(Note: spoilers for the Netflix movie The luckiest girl alive to follow)
It’s hard for me to write about sexual violence. But I want to write about a Netflix movie The luckiest girl alive In any case. It is important.
As I sit down to write, my heart races and my chest feels tight. I’m fighting the urge to shut down the computer. There’s a tingling in my leg, as if my muscles know something my brain doesn’t. I imagine my sympathetic nervous system is like Whoopi Goldberg’s character ghostwarning, “You’re in danger, girl.”
But I’m not in danger. I’m just touching a sensitive topic. Even if the subject in this case is a movie about rape.
When you survive sexual violence or harassment in any form, like many of us, you are always aware of that warning voice. Fortunately, over time (especially if you’ve finished resolving the issue), you can admit it and gently ask her to quit. But you know that you are unlikely to become completely calm.
After all, that voice is there to keep you safe. You don’t know that the source of the shock may be in prison, dead, 4,000 miles away, or many years. She just knows that her job is to keep you away from what hurt or traumatized you before. So you respect him. You thank him. You are trying to release him.
And she tries to write and talk about sexual violence in a way that ultimately serves the survivors. At least I do.
Netflix’s use of bait and switch marketing turned rape into a shocking plot
Unfortunately, Netflix seems to have forgotten the responsibility that media depicting rape have towards its viewers – especially people depicted for the purpose of entertainment – when writing the accompanying original teaser. The luckiest girl alive.
In the film, Mila Kunis plays a rape victim who comes to terms with how the violence committed against her as a teenager shaped her entire life, her career, her relationships — and even who she thinks she is.
finally, The luckiest girl alive It is an empowering movie. In fact, I don’t remember seeing a movie that dives so deeply and mercifully into the long-term effects of surviving sexual violence. Spoiler alert: Ani appears victorious.
Even better, Kunis doesn’t play Annie as if she’s trying to win an Oscar, she plays her role with respect: respect for her strength, her perseverance, and ultimately her weakness. There is so little melodrama in this mystery drama that it was easy, in parts, to forget that Kunis was acting.
Chiara Aurelia, who plays young Annie, is also incredible.
However, somehow, Netflix ignored the survivors in the way they decided to market the film in its early days.
For at least the first few days after the film was shown, the attached teaser made no mention of any sexual assault whatsoever. She said the film is about a young woman coping with the trauma of a school shooting who survived her after a documentary filmmaker reached her.
Although it appears that Netflix has updated this description, the small content note by maturity rating at the beginning of the movie is short and, for whatever reason, does not always display when the movie is restarted. If you miss it and try to rewind, it may be gone.
Netflix has teased a school shooting movie and true crime documentaries, but this one is almost a side note
After all, this is a movie about rape.
Those who saw the movie in its first week on the site weren’t quite prepared for the agonizing graphic rape scenes that would appear later in the movie and for the fact that the movie would turn almost entirely into surviving sexual assault.
Regardless, I loved this movie.
The luckiest girl alive He succeeded where many TV shows and movies failed to represent the ways in which sexual assault is dismissed when committed by “significant” men and boys.
Annie’s rape was rejected by everyone who was supposed to protect and support her: her mother, her school, her friends, and the system as a whole. Everyone wishes Ani would be calm and not spoil the future of these promising young men – except for one kind teacher who is a beacon of hope. It’s a beautiful and essential reminder that not all men are bad.
But those who watched the film in the first few days after its release were slapped in the face by Annie’s rape. There is no indication that Al-Ani was raped until at least 15 minutes into the film, long after the viewer was attracted.
In a movie that revolves a lot about what happens when the people around you underestimate your rape (see comment from the author of the book on which the movie is based, Jessica Knoll, below) Netflix disappointed its early viewers by disrespecting people who would identify more with Ani..
Apparently they assumed we’d be fine with their infiltration of sexual assault in a movie they marketed differently. But the scenes are painful in their details… and the main scene is long.
Filming rape for entertainment is controversial, even when done respectfully
Far from the question of creating a bait-and-switch description of a movie about rape, the question of whether the depiction of rape in The luckiest girl alive Unwarranted or overly graphical residue.
When we see what happened to little Ani, the rape is as graphic as it can be for an R-rated movie (shown in the next sentence). Her legs are apart, her attackers are begging to stop, she yells “Oh” over and over and cries before they break. She appears tormented and beaten, blood flowing from between her thigh.
