Review – The Sapphires

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The Sapphires is a crowd-pleasing musical comedy drama film that entertains its audience through infectious soul music and the incredible cast. The film has a lot of heart and the narrative is infused with an inherent sense of honesty.

 

The film mirrors a lot of African-American films where the Negros face racism and discrimination from White people and it’s a tale depicting the adversity they faced.

For example, the beginning of the film is set in a rural area in the Outback of Australia and it depicts the idyllic lifestyle for an Indigenous Australian – one where they can co-exist with nature and family.

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While similar films such as Dreamgirls and The Commitments have tackled similar issues, The Sapphires differentiates itself by having a rich screenplay that also tackles inclusive themes such as a family fighting for a better life while at the same time coming to terms with their painful past – themes that all individuals have experienced as everyone has experienced hardship before. The merits of doing so is that through humour, pathos and musical choices, the narrative of this film shines because the screenplay sets the story against the historic context of Australia’s scandalous treatment of its Aboriginal population and ties the infectious and sassy elements of music with the serious and racist moments in Australian history.

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The film is often praised for its stellar cast where Chris O’Dowd’s character was a great comedic device and all 4 of the main actresses turn in impressive performances that showcase not only their vocal talents, but also their ability to connect with one another and the audience. Each character had their own time and way to shine by each having clashing personalities.

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However, the film needs to be criticised for having stereotypical characters. For example,

Julie: the one with the talent

Gail: the one with the chip on her shoulder

Cynthia: the one with libido

Kay: the cute and innocent one.

However, while one can use this as an example of inclusive communication because they’re relatable, it’s a criticism because the characters become stale, predictable and repetitive. Another criticism regarding the film is that the film doesn’t take risks and it does follow a standard formula.

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However, this crowd pleasing film received a standing ovation at Cannes Film Festival and most critics agree that there’s a strange comfort in watching a film where any battle – from family feud to one of the bloodiest conflicts of the 20th century – can be eased by singing and dancing regardless of skin colour.


Lin Yang

Defending Batman v Superman: Yawn of Justice

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While the film had many positive moments, such as Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Ben Affleck as Batman, Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth, Hans Zimmer and XL Junkie’s score, the great action and the promising set up for future DC films, you cannot deny that the film has more bad than good. The film’s polarizing, it’s joyless, the editing is random and disjointed, the plot’s bloated, the writing is messy and things they should have focused on were cut short and things they shouldn’t have included in the film were there (e.g., Lois in Africa and Robin’s death).

However, while reading online the reaction and thoughts on the movie, I’ve found that a lot of people have misunderstood two important things:

  1. Why Batman kills
  2. Why Batman stops killing Superman after he says “Martha”

So here’s my explanation on the whole situation…

People love to oversimplify the Martha scene when it’s much more complex than that.
Superman saying ‘Martha’ snapped Batman out of his rage and delusion because Snyder established a hero that was driven to the point of insanity due to having the pressure of defeating a global threat. Furthermore, the film gradually builds Batman’s reasoning by showing it from his perspective. We saw the opening, which is a 9/11 type disaster, then the Senator Finch, the Knightmare sequence and the Flash warning him about Superman (when it’s actually Darkseid). From these events seen in Batman’s perspective, Superman is a threat that brings nothing but chaos and death. These events lead him to tell Alfred that Superman must be killed for the protection of the future of humanity because so far every scenario that Superman has been in has resulted in death. Due to this, we see an extremely ambitious Batman who falls into a delusion of hate, which explains why he kills in this film. We see his determination to get the kryptonite and we see what he’s willing to do to get it. The film uses close ups and we see his laser focus on obtaining kryptonite and every criminal is just collateral damage. After realising this, I didn’t have a problem with Batman killing any more because of the story and characterisation presented.
Through all of that, we see a Batman who’s not willing to listen and is blinded by false pretences and only snaps out of it because of Martha, his mother that inspired him to do what he does now. That’s why Snyder re-showed the death of Batman’s parents again because in THIS Batman iteration, he viewed it as his failure to protect the ones he loves, realising Superman isn’t a complete alien and has a family he was just trying to protect. Thus Batman re-thinks about what he was about to do and Superman tells him about Alexander Luthor’s plan. If Batman does kill Superman, is he any better than the criminal that killed his parents? If he does kill Superman, has he stooped to their level? Why did Batman decide to fight crime in the first place? By killing Superman, will he inflict the same suffering to other people as the criminal did to him?
It’s also why Batman was the one who wanted to save Superman’s mother and promised him he will because saving someone else’s mother when he failed to save his own was part of his impetus to becoming a superhero in the first place.

