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Student inquiry: Films about sexual violence and responses to it


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A student of mine is writing a research paper about how to respond to sexual abuse (from harassment to assault), and specifically focusing on how the movies "let us down" in shaping our ideas about this.

She's specifically looking for films that explore responses to abuse: Characters who go to the police, the press, counselors, etc. Characters who choose retaliation. Characters who suffer in silence.

I'm sure glad I'm not writing a research paper about this, as I wouldn't want to watch a bunch of movies on this subject.

But, I'm glad somebody's thinking about how we need stories that help us empathize with those who suffer. And we need stories that give those who suffer some better understanding of how to respond... and how not to respond.

Ideas? Suggestions?



Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.


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Two movies that won't quite fit the main line of inquiry but might be helpful in some way: It (2017) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

--Elm Street is particularly interesting because Freddy's history as a child molester was removed at the request of the production company, though I would argue it's still pretty much there.

There's some abuse stuff creeping around the edges of Kings Row (1942) and it's very much central to Peyton Place (1957) and their offspring Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992).

[I'm sure you mentioned pretty much every David Lynch movie to her, but--almost every David Lynch movie, particularly Blue Velvet and Inland Empire]


Gone with the Wind and The Quiet Man are both examples of movies that "let us down" by not portraying abuse as abuse.


Edited by NBooth
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I've never seen The Accused, but that's one of the more famous examples I think.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Magnolia, Elle, Thelma & Louise.

Tess is a fantastic portrayal of the realities of sexual abuse and how society traditionally lets male abusers of the hook while holding their female victims responsible for their crimes. And it's made a hundred times more pointed considering who directed it and when he did.

"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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Sleepers, Mystic River, The Butterfly Effect and The Prince of Tides all come to mind.

And Molly Ringwald would make the case that The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles, (and probably Weird Science) as examples of those films which "let us down."


Edited by Nick Alexander

Nick Alexander

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I’m midway through the novel The Little Girl who Lives Down the Lane, so perhaps it’s too early to suggest adding the film version to this list—but if the book goes in the direction I’m suspecting, it could be a possiblity. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I know this is probably too late, but seeing that Evan responded with thoughtful remarks on ANATOMY OF A MURDER reminded me that there that film depicts serious concerns regarding rape, social views of victims of sexual assault, and how it is treated in the criminal justice system.

Check the thread on that film for both his and my thoughts.

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