While Johansson’s first Marvel appearance in Iron Man 2 may have relied somewhat upon sex appeal, this was quickly nixed in favor of characterizing her as the most cerebral Avenger. Her most important scenes in The Avengers relied upon her intelligence and skills as a spy, to the extent that she even managed to outwit Loki, the God of Lies. At the end of the movie, she’s the one who closes the portal that let all the aliens into New York. Then in Winter Soldier she’s given second billing to Captain America, a meaty role that showcases a wide-ranging skillset that stretches far beyond just “kicking ass.” At no point during any of these movies does she seduce anyone, by the way.
Sadly, there’s very little sign of this character in the most easily accessible reviews of both The Avengers and Winter Soldier. Judging by the Guardian, WSJ, or New Yorker, Black Widow is more like a blow-up doll with a black belt. By their logic, if she’s wearing a tight outfit, then she must be a sexy ass-kicker, meaning that she must be the token female character, and therefore is little more than eye candy.
With that thought process in mind, it must make perfect sense to relegate Black Widow to a single sniggering comment about her catsuit, because obviously Scarlett Johansson is just there for decoration. And if you’ve read in the New York Times that Black Widow is a token female character, then chances are you’ll have internalized that opinion before you even buy a ticket. The feedback loop of misogynist preconceptions continues on, and in the end, we all lose out.
“A 2007 Rhode Island study looked at 30 men and 30 women who had just had coronary-artery bypass surgery and tracked the medications they were given. The researchers were astonished to find that men got pain medications, while women got sedatives. With chronic pain problems, women’s symptoms are often minimized.”—
“Have you ever heard the phrase cockblocking? You know, you’re at a bar, talking to a girl, and what happens? Her less attractive friend comes over and ruins everything. Cockblock. Well I have to tell you something guys: I have been the less attractive friend, and you were NOT cockblocked. I was following orders from my better-looking friend that she did not wanna fuck you. …Girls have two signals for their friends: ‘I’m gonna fuck him’ and ‘HELP.’”—
The number of “get me out of here” tactics women have developed and shared to help each other escape from overly-insistent-to-borderline-predatory dudes in public places should probably be enough evidence of the existence of rape culture all on its own.
I especially like how, in the majority of cases, you don’t have to verbally communicate what your signals are to other women. I’ve had women I didn’t even know come save me. Literally every woman recognizes the “Dear god, help me” facial expression, and knows exactly what they should do. We don’t get a handbook for this. We don’t have a sit-down nail polish party where we talk about a standardized woman code for preventing creepers. It’s just part of being a woman.
Yup. I’ve definitely taken strangers by the arm and pulled her aside to go, “Oh my GOD it’s you! How ARE YOU?!? It’s been so long!” and then been like “hey I could overhear that guy who wouldn’t leave you alone so I figured I’d give you an out” and then see their VISIBLY RELIEVED expressions. This is part of girl code, because rape culture is that pervasive.
I once had a girl sit on my lap and say “hey baby” after she witnessed a guy (who was easily 20+ years older than me) hitting on me and harassing me for my number even after I told him I was taken. After he got up and left she asked if I was okay. I couldn’t thank her enough times, I even bought her a drink.
We have done this. In fact, we are this. Because we are asexual and we don’t like alcohol so we never drink, we have gone with friends to parties/places where our sole job was to keep an eye out for everyone and be the permanent ‘aggressive man-sheild.’ Not one of our female friends has ever questioned this or found it all strange. In fact, often once they realized we were willing to do it, it would be pre-arranged. Every guy friend we ever did this in front of or tried to explain to looked flabbergasted. They had no idea that this was a) an intentional thing, b) a planned ahead thing, or c) universal.
Rape culture is the fact that every woman understands this. Male privilege is the fact that no guy on earth seems to know or understand.
I’ve been asked to pretend to be my friend’s girlfriend every time we go out at night, just because she wears clothes that show off her curves and guys won’t leave her alone. They only back off when I put my arm around her and act as if we’re together romantically, and sometimes not even then.
It happens online too. A guy I know started Facebook-stalking me after a recent interaction, and my roommate immediately got on Facebook and told him she was my girlfriend. He thankfully backed off after that.
I can’t count the number of times I have pretended to be somebody’s girlfriend or sister in a bar when a guy wouldn’t leave her alone. Both with friends and strangers.
After reading these, I feel like taking a shower. Because I’m the designated driver pretty much every time, not being a big fan of alcohol, but I rarely, if ever, intervene. And yeah, I’m small and pretty physically weak, but I could put my foot down verbally if it came down to it. I’m just too scared.
