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Walking Around in Someone Else’s Skin: The Classic Film, To Kill A Mockingbird

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Usually considered to have originated with Horace Walpole’s novel The Castle of Otranto (1764), which was subtitled “A Gothic Story,” Gothic fiction is literature that attempts to combine elements of romance, mystery, and horror — without becoming either too fantastic or too realistic. Initially featuring decaying castles, curses, ghosts or other supernatural creatures and events, madness, murder, and “oft-fainting heroines,” Gothic fiction was hugely popular entertainment.

About a generation after Walpole, Ann Radcliffe introduced the brooding Gothic villain in her novel A Sicilian Romance: a tempestuous, moody, sometimes secretive, and extremely passionate male who usually encounters a heroine that completely upsets his life. Later this type of “villain” would be called the Romantic era’s “Byronic hero.” Radcliffe also introduced more independent heroines to Gothic fiction with her bestselling The Mysteries of Udolpho. Though Radcliffe’s heroines are still pretty helpless and faint far more than anyone I’ve ever encountered, they inspired “gothic feminism” which critics claim the author herself expressed as “female power through pretended and staged weakness.” Further, Radcliffe changed the infant genre of Gothic fiction by introducing the “explained supernatural,” where all the apparently supernatural events, from ghosts and moving furniture to strange knocks and cries in the dark, turn out, eventually, to have perfectly reasonable, natural explanations.

Gothic fiction and its various, evolving components spread into the literature of the Romantic era, appearing in the poetry of Keats, Shelley, Coleridge, Byron, and Poe. In the Victorian era, Gothic elements were more prominent in fiction, and are found in the work Charles Dickens (A Christmas Carol), Bram Stoker (Dracula), Robert Louis Stevenson (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), Oscar Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Gray), Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), Emily Brontë (Wuthering Heights), and Charlotte Brontë (Jane Eyre).

Many of these Victorian authors added strong moral elements to their Gothic fiction, producing novels that questioned everything from man’s relationship with newly developing technologies and medical advances to man’s responsibility for feeding and educating the poor. Gothic literature became more than entertainment to pass the long hours of a dark and rainy night: it explored the meaning of life, morality, social responsibility, and man’s relationship to the Divine.

As Gothic fiction spread to authors in America, especially in the South, it became a sub-genre called Southern Gothic. Authors like Faulkner, Caldwell, McCullers, O’Connor, Capote, and Percy examined family relationships, sexuality, poverty, race, and the Southern myths of an idyllic antebellum past. Southern Gothic is filled with

deeply flawed, disturbing, or eccentric characters… ambivalent gender roles, decayed or derelict settings, grotesque situations, and other sinister events relating to or stemming from poverty, alienation, crime, or violence.

With its particular focus on the South’s history of slavery, Southern Gothic became a vehicle for fierce social critique.

Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic of both American fiction and Southern Gothic. A coming-of-age story set in the fictional “tired old town” of Maycomb, Alabama from 1933-1936, during the Great Depression, the novel examines everything from family relationships and mental health to societal responsibilities, poverty, violence, and crime. The 1962 film version, adapted from the novel by Horton Foote, eliminated some of the novel’s childhood adventures to concentrate on the aspects of its storyline that make To Kill a Mockingbird so important to American literature and film: the ugly and intractable racism between whites and blacks, a bigotry and intolerance that still exists over most of the country.

Mary Badham as Scout (forefront) with author Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird ©

The film’s (unseen) narrator looks back on her six-year-old self and on the events that changed her from an innocent to a more mature child. In 1933, Scout (Mary Badham) and her brother Jem (Phillip Alford) live in Maycomb, Alabama with their widowed father Atticus (Gregory Peck).

Mary Badham as Scout, Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, and Phillip Alford as Jem, To Kill A Mockingbird ©

Together with a visiting neighbor, Dill (John Megna, modeled after Harper Lee’s lifelong friend Truman Capote, who spent summers next door to the Lees with his aunts), Scout and Jem roam around the neighborhood and create their own adventures.

John Megna as Dill, To Kill A Mockingbird ©

One of their most exciting “games” is scaring each other with stories about the never-seen Boo Radley (Robert Duvall, in his film debut),

Robert Duvall as Boo Radley, To Kill A Mockingbird ©

who lives just a few doors down and who is rumored to be a crazed, scissors-wielding psychopath, once locked up in the courthouse basement jail.

Paul Fix as Judge Taylor, To Kill A Mockingbird ©

Late one night, Judge Taylor (Paul Fix) comes over to request that Atticus serve as the appointed defense counsel for Tom Robinson (Brock Peters),

Gregory Peck as Atticus, and Brock Peters as Tom Robinson, To Kill A Mockingbird ©

a black man who has been accused of brutally beating and raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell (Collin Wilcox).