And this basically explains why Batman is indebted to Superman to save Earth after his death due to their misunderstanding, and that’s why he said…”I failed him in life, I’m not going to fail him in death”.

Good night

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Lin Yang

 

Review: The Hateful Eight – Blood, Nigger and Samuel L Jackson

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I’m currently having dinner with my family and strangers that I just met. After staring at my phone for an hour or two – scrolling through the news feed from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram a thousands times, I thought it would be a good time to write a quick review for Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, The Hateful Eight.

When I saw the film a while ago, I left the theater happy but exhausted. The film is a bit longer than three hours and I left the theater unsure on why I didn’t love the film. Quentin Tarantino is definitely an amazing film director that has a very distinct voice that’s derived from his love for cinema. However, the longer I thought about this film, the more I realised that this film has quite a few flaws that’s making me dislike the film more and more.

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Some say The Hateful Eight is “Classic Tarantino”. If by classic, they mean self-indulgent, self-satisfied, obnoxiously verbose, convoluted and trying too hard, then they’re right, it’s very classic Tarantino. Halfway through, I was waiting for the film to be over, and of the 9 films of his I’ve seen, I have no reservations about saying this is my least favourite Tarantino film. Of course, not all of it was terrible. Walton Goggins? Spectacular. Jennifer Jason Leigh? So unhinged and amazing. Bruce Dern? Fucking legend. Ennio Morricone’s score? Fantastic. Sound design and effects? On point. Unfortunately the redeeming parts of the film were greatly overshadowed by the flaws of the film.

For one, I could not stand the dialogue in this film. In interviews, Quentin said his films are progressing to be more and more literary. While I applaud this because currently film dialogues  are becoming more simplistic, it’s refreshing to know a director hasn’t forgotten to use soliloquies, consonants, enjambments etc. However, Tarantino is one of those writers who loves the sound of his own voice, and in this case, the sound of his own dialogue and because of this it creates one of the problems that I found from the film: His characters don’t shut up. His dialogue is so overbearing that it actually takes the viewer out of the movie instead of immersing them in the story or its characters. He’s practically mastered the art of belaboring the point. hateful_eight_twc_1-0-0

Don’t even get me started on his overuse of the slur “nigger”, which seemed to be in every goddamn line in this movie. And I don’t have an issue with the word itself, because context is always key. But to use it flippantly,overbearingly, for no reason other than to stylize a film, is to me distasteful. And I don’t think Tarantino should get to hide behind the subgenre of blaxploitation and his chumminess with Samuel L Jackson. It’s like being around someone who uses the word “faggot” in every sentence, only to defend its use by saying “Hey it’s okay, I’m not a bigot. I’ve got a gay friend.” Context is key, but using these slurs is tactless when you’re just using it as window dressing for your movie. If the intention is to establish a setting, or to emphasize a character’s irreverence or sheer bigotry, then one can accomplish that with very little, and sometimes (surprise!) without even resorting to using slurs.

What made me love Tarantino’s past films was his ability to balance everything. For example, if you look at his past film, Reservoir Dogs, I think the biggest difference between the two films is that Reservoir Dogs had at least a bit of suspense and tension in its plot around ferreting out the traitor, and we cared about the characters enough to invest in their fates. In The Hateful Eight, there was so much posturing that it was hard to really take the characters seriously. Oh, and the length! I forgot to mention how ridiculous the length of that movie was. It did not need to be 3 hours long. It reminded me of The Wolf of Wall Street a bit in that they were both drawn out a bit too long.

