In the wake of controversy surrounding comments from Last Tango In Paris director Bernardo Bertolucci—and the renewed criticism they’ve focused on the film’s depiction and use of sexual assault as a narrative device—a number of prominent TV writers and producers have spoken out against the mishandled use of rape as a plot point in popular media. Talking to Variety, The Exorcist creator Jeremy Slater called the practice of using sexual assault for shock value “a plague on the industry,” and noted that, when lining up writers for his new show, he came to an unpleasant discovery after looking over the more than 200 script submissions he received: “I would say out of those 200 scripts, there were probably 30 or 40 of them that opened with a rape or had a pretty savage rape at some point.”
Other creators, including Rectify’s Ray McKinnon, Jessica Jones’ Melissa Rosenberg, and American Gods producers Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, mimicked those sentiments. McKinnon called violence against women “a kind of pornography,” while Rosenberg—whose Marvel series has been widely praised for the way it dealt with the aftermath of sexual assault—said, “We were not going to do that thing where it’s about how the hero’s wife and child were killed and how his wife was raped—and it’s all about how he has to get revenge because that was ‘his woman.’” Indeed, many critics have drawn a line between media where women are raped in order to motivate male characters, and those that treat the assault as being important, first and foremost, to the women it’s happening to.
Most notably, Variety cited HBO’s blockbuster Game Of Thrones—long criticized for its willingness to deploy rape as a method of shock—for filming a major scene of sexual violence against main character Sansa Stark by showing its effects on a male bystander being forced to watch. Quoting a veteran female writer who asked not to be named, Variety wrote, “A guy actually came back at me and said ‘Fine, would you rather have seen [it from Sansa’s point of view]’?” And I said yes, actually. If you’re going to do it, show it, and show it from the P.O.V. from the woman, and don’t use it as a way to motivate a male character.”
You can read the entire write-up—including comments from Fuller, ABC president Channing Dungey, and FX’s John Landgraf, who slammed the practice, first and foremost, as “lazy”—right here.