It is painful and has even added to the knowledge that this is happening to a child.
Some critics argue that it should not be depicted realistically on screen – or even depicted at all
I respect those who think rape shouldn’t be shown on TV and movies. I agree that it is overused and even abused.
After all, some studies suggest that frequent exposure to sexual violence in the media reduces young people’s sensitivity to these types of crimes. Great article on Vanity Fair It deals with the issue of rape as a plot tool, specifically in the TV series The Handmaid’s Tale He cites two of these studies, noting:
“In one study, young men who watched rape scenes were found to be more satisfied with violence against women. In another study that focused on the effects of sexual violence in feature films, male college students were found to be more attracted to sexual assault.”
While it is difficult to measure psychological factors as accurately as these, it is worth paying attention to the potential risks of using rape as a planning tool.
the luckiest girl alive, However, do not use rape as a plot tool.
Rape is the focus of the movie. It’s the reason for the movie. It is the decisive event.
It’s what our hero has to live with.
And while the filmmakers could have avoided the horror of rape and still made a stunning film, there is a reason for brutal realism: to remind us that our character He was already a victim.
This rape scene is designed to haunt us so we get angry and devastated with Ani when she is blamed and shamed for being drunk in a house full of boys.
We saw it, and we know what happened.
When her headmistress notes that colleges where boys apply for rape must be reported, she is expected to remember what we saw happen to young Annie. When her mother tells Annie that she isn’t the girl she thought she was, we are reminded of exactly who is to blame for what happened — not Annie.
The portrayal of rape in the media can serve the reality of survivors
in some ways, The luckiest girl alive Reminds me of the 2002 horror film Gaspar Noé, Irreversibleabout the brutal beating and rape on a subway platform in Paris that changed the lives of the people associated with the victim.
Irreversible He begins with the victim’s friends beating the man they believe raped her to death. A rape scene is depicted in the middle of the film, and ends at the beginning – before the rape ever occurred – with a poetic shot of the victim lying peacefully in a city park. It’s dark and terrifying, not hopeful at all.
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Most of the people I’ve seen I know Irreversible Stay away very upset. But that was Noe’s view. It’s not hopeful, and it wasn’t meant to be.
While I agree that rape as a plot device is overused in TV and movies today (Game of thrones, I’m looking at you – but you’re far from alone), there are times when I think viewers should You are asked to look directly at the crime so that we can feel the impact of what happens when someone makes a choice to do us harm. Not only to confront the brutality of the crime itself – but also the cruelty of asking victims to “beat it” or sympathizing with the people who chose to attack them.
As I mentioned earlier, a lot of trauma survivors carry it all day, every day.
We develop systems to manage these feelings, such as looking for spoilers and plot briefs for movies and TV shows that we slightly suspect might have a thrilling event. Some of us have secret networks of women, asking for plot points ahead of time, so we can know if we want to risk consuming certain media.
Some might see this as an argument in favor of “launch warnings” in the early 2000s, but that’s not the point I want to make clear.
While I find content notes and warnings useful in situations where an unexpected mention or depiction of common or distressing content would be generally helpful, I think we are strong enough to manage our reactions without them in most cases.
But using rape as a sneak attack on the viewer is disrespectful to the people this film is supposed to represent: the victims and the survivors.
And this movie deserves better than that.
Fortunately, Netflix seems to have listened to us from early viewers, and the description of the movie is now as follows: “The life of an elaborate New York City writer begins to unravel when a true crime documentary forces her to confront her harrowing high school history.”
Because of the unspecified trauma provoked, survivors and victims are more likely to come to Google so they know what they’re getting into. They may see a small content note attached to the maturity rating at the beginning of the movie.
Ultimately, this should be a lesson for all networks, streaming services and anyone who decides to create media either about or including sexual assault: If you’re going to use trauma to create entertainment or even art, you need to respect the people on whose back you are standing.
Victims are not your literary device, we are not your love point. Rape and sexual assault shouldn’t be a titillation – shocking or otherwise.
When producing content that typically includes shocking material, Netflix and other content providers should consult survivor advocates and victim networks for feedback on all aspects of creation, content, and promotion – including trailers, teasers, marketing materials, and even one-line descriptions.
At this point, this is the least they can do.
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Joanna Schroeder is a writer and media critic whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Fox, The Boston Globe and more. She is a co-author of Confronting conspiracy theories and organized bigotry at home Published by the Center for Western Countries. Share more on Twitter.
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