Saturday, May 30, 2015

When is it ok to use rape as a plot device?

Game of Thrones and Outlander have both been in the news lately because characters in both suffer a rape. GOT features a lot of rape in it because it's set in a very dark, very violent early medieval type fantasy world. Outlander is set in the 18th century it does feature some rape and is unique because it touches on the taboo subject of male rape. GOT is used to pushing boundaries and the latest rape was nothing different. Sansa was raped off screen by Ramsay Bolton and this annoyed a lot of people. There are many who are tired of rape coming up a lot in fiction. And it can be a tired stereotype. A lot of the time it is used as a plot device to move a story forward or trigger a change in a character. The rape victim has to find the strength to pick themselves up and find the strength to go back on with life etc. What annoys people when it comes to female rape is how often female characters across multiple genres and mediums are subject to it. Authors have a tendency to go "Well, the character is female, what's something terrible that happens to women a lot? I know! rape!" It's like people don't know how to add an obstacle for a female character to overcome that isn't rape, about a man/or finding a relationship, or motherhood. It's old. It's tired.

In Outlander Jamie is raped by Captain Black Jack and it's one of the most gripping and wonderfully written scenes in the book. It is emotionally devastating and beautiful and sad. The plot shows just what an incredibly strong woman Claire is and at the same time touches on a subject that is not shown enough and that is male rape. It is terrible what happens to Jamie. But the scenes that follow when Claire doctors him back to his former self are beautiful and touching and worth the read.

People said that GOT had crossed a line with Sansa's rape but I don't think it did. Firstly in my opinion it was not the most graphic thing to happen on the show. What annoyed me about it was how silly Sansa was to put herself in that situation. Now she is stuck firmly in the role of the damsel in distress and I am really hoping hard that she will save herself because otherwise her rape would've been pointless to her character development instead being a plot device for another character to either come in and rescue her or "come good" again.

I roll my eyes a little when people gasp and clutch at their pearls when GOT does something to shock again because that's GOT does! It's a dark and gritty fantasy drama! No one is safe! The GOT world is unfair and brutal and cruel and that's the whole point of it. If you don't get that by now then maybe this isn't the show for you. What I'm saying is that rape is apart of that world but - at the same time - if used too much it can still be stale and boring and tired. So save yourself Sansa. Be strong. Don't be a damsel in distress.

As for Outlander I think Jamie's rape served much more of a purpose and was not just thrown in for shock value like Sansa's was. Jamie's rape is shocking because male rape is just something that is not seen on TV and in some circles is even deemed not real. Jamie's rape was all the more brutal because it took a big, proud strong man and broke him. It was done on purpose. It was planned. It wasn't thrown in at the last minute. And he was saved by his wife. Was it wrong? No. I don't think rape shouldn't feature in books and tv and film. If done right it can be emotionally powerful. It is when it is done lazily that it is tiresome. Don't chuck in a rape scene "just because" your character is female. It has to have a purpose. Is your character going to learn and grow from it? Don't put it in for shock value.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Who cares who shot first? Let it go already!

The Star Wars movies have come out on digital download and half of the reviews for the original trilogy are people bellowing on about how they are the special editions and "warning" people not to buy them. Oh please. Let it go already. Yes some of the additions to the trilogy were silly and served no purpose like changing it so Han shot second but continuing to whinge about it after all this time is so stupid. Just stop. Yes I think they should release the original versions. Maybe they will someday. But the special editions are not that bad. I loved them as a kid. I was a huge fan already when they came out and loved being able to see them in the cinema. I thought the additional scenes were mostly great. Some served little purpose, some were not that good, but others added a bit more flesh and colour to the films like the scenes at the end of the third film when you see people rioting and knocking down statues of the Emperor. The two biggest things that continue to bug me are how they changed the voice of Boba Fett (the original voice was WAY more sinister and less nasally sounding) and I did not like how they changed Anakin's ghost to be his younger self. That made no sense. Luke is smiling at him like he knows who this person is which is dumb because he looks nothing like the man who just died in his arms. Also why would Anakin appear as his younger self? as a kid I thought "Well, that was the last time he was "Anakin" I suppose..." but yeah, it was dumb. But you don't hear me still flapping my arms and going on about it to this day. It's amazing how loyal the fanbase is for Star Wars and it's going to be interesting to see how much they embrace the new films.

Can a character develop a life of its own?

A week or so ago author Diana Gabaldon posted a message on facebook correcting reviews of the latest Outlander TV episode about the sexuality of her villain Black Jack Randall. Diana said that he is a not a homosexual he is in fact an equal opportunity sadist who will take either men or women it all depends on who he has more access too and considering the time period the books are set in the reason he targets men more is because women did not usually roam the countryside by themselves. I admit I was confused when she said he was not a homosexual because he does come across that way and claiming that he is not frankly makes things a little confusing. His obsession with Jamie is a little too strong for him to not have some homosexual tendencies. I know that people can fall on a spectrum when its comes to sexuality and I'm not one of those people that thinks bisexuality that does not exist, however, Jack does not come across as a man that likes both men and women. He comes across as a man deeply, disturbingly obsessed with Jamie. There is also the scene when he tries to rape Jamie's sister Jenny and cannot get it up. Jenny laughs at him for his inability to perform. Most people interpret this scene as Jack is homosexual and cannot perform because he prefers men. Maybe. It could be that he has trouble getting an erection or maybe it was her laughter that turned him off. Whatever Diana's intentions were for the character either she did not do a good enough job getting those ideas of hers across to the reader or, more likely, Jack developed a life of his own and went off in his own direction. She might not have intended for him to be homosexual but that IS how he comes across. This brings up an interesting question about writers and their characters and who is in charge of whom. Should we listen to Diana? or should Diana look at her character and accept that he has developed in a way that she did not intend?