At the end of the day, I just didn’t find it very entertaining. I was bored thirty minutes into the film and found everything to be very tiresome.


Lin Yang

 

Quick Thoughts: The Revenant – Survival, Nature and Revenge

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I had high hopes for this film. It’s won 3 Golden Globes and has been nominated for 12 Academy Awards. The hype towards DiCaprio and his tough shoot were intriguing to me. The director, Alejandro G. Inarritu, made one of the best films last year (Birdman) so I was intrigued what else he’ll show me.

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I won’t spoil anything because the film is still in theaters, but it was really well shot, the sound design was fantastic, the music is captivating, and DiCaprio and Hardy gave it their all.

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The first 30 minutes had me hooked…then the sprawl of the landscape took over, and the film lost its focus, and no one mattered, but it sure looked pretty. I started to notice that the incredible makeup kept changing consistency from scene to scene.

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I drifted like the snow did, then a transcendental boredom set in and I couldn’t wait for it to be over. As I wafted with Leo’s superhuman survival of pain again and again, I realized I was bored and just didn’t care anymore. The story didn’t interest me and it wasn’t complex in any way. It took itself too seriously and the film succumbs to a grim over-determination that didn’t allow me to emotionally connect with the film.

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There were a few amazing scenes that were gripping, heart pounding and extremely mesmerizing. But the reliance on those scenes to keep the audience interested and invested just made it repetitive and stale.

I REALLY wanted to love this movie. I tried, but felt no connection.


Lin Yang

 

Last Train Home – Marxism, Poverty, Freedom

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The documentary opens in Guangzhou International Train Station as a humongous crowd is directed by police to their stations like a herd of sheep. It then informs the audience that an estimated 130 million Chinese citizens make an annual train journey back to their urban villages to celebrate Chinese New Year – “the largest human migration in the world”. As the film pans across the crowd of Chinese civilians holding onto enormous piles of garbage bags and luggage – gifts, clothing or perhaps food for the journey, what it echoes is the physical and extreme socio-economic struggle that hundreds of millions of Chinese people face every day under China’s communist and Marxist government.

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The film then centers on Zhang Changhua and Chen Suqin who are a married couple. The audience learns that they left their village years ago to find a job so they can financially provide for their children. They find work in a textile factory in Guangzhou. There in the factory, row after row after row, they work all day and night bent over sewing machines, assembling perhaps jeans that I’ve worn before. Their working conditions are cramped, hot, crowded, noisy, dirty and dark. Their dormitories have next to no privacy and the married couple shares a room with probably 10 other people.

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They save their money and send every penny back home. They eat vegetables and rice every day because that’s the cheapest option and they never indulge in anything for themselves. Their dream is that by 15 years of this toil, they will pay for the children to finish school and live better lives. For that dream, they have sacrificed the life of parenthood, and are like strangers at home to children who know them as voices on the telephone, seen on the annual visit.

It’s interesting because this documentary is such a stark contrast between the grandiose Beijing Olympics, the towers of Shanghai, skyscrapers of Hong Kong and the rise of wealth, class and power that China has been experiencing for the past couple of years.

We hear much about how Chinese parents pressure their children to study hard and excel. Overseas, they frequently do succeed. But China is a huge nation, so large that a generation may not be long enough to rise from poverty.

