Weekend Binge: 10 important films/shows about sexual assault to help vanquish monsters like Harvey Weinstein | hollywood | Hindustan Times
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Weekend Binge: 10 important films/shows about sexual assault to help vanquish monsters like Harvey Weinstein

The accusations made against Hollywood studio boss Harvey Weinstein have been devastating. This week, we’re looking at 11 important (and empowering) films and TV shows about sexual assault.

weekend binge Updated: Oct 14, 2017 10:11 IST
Rohan Naahar
It’s easy to overlook what a remarkable time this is for stories about women, for women, told by women.
It’s easy to overlook what a remarkable time this is for stories about women, for women, told by women.

Every week, we will curate a collection of titles - movies, TV, general miscellanea - for you to watch (and in some cases, read, or listen to), in a series we call Weekend Binge. The selection will be based on a theme which binds the picks - which could be extremely blunt in certain instances, or confusingly abstract in some. No rules apply, other than the end goal being getting some great entertainment to watch.

While the idea is to base the theme on the week’s major events - it could be the release of a new movie, or show - we could also use this opportunity to comment on our world in general, and turn to art to wrap our heads around some of the more difficult stories of the past seven days.

And we need all the help we can get this week. It’s been a difficult one - especially for a fan of films, and even more so for someone who grew up on the films of the ‘90s. The accusations of sexual assault and harassment made against Harvey Weinstein, the larger-than-life studio head who ushered in a new Golden Age of American Independent Cinema in the 1990s, and more recently, developed a reputation as a ruthless Oscar lobbyist, have been devastating.

But aside from blowing the lid off the movie industry’s festering rape culture, and what many referred to as ‘Hollywood’s best-kept secret’, the stories of these brave women have also revealed how powerful actors, directors, executives and journalists, were all complicit in their burial. How could they have not known, when we, from thousands of miles away, always had our suspicions. We all laughed when Seth MacFarlane joked about it at the Oscars, we all shrugged at the sight of Entourage’s Harvey Weingard (a fictional stand-in for Weinstein) yelling at people about destroying their careers, and we all ignored Jenna from 30 Rock, when she said she turned down Weinstein’s sexual advances thrice.

But this isn’t the time to point fingers - enough have been pointed already. Instead, it is the time to applaud courage. We don’t need to be reminded of the dozens of films we’ve seen that glorify rape culture (several of which were produced by our country), but however many times we are reminded of stories of courageous women, coming forward to challenge powerful men, it isn’t enough. Here are 11 - 6 films and 5 shows, that offer an important (and empowering) look at this terrible reality.

Movies

Precious

There aren’t too many films that possess the raw power, and shattering emotion of Precious. It’s a reminder that no matter how progressive the society, how evolved the community, and how successful the country, there are always monsters laying in wait for innocent victims. But that’s what makes them foolish. It’s not victims they’re after, it’s survivors. And survivors survive. They empower others to survive. And together, they slay their monsters.

Rashomon

We are told that there are always two sides to the story. And the ongoing media circus surrounding Hrithik Roshan and Kangana Ranaut is a testament to that. But in Rashomon, Akira Kurosawa’s classic, every story has at least four sides. But never forget - however massive the achievements of Rashomon - at its centre, it’s a story about a woman’s rape, and the rest of the world’s refusal to believe her.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

It’s easy to forget - underneath all the goth makeup and cybercrime - that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is, in its heart of hearts, a story about a rape survivor trying to make a connection again. PTSD is a common theme in the films on this list, and Stieg Larsson’s story, especially as seen through the eyes of David Fincher, taps into the feminism at its core.

The Invisible War

This is the first of two films on this list by renowned documentarian, Kirby Dick. You’d be doing yourself a favour by checking out more. It offers firsthand accounts of an issue not many are willing to speak about - if that is even possible, considering how hesitant most people are to speak about rape at all. The Invisible War is about sexual assault in the military. The film is one of those rare instances when a work of art has actually helped save lives. After the film’s release, and its subsequent Oscar nomination, the US government was forced to change laws that dealt with sexual assault in the armed forces.

The Hunting Ground

While military rape appeared to be, at least on the outside, a shocking cover up on a massive scale - and God knows that’s how it works in the world - campus rape was already a contentious issue. Like the Invisible War, Kirby Dick’s follow-up, The Hunting Ground, was nominated for an Academy Award. Together, both films have done for their causes far more than could have been expected from movies. Together, they’ve highlighted a sad truth: There is nothing more powerful than male.

Elle

Elle is exactly the sort of film that could presumably send shivers down the spines of guilty men - it’s about strong women who live their lives under the shadow of masked monsters out to attack them. In Elle, this is literally what happens. Isabelle Huppert, who went on to score an Oscar nomination for her performance, plays a fiercely independent, successful middle-aged woman who is raped by a stranger in her own home. But how she reacts to the terrible event is what makes this one of the most important films of 2016 - or any other year.

TV shows

Big Little Lies

Like its prodigiously messed up characters – which are, in a rare move for a major TV show such as this, all women – there is more to Big Little Lies than meets the eye. Beneath a frivolous exterior is a show about domestic violence, class conflict, sexual assault and white privilege.

The Handmaid’s Tale

Often, perhaps once a week, an influential blogger will declare that we are currently in the middle of a Golden Age of TV - that’s where the best storytelling is happening. But every time that influential blogger makes that declaration, he is overlooking an even more remarkable fact: With shows like Big Little Lies, and the Handmaid’s Tale, and the others you’ll soon read about here, now is arguably the best time in the history of the medium for stories about women, for women, told by women. There can, however, be no argument that the Handmaid’s Tale is the best show of 2017.

Veronica Mars

While it’s been a few years since Veronica Mars ended, in many ways, it set the ball rolling for this wave of quality feminist stories we’re seeing on TV now. For instance, years before Sansa’s rape in Game of Thrones outraged millions on social media, one of the show’s biggest mysteries - Veronica spent all three seasons trying to uncover the identity of her rapist - posed difficult questions, in an honest, and ultimately empowering manner.

Jessica Jones

Veronica Mars’ influence, despite its unremarkable ratings and the disappointing box office tally of its film adaptation, was never felt as strongly as it was in Marvel’s Jessica Jones. Like Veronica Mars, the titular heroine of Jessica Jones is a detective, and both shows share a distinct noir aesthetic, but really, it’s about rape. In the mainstream. Unavoidable.

Sweet/Vicious

If some one was to tell you that one of the most insightful shows about campus rape, police corruption, and the victimisation of women, was a comedic programme - with a quirky Edgar Wright vibe, and comic book visuals - about two college students who moonlight as vigilantes, would you believe them? What if they provided the additional information that it was cancelled after just one season and that it aired on the most obvious network of them all, MTV? You should. Sweet/Vicious is the Teen Vogue of liberal TV - frequently judged and inevitably dismissed because of its appearance, but for those willing to listen, it’s nirvana.

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The author tweets @RohanNaahar