You’re probably scared of confronting the guys. And you should be. That’s what this whole post is about. Rape culture is so prevalent and socially accepted as the rule of the land that if someone confronts a guy and tells him directly to back off, someone is getting hurt. That’s why all of the testimonies here are examples of how to deflect. How women all learn methods of pulling a woman away from a situation with a guy who isn’t allowing her to say no, by making up some lie that will get the guy to let her go without sending him into a rage and deciding to teach you both a lesson about knowing your place and submitting to rape culture. Men are dangerous in these situations because all of society backs them up as just a nice guy who deserves a chance, and vilifies any woman who refuses to give him a chance. Women are not allowed to say no. So other women have to rescue the women saying no and pull them away with some made up excuse. Otherwise the situation will escalate and the ones who get hurt are always the women.
Women absolutely have to learn rescue tactics for each other, but it’s kind of funny how we describe really obvious facial expressions and body language as “secret signals.” The reality is that women telegraph disinterest in these aggressive men, making it super obvious, but men choose to ignore it. Total strangers who are just sitting nearby or happen to glance their way will be able to see that the woman isn’t interested, but the guy making the advances is somehow oblivious? Unlikely.
And perceived physical power of the woman doesn’t matter either, I have had to do this for other rollergirls. Even after bouts where they are bruised, sweaty, and partying with a bunch of other built women in the same jersey.
It’s actually terrifying how prevalent this is. Most recently I had to physically wedge myself on a crowded Tube train between a woman trying desperately to read her book in peace and a dude who just would not leave her alone. It was to the point that other passengers were rolling their eyes at this creeper but otherwise doing nothing. Won’t ever forget the look of ‘THANK YOU’ on her face.
Today, I read an article about a woman with HIV who was raped. The man that attacked her is now HIV positive. All of the commentary surround this was about how she should have told him she was HIV+ and that women with HIV should have a badge or special underwear so that this doesn’t happen to another man. It is 12:12am and I am already done with the world.
That is rape culture
THIS POST WINS FOR THE MOST HORRIFYING THING I’VE READ ALL DAY
A boy sprawled next to me on the bus, elbows out, knee pointing sharp into my thigh.
He frowned at me when I uncrossed my legs, unfolded my hands
and splayed out like boys are taught to: all big, loose limbs.
I made sure to jab him in the side with my pretty little sharp purse.
At first he opened his mouth like I expected him to, but instead of speaking up he sat there, quiet, and took it for the whole bus ride.
Like a girl.
Once, a boy said my anger was cute, and he laughed,
and I remember thinking that I should sit there and take it,
because it isn’t ladylike to cause a scene and girls aren’t supposed to raise their voices.
But then he laughed again and all I saw
was my pretty little sharp nails digging into his cheek
before drawing back and making a horribly unladylike fist.
(my teacher informed me later that there is no ladylike way of making a fist.)
When we were both in the principal’s office twenty minutes later
him with a bloody mouth and cheek, me with skinned knuckles,
I tried to explain in words that I didn’t have yet
that I was tired of having my emotions not taken seriously
just because I’m a girl.
Girls are taught: be small, so boys can be big.
Don’t take up any more space than absolutely necessary.
Be small and smooth with soft edges
and hold in the howling when they touch you and it hurts:
the sandpaper scrape of their body hair that we would be shamed for having,
the greedy hands that press too hard and too often take without asking permission.
Girls are taught: be quiet and unimposing and oh so small
when they heckle you with their big voices from the window of a car,
because it’s rude to scream curse words back at them, and they’d just laugh anyway.
We’re taught to pin on smiles for the boys who jeer at us on the street
who see us as convenient bodies instead of people.
Girls are taught: hush, be hairless and small and soft,
so we sit there and take it and hold in the howling,
pretend to be obedient lapdogs instead of the wolves we are.
We pin pretty little sharp smiles on our faces instead of opening our mouths,
because if we do we get accused of silly women emotions
blowing everything out of proportion with our PMS, we get
condescending pet names and not-so-discreet eyerolls.
Once, I got told I punched like a girl.
I told him, Good. I hope my pretty little sharp rings leave scars.
”—'My Perfume Doubles As Mace,' theappleppielifestyle. (via albinwonderland)
Can something in the horror genre be called life-affirming?
That’s the strange question I wrestle with as I watch Hannibal each week and come away with a new-found appreciation for the preciousness of fleeting human existence.
It’s not that I quarrel with the designation of the show as horror. The images of the slain, while aesthetically brilliant, are certainly disturbing enough to warrant the word, and the surrealism of Will Graham’s inner journey is horrifying in another way.
At the same time, there’s something at the core of what Hannibal is as a series that doesn’t belong in the same neighborhood as slashers like House of Wax or torture porn like the Saw franchise.
It really hit me this past week, when episode 5, “Mukozuke,” revealed the slain body of Beverly Katz. Beverly was a forensics expert whose scientific knowledge outpaced her human understanding, ultimately leading to her demise. Though her death was not shown on screen the previous week, the revelation of her body was no surprise. Vivisected into smaller and smaller segments, Beverley looked like a once-living museum exhibit, posed almost as if she might somehow come back together and breathe again.