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Their daughter, Zhang Qin, is in high school, and comes to regard her parents as distant strangers — and nags. She’s had enough of it. But what she does is beyond heartbreaking, but understanding. She moves to Guangzhou and gets a factory job. She does the math. If she keeps her wages instead of sending them home, she’ll have them to spend on herself. While it’s easy to side with the parents and criticize Qin, I somehow ended up sympathizing with her because I can understand her struggle and the mistakes her parents make and continue to make. While her parents are sacrificing their entire lives for their kids, from her point of view they are basically strangers – she basically raises herself, as her grandmother is clearly very old and not in a position to do much more than feed and clothe them. There is also a gender dynamic that is swept under the rug in both the review and (to a lesser extent) the film itself. There’s a point when the grandmother tells the kids, “Yang (the younger boy) will buy us all a big house.” The look on Zhang Qin’s face says everything- clearly she feels less valued. According to her only adult support, she’s “just” a girl. Also, does Qin not have her own dreams and desires? Her own journey? Her own life to live? Must it be relegated to physical labour with very little reward? Why must she be born in a world of poverty, inequality and struggle with constant nagging from her mother and father about how tough life is and how she must support the family and work hard. Was she conceived merely as a means to help the family or to discover her own happiness and journey in life? Quite simply, she feels like a slave under their parents control.

Furthermore, why did her parents have a child? They must have known before marriage that they couldn’t have financially taken care of their child, yet they made 2. So, why? What was their idea of having a child? To raise them, educate them and show them the beauty of life, or view them as an investment and constantly nag about the importance of education and money so hopefully the children can be rich and take care of their parents?

From the very beginning of showing the children in the documentary, the pressure to succeed and make a lot of money weighs heavily on their minds, even though they’re far too young to be focusing on such matters. Their faces are constantly grim with the realization that their future will be a very tough struggle.

There is so much to say about this great film. It talks about poverty, struggle, the pressures adults put on their children, the importance of education, working hard and never self-indulging. Through those discussions, it also reflects individuality, human needs, wants and desires, freedom, purpose of life and path to happiness. Digging a little further, it passively criticizes the Chinese government, its economic policies and the negative effects of Marxism.

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You sense the dedication of Lixin Fan and his team. (He did much of the cinematography and editing himself.) You see once again the alchemy by which a constantly present camera eventually becomes almost unnoticed, as people live their lives before it. You know the generations almost better than they know themselves, because the camera can be in two places and they are usually in one or the other.

There is a quiet moment in a mall. On their day off, Zhang Qin and her friends go shopping. They like a pair of jeans: “Are these made in our factory?” No, in another. Of course they want them. Of course their generation wants them. But their generation doesn’t want to work years leaning over a sewing machine and sleeping in a dorm.

We read about the suicides in Apple’s plants in China. Seeing this film, you suspect there are many suicides among workers in factories whose brands are less famous than Apple. Chinese peasants no longer live without television and a vision of another world. They no longer live in a country without consumer luxuries. “Last Train Home” suggests that the times they are a-changin’. The rulers of China may someday regret that they distributed the works of Marx so generously.

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Lin Yang

 

Brokeback Mountain – Love, Alienation, Repression

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Last night I re-watched Ang Lee’s amazing drama about forbidden love in Wyoming, set in the 1960’s. As Ledger and Gyllenhaal play cowboys who are in need of cash, they take a job looking after sheep on Brokeback Mountain. There, they find more than just money, they discover a side of sexuality that’s repressed and forbidden that is hugely detrimental to both their lives in different ways.

In short, it’s a film about love, friendship, companionship, confusion, sexuality, repression and how this all changes and is formed by a society and their values. Furthermore, you can say those themes also champion individualism, being yourself, honesty and having an open mind.

This is essentially a romance story beset by sacrifice, loss and tragedy and in which nobody is ever really happy. Why? Circumstance, timing and social perception. There is an absolutely horrible story within the story of how two homosexual/ bisexual or sexually fluid men were treated in 60s Texas that adds real heft to the story and foreshadows this films finale.

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The Wind Rises – Inevitability of Life, Nihilism, Hard Work, Passion and Love

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After watching Hayao Miyazaki’s final film (The Wind Rises) a couple of times, I wondered why I kept thinking and re-watching the film. The film is very mature, subtle and beautiful in many ways, but I think the message of the inevitability of life was what struck a chord in me.

