlook the rape because of all the other wonderful things he does."

"You know, my boyfriend did the very same thing to me. Maybe it wasn't really bad because, after all, he did keep treating me kindly in every other way. Maybe I'm making a big deal out of nothing."

"Okay, so he did something she didn't want him to do. But look how it all turned out! They're together now. Maybe if I do the same thing, my girlfriend will realize how much we're meant to be together and everything will turn out all right."

These messages are all dangerous. They de-emphasize the fact that a crime was committed, a human being was violated, and trust was destroyed. They are presenting the idea that a man can retain his honor and his respectability even with this type of behavior in his character. They are giving the idea that there's really nothing wrong with rape, and that from it, the seeds of romance can bloom.

Is it just me, or are these messages a little whacked?

Bottom line: No person should be forced to perform any act they do not feel completely comfortable performing. It does not matter the reason ("We're married!" or "I love her!") it's still wrong. Persons who force other persons are called rapists, and rape is against the law, and is a punishable offense, and should be treated as such. The men in the above-cited stories should not be rewarded with love, true love, but they should be spending time in jail, and to present the case in any other light is to make it all seem to be okay. It's not okay.


Sandra said...

And getting someone to prosecute or even believe the wife is an exercise in futility. All he has to say is, "she agreed to it but is mad at me today and this is her way of getting back at me." The authorities believe him, she is labeled a trouble maker and he gets away with it- again, and again, and again.

At least until judgement day. Then he will have to face it and pay for it.

Getting off my soap box now.

Josi said...

I'm with you--I've never understood this and can only guess that it's a kind of male fantasy thing that certain writers have attempted to mainstream. It's also a very popular occurance in Romance novels, right up there with the guy that has sex with half a dozen women before the heroine gets her turn. I never got why that was so romantic--not that I read those novels, of course :-)

Heather B. Moore said...

I think it's a way for a man to establish control and dominance in a marriage (in an abusive and violent manner). This is also a partial-theme in the movie: The Duchess. Quite disturbing. I don't know much about the Luke/Laura story, but soap opera writers tend to write a couple of weeks in advance, so they may not have known themselves how epic the romance would eventually become.

Karlene said...

Totally agree with you. I didn't watch soaps until after I had kids. It was the hey day of Luke & Laura and I thought they were wonderful, but I didn't know he'd raped her until much, much later.

And what Sandra says is right. Most people don't believe marital rape exists. But it does and it's more common than most of us would think.

Danyelle Ferguson said...

This is one rant I can join! It's totally domestic violence. This is why it's so hard for a woman to leave a man - because he hurts her one moment, then turns around and treats her like a queen the next. The woman starts to believe it's her fault he lost his temper, or he couldn't help himself because he wanted her so much he couldn't control himself. It's all the hugest bag a baloney. It's also one of the most difficult cycles for any woman to escape.

I think it's absolutely disgusting when media portrays any type of abuse as acceptable.

Nichole Giles said...

Okay, I'll jump on this one as well. I agree with what everyone else has said, and also have something to add. It's absolutely and totally degrading to these women that whoever wrote the stories made the men who did this to them into heroes.

I'm sorry, but in no way is a hero (at least in my mind) capable of doing something like this--EVER! If a person has ever done something as terrible as raping someone else--whoever they are--they should forever and ever lose their ability to be a hero. Especially in a book or movie.

Enough said.


Tristi Pinkston said...

Exactly, Nichole! Exactly!

Anna Maria Junus said...


I never understood this either.

What surprises me is that I've read some "romances" from unpublished writers as part of a critiqe and I was stunned to read from women writers scenes where the woman is raped, but she accepts it and agrees with it.

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