It was, without a doubt, horrifying. It was also strangely respectful. I’ve tried to understand why I found the image so moving, and I think it’s because of how personal it was, how respectful to who Beverly was and what her life accomplished.
Respectful? Yes, in an odd way. Regular viewers of the series know that Hannibal Lecter will kill anyone, but his manner of dispatching them reflects his admiration or lack thereof of who they chose to be in life. Even the people he likes the very least, however, he accords the respect of using in some way. (Yes, he’s a cannibal, but there’s more to it than that.)
Am I saying Hannibal Lecter is an admirable character? No, and the show wouldn’t have us think so. He’s not even likable. Fascinating, yes, but certainly not someone who engenders, like many beloved characters, the passionate wish that he might actually be real. He makes us quite glad he isn’t—and perhaps a bit more wary of the potential Hannibal Lecter lurking in each one of us.
And yet, there’s one thing Hannibal—and Hannibal as a show—do, that I find lacking in most television, especially among the trendy shows that people are always telling me I need to watch: They calculate the cost of life.
A disturbing number of shows today of all genres are basically nihilistic. People live. People die, whether naturally or through nefarious means, but none of it much matters. Sadistic serial killersbuild up body counts. Empty comedieslaugh their way through chilling cynicism. Other serious shows, while very well written, leave us strangely unfulfilled. We get the feeling that they’re trying to say something big, but in the end, they stand as temples of meaninglessness, because it’s impossible to pull substance out of the absence of a worldview.
Hannibal is different, and it’s taken me nearly a year to articulate why.
It’s not just an aesthetic difference. Countless, well-deserved tribute articles bear witness to the sheer beauty of the world Bryan Fuller has created. It’s stylized; it’s enchanting; it exists as its own character within the framework of the story. But it’s not enough to make the show what it is.
It’s also not only the writing, though that is certainly intelligent, thought-provoking, and often poetic. Lots of shows are that, though, and they still don’t have what Hannibal brings.
The truth of what sets Hannibal apart begins with understanding who Hannibal is and what lies at the heart of what makes him an antagonist. Most shows that portray serial killing love to show deranged maniacs, Joker-esque characters who have no regard for human life. These people, like the character Eddie Izzard plays on Hannibal, put Lecter in sharp relief, etching out what it is that makes him different.
Hannibal isn’t evil because he devalues human life. He’s evil because he understands exactly how precious it is and chooses to take it anyway. He’s been likened to Lucifer. He’s a character who believes himself to be so far above everyone else that he has a godlike right to decide who continues to enjoy the priceless gift of existence and who doesn’t. When he’s not killing, his every action points to the meaningfulness of moments and the crime of wasting even a single one. When he kills, he does so with awareness that the act bears incredible weight. His flaw isn’t in throwing people away. It’s in believing that he has the authority to be their god.
If Lecter is the dark articulation of this worldview, Will Graham is the light. Cursed with a gift of empathy, he can’t solve murders without reliving them—as the murderer. This means that the viewer is never treated to violence as an impersonal or unimportant act. When Will, in the mind of each killer, goes through the motions of murder, as if his own hands were the tools, we are forced to remember that both victim and perpetrator are people—real people with lives and stories and souls. Life is never snuffed out casually. The moment of each death is a moment of profound loss, and the show invites us to enter into the grief we ought to feel at the thought of anyone’s life being taken by another.
And so, while we are given hints of what Hannibal does to Beverly Katz, it is Will we see actually killing her, as he empathizes with Lecter to understand the murder. Dark and light merge, because we know we’re seeing Will but experiencing Hannibal. What we feel in the end, though, is where the two characters’ worldviews converge.
Life is unimaginably precious, says Hannibal, as he chooses to kill Beverley in an intensely personal way and then display her in a way that pays tribute to her genius. Life is unimaginably precious, says Will, as he painfully relives Beverley’s death and vows to stop the one responsible.
The viewer is angry, not because Hannibal devalued Beverley Katz, but because he valued himself so highly that he considered a priceless woman’s murder his right. And we side with Will, not because he’s perfect, but because the raw nerve endings of his empathy are constant reminders that pain matters, that every person’s life has meaning, and that murder is the greatest violation of all.
Hannibal is a show that horrifies by making us question our complacency about the march toward nihilism in the world around us, and through its portrayal of both evil and good, invites us to rediscover the true preciousness of the existence we’ve been given.
Yes, Hannibal is intensely disturbing, but for the viewer who dares to take the journey, it is also deeply and profoundly affirming.
imagine a video game where you create a hero whose destiny is to save everyone, but throughout the game you start making harder and more questionable decisions, and the game gets darker and darker. and in the end you’re just standing there, clutching the controller and finally realizing you were playing the villain all along