While Miyazaki is known for his very creative, fun and often lighthearted films, his final film is more socially-conscious and mature. The Wind Rises takes place in early 20th century Japan, a time when the country endured great upheaval that involved an economic crisis and the infamous Great Kantō earthquake of 1923. The film introduces its protagonist Jiro as a young boy who initially dreams of becoming a pilot, yet whose myopic vision prevents him from ever truly becoming one. This doesn’t deter him, however, from pursuing his love of flying. We see that as Jiro grows older and his journey to become an engineer progresses, the Japanese landscape too changes. Soon Jiro becomes cognizant of forces beyond his control; forces that threaten to embroil his model airplanes into something bigger and more brutal than he ever meant them for.

The Wind Rises acknowledges the necessity of war, but doesn’t revel in it. It actually brings it up in a manner that seems almost regretful. The film implores the audience to look at large scale world events like war, famine, and natural disasters from a human perspective. Not everyone is always thinking about the bottom line, or the effects on geopolitical maneuvering when a young man decides to fulfill his dream of building airplanes. Miyazaki also makes the argument that just because bad things are going to happen, it doesn’t mean people should just lay down and accept it. Again, from the title based on a poem by Paul Valéry: “The wind is rising, we must try to live.”

This quiet struggle against the forces of inevitability is what Miyazaki champions in his last film. We see it in Jiro’s relentless pursuit of his childhood dreams and, most clearly, in his love for Nahoko, a woman he meets during disastrous circumstances, who even in her unwell state, mustered the strength to remind him of his will to live. Nahoko suffers from a severe case of tuberculosis and it seems inevitable that she won’t live long. She asks Jiro to wait for her to recover before they commit to each other; after all, who wants to be married to a dying woman? Jiro initially agrees, but after realizing that he could lose the woman he loves any day now, he races to her bedside and begs for her hand in marriage. It is a defiant decision; it is Jiro and Nahoko looking death in the eye and saying, “We know we don’t have long, but we’ll make the most of the time that we have.” It’s an unapologetically sweet sentiment, and Miyazaki layers this on in a subtle enough manner that the audience can feel it without necessarily being hammered on the head with it.

Overall, while it may not have the wild imaginings of Spirited Away or the flights of fancy in Kiki’s Delivery ServiceThe Wind Rises is a touching, thoughtful piece about ambition, hard work, love and the beauty in the persistence of life. These are all things that celebrate being alive, and lessons that everyone, regardless of age, creed, race or nationality, can appreciate.



Lin Yang

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Comic-Con Trailer

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To most people the batman vs superman trailer is awesome, epic, amazing, badass, cool, bad or ok. To me it’s mythic. The cinematography, the trailer music, the cast and crew, the symbolism and the source material is legendary. It’s like a dream come true and it resonates with my soul in a way that I cannot begin to describe.

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Few people will ever understand the way I see film but that trailer is one of the closest representations I can think of in regards to how I feel. Film will always be a part of my life and that trailer is everything. There just aren’t enough words to describe the beauty in such a masterful trailer. I am indeed inspired. This definitely has to be the greatest superhero trailer ever. My body is ready.

256 days to go.



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Lin Yang

Grave of the Fireflies – War, Failure of a Society, Poverty and Peace Education

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(Spoilers below)

I don’t know why I do this to myself, but I’ve been watching a lot of emotionally powerful films recently by accident. I’ll read a spoiler-free article that’s praising a certain film and if it can persuade me to download the torrent then I will. This is how I stumbled upon Grave of the Fireflies, directed by Isao Takahata and produced by Studio Ghibli.

2I know in my previous post about Wolf Children that I said it left my in tears, but I will tell you, however, that the only film that has managed to render me absolutely inconsolable is this one, Grave of the Fireflies. Like you wouldn’t even be able to imagine how this movie destroyed my life after finishing it (slight exaggeration). I’m pretty sure I almost cried myself to sleep watching this one because I couldn’t get it out of my head. I think it’s absolutely brilliant and it will always be a special film to me, but I would never want to go through that kind of devastation again.  It’s so emotionally powerful that it truly does hit you right in the feels like no other animated film has. Not from Pixar, or any other anime or film that I can recall.

