Shock value isn’t an excuse

Patrick St. Pierre

Have you ever stepped into the movie theatre, expecting two hours of entertainment that was worth your $8.50, and instead, you find that the movie was not quite what you’d expected? I’m sure you have; pretty much everyone has seen a bad movie at least once in his or her life.

Have you ever walked into a movie or watched a TV show that used something as awful as rape for the sole purpose of shock factor? Sure, it is a little less likely, but I’ve walked out of a few movies that were just simply disturbing. “The Hills Have Eyes” really comes to mind; one of the beginning scenes displays a girl being raped by mutated monsters in a very graphic manner. This meaningless scene is unnecessary and distasteful—distasteful because of the motives behind its use.

I’m not saying we should ban rape from films because it is, unfortunately, a part of our lives. It’s one of the worst parts, but it’s still a part. Films like “Speak” or TV shows such as “Veronica Mars” display rape in a way that emphasizes on surviving it or rather, trying to survive it. It has a purpose in those films as something that is to be overcome. It shows us that rape is survivable.

We shouldn’t sugar-coat the effects of rape. It is a horrible thing, and words cannot describe it. Sometimes film is the only way to show these effects in a way that allows us to try to empathize with rape survivors. Truly empathizing is impossible, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

It’s the films that use rape simply to cause us to cringe that I have a problem with. Rape should not be used senselessly, and when it is shown, the scene of the rape must be done with a modicum of taste and should be displayed with respect to the vast amount of women who have suffered this.

The premium TV show “The Pillars of the Earth” showed a rape scene that bothered me emotionally for weeks, but it bothered me because it was filmed in a way that focused on the emotions that she was going through, and not the act itself; the camera never leaves her face. As the episodes that followed came out, she does her best to survive, and eventually, she finds a way to overcome what happened to her. It bothered me in the way that it should. It made me wish that rape didn’t happen. These wishes seem futile and impossible—like when Miss America says she wants world peace. But even when wishes seem futile, we should still hold onto them and strive to make them reality, no matter how intimidating or difficult that may seem.

Films have a responsibility. One of these responsibilities is to show humanity as it really is, but that doesn’t mean that we should justify showing rape as a means to get a rise out of an audience. It is a very powerful emotional scene that should be treated with respect.

Patrick St. Pierre is a senior psychology and English major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].