Adults with Asperger’s syndrome can be renowned for being honest, having a strong sense of social justice and keeping to the rules. They strongly believe in moral and ethical principles. (Attwood, 2008)
We’ve talked about my honesty and need for rules, so let’s discuss my sense of social justice. Sparky will no doubt confirm that, at least when it comes to stories, I’m all about justice and am a sucker for the underdog. Most anyone who knows me can tell you I’m the same way in regard to social justice. I used to be very quiet about it, but that ship has kind of sailed.
I have strong opinions on various social justice topics, but the one I’m focusing on today is violence against women. Specifically, rape culture. For those not familiar with the term:
Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety. (“Rape Culture,” n.d., para. 1)
I’m not going to argue here that we live in a society that embraces rape culture. We do. I’m not going to argue about the function of violence in our society, either. For that, you can read this. I’m merely going to describe for you a way I experienced it in an unexpected place.
Zoo Keeper’s taste in movies is less than discriminating. Way, way less. Most of the movies appropriate for his age group play at the AMC sensory friendly film showtimes. They turn the lights up a little, turn the sound down, and cut out all of the pre-show stuff like trailers. And the people who attend these shows understand sensory issues, so nobody bats an eye if kids are walking in the aisles or making strange sounds. Without the trailers and ads, the likelihood that BamBam will make it through the movie increases. Luckily for me, BamBam inherited my taste in movies, so he’s said, “I’m done,” by the half-way point in all but two movies we’ve seen so far. When BamBam says he’s done, he’s not messing around. He means NOW and you have to be ready for it because he just gets up and goes. The two movies he’s stayed all the way through were the two that I liked as well.
Anyway, sometimes a movie Zoo Keeper wants to see doesn’t have a sensory friendly showing. That was the case for the movie we saw last week: Mr. Peabody and Sherman. True to form, BamBam was “Done!” about half an hour into the movie. Sadly, he only went as far as the arcade and played there, even though we had no change, for a loooooooong time. When he was finally ready to go, there were only 15 minutes left in the movie, so I gave him the choice of going back in or going to the car. I was surprised that he chose to go back to the movie.
And appalled by what I saw on the screen.
In fairness to the movie, I admit I only saw about 45 minutes of it all said and done. That said, Sparky assures me there was nothing in the part I missed to contradict my impressions. The first thing I noticed is that all the females in the movie are either evil or too-stupid-to-live, which is a technical writing term. I won’t get started on their version of the French revolution except to say that they made it seem like Marie Antoinette was just a silly woman who liked cake and wanted everyone to have some.
The movie antagonist is an evil social worker trying to take Sherman away from Mr. Peabody because Mr. Peabody is a dog and dogs have no business raising little boys. Sherman’s bully is an evil little girl, who had turned good by the time BamBam and I rejoined the movie. Their version of “good” is a girl who stays behind wishing the hero good luck as he goes off to slay the dragon. Or close the rift in the space-time continuum in this case. These writers have obviously never heard of a self-rescuing princess.
While those things bothered me, they weren’t what made me want to vomit. Once Sherman and Mr. Peabody have managed to close the rift in time, the historic figures, who were apparently all brought into the present day while I was in the lobby with BamBam, start to get sucked into the void to go back to their own times. One of the first things to be lifted up is a gigantic rock that had fallen on top of the evil social worker. She popped right up and began to make further threats against Mr. Peabody and Sherman. Because she’s evil, that’s why. As Agamemnon is swept up into the time-crack, he grabs the social worker and takes her with him, thus solving the problem of the story.
Which brings me back to the poor writing exhibited in Mr. Peabody and Sherman. They didn’t bother to deal with the central question of the movie: How is Mr. Peabody going to keep Sherman? We come to the end of the movie and nothing has really changed because the social worker is still going to take Sherman away and there’s still nothing Mr. Peabody can do about it. The big showdown in any story is supposed to be between the protagonist and antagonist, but these writers couldn’t make that happen, so they cheated by having Agamemnon whisk the problem away. Yay! everyone is happy! Except for anybody watching that realizes it doesn’t work.
Putting aside for a moment that this type of ending is a great example of incredibly lazy and altogether shitty writing, let’s focus on what it says as about the values of our culture. It says the way to deal with a woman causing a problem is to bodily remove her from the situation. It’s okay to kidnap her because she’s evil. They even show us a scene where Agamemnon and the social worker get married. See? She just needed a man to make her right. It’s okay that he kidnapped her because they got married. She loves him now, so the fact that she had no choice in the matter is of no consequence.
I know, I know, it’s just a cartoon. It’s a frivolous piece of entertainment. I’m trying to make something out of nothing. Except I believe any work of fiction, even a poorly written one like this, is art. Art is a reflection of the society from which it’s produced. I think this film is indicative of what our art in general says about our society’s attitude toward violence against women. We’re fine with him dragging her off against her will because she was being a total bitch. You can tell we’re all fine with it because not one dog or person in the movie, other than the one being dragged away, protested.
No one in the story sees this as a problem. Most people watching the movie won’t see it as a problem, either. Not surprising, as the majority of American society refuses to see that we live in a culture that condones, even encourages, rape and other forms of sexual assault. The first step to solving a problem is admitting that you have one. To do that, “Our politicians should be making bold feminist statements about sexual assault, but our pop culture icons need to be talking about it too.” (Valenti, 2012) I get why we don’t listen to politicians. But, for some reason, our society listens more to pop singers and actors than to researchers, advocates, or victims of sexual assault.
Maybe it’s because listening to people who actually know about sexual assault would mean accepting that perpetrators are not usually the sociopathic boogeymen we like to think they are. It would mean accepting that they are neighbors, possibly friends, definitely regular people you can’t identify by looking at. And it would mean ceasing to excuse their behavior by blaming the victim for wearing skimpy clothes or being drunk or not screaming loud enough. It would mean placing the blame where it belongs: on the person perpetrating the sexual assault.
And that would be socially just.
Attwood, T. (2008). The complete guide to asperger’s syndrome. (p. 118). London, England: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Rape Culture. (n.d.). In Marshall University. Retrieved March 18, 2014, from http://www.marshall.edu/wcenter/sexual-assault/rape-culture/
Giovanni Francesco Susini (Italian, 1585 – 1653)
The Abduction of Helen by Paris, 1627, Bronze on an eighteenth century gilt bronze base
Object (including base): H: 67.9 x W: 34.3 x D: 33.7 cm (H: 26 3/4 x W: 13 1/2 x D: 13 1/4 in.) Object (excluding base): H: 49.5 x W: 34.3 x D: 33.7 cm (H: 19 1/2 x W: 13 1/2 x D: 13 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Valenti, J. (October 23, 2012). Ending Rape Illiteracy. The Nation. Retrieved March 19, 2014 from http://www.thenation.com/blog/170767/ending-rape-illiteracy#