The film is set in the city of Kobe, Japan. The film tells the story of two siblings, Seita (older brother) and Setsuko (younger sister), and their desperate struggle to survive during the final months of the Second World War because both of their parents are victims of the war.

While I won’t be writing a review, I want to focus on what I enjoyed about the film and what it taught me. For me, Grave of the Fireflies encapsulated so much humanity and beauty that I’m certain, without a reasonable doubt, if you make it all the way to the end, it will make you a better person. I hope this is enough of an intro to make you watch this film.

3Now, if I were to explain what I loved and learnt from this film, I would have to spoil a MAJOR plot point, so either watch the film and come back to this article or read ahead. The film starts with Seita in a train station that’s about to die. He’s sitting against a pillar in a train station. His clothes are torn, his body is covered in dirt, his frail arms rest flimsily next to him, his face lifeless against his chest. “September 21, 1945… that was the night I died.” Due to this, it’s already assumed his little sister died before him because she’s no where to be found. The film then shows a flashback of Seita’s and Setsuko’s life that’s narrated by Seita’s spirit or ghost. It begins with, presumed, American warships bombing Kobe due to desperation to end the war. It destroys the town and leaves a majority of people dead, injured, homeless, starving, poor and so on.

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As the film progresses, you realise that Setsuko symbolises  childhood innocence and Seita symbolises nationalism. During the film, Setsuko begins unable to understand what’s happening during the war. Further through the film, you see how patriotism, nationalism, society and war corrupts and kills Setsuko, both literally and metaphorically.  I say he lost his sister to the shattering effects of war, because war didn’t kill Setsuko,  but the effect it had on people did. This film is often regarded as an anti-war film, but that’s an inaccurate generalisation. We don’t witness any battles or soldiers marching into the frontlines of combat. The film isn’t pro-Japan and doesn’t have any propaganda. The enemy flies above, but they’re not characterised in a villainous manner. War is a mere tool in this survival account, and the central theme here is how war temporarily changes who we are and how war is society’s failure to perform its most important duty to protect its own people. It blinds us from all things human. It turns us into cruel selfish beasts, unsympathetic to the desperate needs of others. This can be seen when Seita and Setsuko live with their distant Aunt who only exploits them for food and money. The kindness and compassion in human souls evaporate into thin air the second we are communally put in a situation where it’s every man for himself. For example, when Setsuko is malnourished and dying, no one is willing to sell their own nutritious food to the two children because the situation is every man for himself. Priorities eclipse our minds, and the fear of regret blocks our thoughts from the reality that we’re all in this together. It is only together, and with the help of one another, that we can all survive through our darkest chapters without being cursed with future guilt, shame, and remorse.

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After finishing the film, this is what the film taught me about tough times, helping others, being compassionate, caring and loving towards other people. This is specifically why I said the film made me into a better person afterwards.





Lin Yang

Orange Is The New Black Does Rape Right, Unlike Game of Thrones

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I’ve been a huge fan of Orange Is The New Black ever since it started two years ago. I was instantly hooked and I finished the first season in just 2 days. Just a few hours ago, I finished the third season and while it had its great moments, it was the worst out of the 3  because several plot-lines were introduced and then dropped without a real conclusion, and by the finale, I felt like the show didn’t go anywhere or move forward at all. However, one moment that resonated with me was episode 10, where Pennsatucky was raped by the prison Guard, Coates.

For a few episodes, the writers started developing a relationship between Pennsatucky and Coates while they’re assigned van duty. At the same time, they show flashbacks of Pennsatucky having sex with friends for gifts and her experiencing love for the first time. The episode ends with two back-to-back rape scenes: a flashback of a classmate forcing himself on Doggett at a house party, followed by CO Coates raping Doggett in the back of the van in the present day. Each time, the camera zooms in on Doggett’s face, focusing on her silent, defeated expression.

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Now that I think about it, I don’t know when rape became such a popular plot point to use on females in popular entertainment. There are a lot of manga’s, television shows, anime’s and films that use rape now. For example, Berserk, Hannibal, Mad Max: Fury Road, Orange Is The New Black and Game of Thrones. I should first state that I’m not against the use of rape as a plot point in popular entertainment, nor am I against it being used more than once. If written properly, it can be an effective tool for the writer to further develop a character and improve the story. But I think we can all agree that at this point, regardless of its intent, it’s overused. Criticisms of rape in popular media are equally abundant now that the topic of rape culture is creeping its way into mainstream awareness.

But we’re now past the point of think-pieces that ask, “Is rape overused as a plot device?” We already know; the answer is yes. Now it’s time to dig a little deeper and ask, “How can rape be portrayed sensibly? Does it need to be present at all? Can the writer write the scene another way, instead of using rape? What’s the purpose?”

The main problem here is that the predominantly male showrunners who are guilty of overusing this trope aren’t really giving this much consideration. The most relevant example I can provide is Game of Thrones, which used to be everyone’s favorite show, but is quickly falling out of favor, due to criticism for its gratuitous violence between both genders. Sansa’s rape, whatever the showrunners’ excuse for including it, was clearly meant to elicit a shocked reaction (which it did). In addition, the scene wasn’t really even about Sansa; as Ramsey pushes her down and forces himself on her, the camera pans away and focuses in on Theon’s pained reaction. And this is my main problem with the show. They don’t know how to write rape well.

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Game of Thrones is known for its gratuitous violence and is very unapologetic about it. The violence is used between both genders, and it’s equally disgusting for both. Indeed, one of the most baffling things about so many rape scenes in popular culture is that the people who scripted them felt qualified to do so, despite seemingly knowing nothing about rape except that it exists and it is bad. In short, anyone can write a rape scene—but should they? Chances are, the answer is no, and here’s the first reason why Game of Thrones get it wrong.

It’s simple. They don’t know what rape is. Take for example in season 4 when they filmed a rape scene without realising that it was a rape scene. After it aired, its director continued to insist that it was not rape, despite the female character saying “no” and “stop” while her assailant pushed her down, saying “I don’t care.” Instead, the director explained that the assault “becomes consensual by the end”—despite no clear verbal or physical indication of that—and that the coercion was actually a “turn-on” for the woman.

Furthermore, after reading an article, the series has courted controversy by depicting consensual encounters from the books as rape, twice — in the first season, Danerys’s marriage consummation with Khal Drogo; and again this season, when Jaime Lannister raped his sister Cersei beside the corpse of their son.

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Those changes are significant because, for the most part, the story around them stays the same. As the website that I read the information from wrote, “The Daenerys Targaryen [from the books] who falls in love with a man [Khal Drago] who granted her respect when no one else would is different from the Daenerys Targaryen who fell in love with her rapist [on the TV show].” To make Jaime a rapist transforms him from a morally gray but ultimately sympathetic figure to a monster — but a monster who, in the context of the show, continues to live the same life and evoke the same responses as the literary counterpart who’s still on the other side of that moral event horizon. Which leads neatly into my second reason for why Game of Thrones gets it wrong.

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Rape should not be sexy. This is a hard task to execute because most men in popular media look at women primarily through the lens of sexual attractiveness. Most men objectify the female characters that they’re watching, and most don’t realise it. It’s hard to admit, but women are exaggeratedly—and always—sexy. They’re sexy on the phone. Sexy on the job. Sexy fighting. Sexy tortured. Sexy dead. Sexy raped. I shouldn’t have to say this, but if a movie or TV show can’t visualize a woman in non-sexual terms even for the brief duration of a rape scene, it has no business depicting rape scenes. It’s a rape scene, and we’re not supposed to be aroused by it. We’re supposed to be turned off by it, reject it and hate the rapist afterwards.

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Furthermore, rape is not a shortcut to narrative substance. While rape is widely viewed as a very serious negative topic, there’s a tendency for writers to use it as a plot device for maturity, edginess or shock. One of the reasons that creators of media like to include rape in their work is specifically because it elicits strong feelings towards the viewer (story + rape = instant emotional reaction). Rape has been so overused and misused in Game of Thrones that adding yet another manipulative sexual assault to the world just to heighten the stakes of a story or have a very special episode is not just one of the most offensive things a writer can do, it is also one of the most boring. It’s just bad writing.

For example…

Rape acts in Game of Thrones the TV series (to date): 50

Rape victims in Game of Thrones (to date): 29

Rape acts in ASOIAF the book series (to date): 214

Rape victims in ASOIAF (to date): 117

The books contain over 4 times as much rape as the show

(http://io9.com/someone-has-done-a-statistical-analysis-of-rape-in-game-1707037159)

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When I first saw Sansa being raped near the end of season 5, I was instantly turned off and I rolled my eyes because there was yet another poorly written rape scene. My problem wasn’t that she WAS raped, but that Sansa had to suffer, again, to humanize Theon/ Reek. I questioned; Why use rape as a plot point? Can’t the writer write something else to humanize Theon? Why do they have to use rape? I asked these questions because in reality, millions of other bad things happen to women every day. So unless there is a highly specific and deeply considered reason to use rape, it’s better to not use it. And if rape is the only tool someone has in their bag for creating “complex” female characters, it’s time to get another bag. And finally, this leads me to my last point.

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Why use rape? Why not something else? Yes, there are stories about rape that are worth telling. But without extensive research into the problems, stereotypes, and struggles that rape survivors face—including what makes sexual assault different from other forms of violence—it’s too easy for fictional depictions to contribute to those issues rather than combat them. With so many other narrative tools out there, using sexual assault is almost always unnecessary. There are better ways to tell nearly any story, so why use the one that tends to be both the laziest and the most harmful?

To quote TV Tropes, “Take a good look at your story. Why do you think a rape is what you need for it to progress? Is there something else that could fill the same function? Unless you have a damn good reason to include rape in a story, you probably shouldn’t.”

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By contrast, here’s why the rape scene in Orange Is The New Black did the rape scene right, and Game of Thrones so far hasn’t. Simply, the rape scenes in Orange Is the New Black kept the focus and empathy on the victim. Whatever its intent, it wasn’t meant to shock. It wasn’t sexy. It wasn’t glorified. And the writers knew that they were writing about rape. This was written by a woman, for women. It may have fallen into the trap of using the trauma of rape to humanize a character (like it did for Theon/ Reek), especially as this season sees Doggett transition from a caricatured right wing Republican, Jesus loving conservative villain to a likeable character with an interesting context; but whichever lens you choose to view it through, it can’t be denied that the writing was conscious. That’s how rape should be written because that’s what rape is. Just think about it for a minute.

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Finally, who faces consequences for careless depictions of gendered violence? Game of Thrones remains one of the most-viewed shows on television, despite the controversy it creates with each new episode. In his defense of the story’s gratuitous depictions of rape, George R. R. Martin has said it’s “fundamentally dishonest” not to portray sexual violence, and that it’s “realistic” during the medieval time period. While that’s true and I applaud here’s the kicker—the viewers and readers are aware of sexual violence because you’ve written about it 214 times in the books and the television show has shown it 50 times already. Our parents taught us this fear when we were children. We live in fear of it every day. We don’t need to be reminded of that fear every time we watch TV, and it’s honestly callous for male writers to assume that showing teenagers getting raped in a sensationalized medieval fantasy show is doing anything for anti-rape advocacy.

TL;DR: Do not write a rape scene. While there are exceptions to this, everybody tends to think they are one of those exceptions, when more likely they are the reason the advice exists.


Lin Yang