Collin Wilcox as Mayella Ewell (foreground), and Paul Fix as Judge Taylor (background), To Kill A Mockingbird ©

Atticus agrees, but despite his attempts to shield his children from the consequences of his decision to represent a black man in a racially charged crime, Scout and Jem soon become involved in the racial “war” brewing around them.

Collin Wilcox as Mayella, and James Anderson as Bob Ewell (both, foreground), To Kill A Mockingbird ©

In particular, the father of the ostensible rape victim, Bob Ewell (James Anderson) tries several times to intimidate Atticus into quitting the case. When that doesn’t work, Ewell threatens violence against Atticus and his children.

Phillip Alford as Jem, and Mary Badham as Scout, To Kill A Mockingbird ©

Though the children continue to find “gifts” in the hollow of a nearby tree, these gifts and their former adventures pale in significance to the events surrounding the crime concerning Tom Robinson and Mayella Ewell.

Gregory Peck as Atticus, To Kill A Mockingbird ©

By the time the trial starts, most of the town is divided and angry. Though Atticus warns his children to stay away from the courthouse completely, Jem refuses to be barred from the biggest event in the county, and Scout refuses to be left behind at home if Jem and Dill are going to the courthouse.

Phillip Alford as Jem, Mary Badham as Scout, and John Megna as Dill (L-R, foreground), with William Walker as Reverend Sykes (background, wearing suit and tie) To Kill A Mockingbird ©

Without Atticus’ knowledge or permission, Scout, Jem, and Dill sit in the gallery, in the “Negro section” of the court, and watch the entire trial.

William Windom as District Attorney (L), James Anderson as Bob Ewell (center), and Paul Fix as Judge Taylor (background R), To Kill A Mockingbird ©

Judge Taylor presides as the District Attorney (William Windom, in his film debut) badgers witnesses and makes his opinions about Tom Robinson’s guilt clear. Despite the fact that viewers can have no doubt whatsoever about the jury’s eventual verdict, the courtroom scenes are intensely riveting, especially when Atticus cross-examines Mayella herself.

Gregory Peck as Atticus, To Kill A Mockingbird ©

Though the verdict is not in question, Mayella’s father, angry at the Atticus’ not-so-subtle accusations of incest and child abuse, provokes Atticus repeatedly in an attempt to draw him into a physical confrontation. Then, he decides to provoke Atticus by going after his children.

Nominated for 8 Academy Awards, To Kill a Mockingbird won three Oscars:
Best Actor for Gregory Peck, Best Adapted Screenplay for Horton Foote, and Best Art Direction (set design, Black-and-White).

The film also won Golden Globes for Best Actor in a Drama (Gregory Peck), Best Original Score (Elmer Bernstein), and Best Film for Promoting International Understanding (to director Robert Mulligan).

When released, To Kill a Mockingbird was an overwhelming critical and popular success, earning more than 10 times its budget in 1962. To Kill a Mockingbird has gone on to become a classic, with the film listed 25th on the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time (2007 list) [#34 on the 1998 list], and taking the top spot in AFI’s Top 10 Courtroom Dramas. Gregory Peck’s character Atticus Finch reigns as AFI’s 100 Greatest Heroes.

Everyone should see this film, though children under 12 may need to be cautioned about the subject matter and the language as this film deals openly with rape, clearly suggests incest, and uses language appropriate to the time and place of its story.

Be sure to watch the black-and-white version of To Kill a Mockingbird, not the colorized one: those who colorized it obviously completely missed the symbolism behind the story’s being filmed in black-and-white instead of in color. Available for rent ($2.99-3.99 SD/HD) from Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, GooglePlay, and Vudu.

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Filed under Actors, Books, Classic Films, Classics, Coming of Age Stories, Crime Drama, Drama, Film Videos, Films, Films/Movies, Historical Drama, Movies/Films, No Spoilers Review, Official Film Trailers, Official Movie Trailers, Official Trailers, Rape, Review, Review/No Spoilers, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Violence, Violence

Dead, Dead, BOOM: Taboo’s Disappointing Finale

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Serious Spoilers

Tom Hardy as James Delaney © FX

I’ve read that we should view the gritty FX series Taboo as a chess game, with all the pieces in place from the beginning of the show, and I guess that metaphor would work if you love chess (I do) and if you also did not know from the start of the “game” that Tom Hardy’s James Delaney was predestined to win (and that he would break most of the chess pieces just because he could, so there…).

Two of the bumblers from the East India Company © FX

I know that the East India Company has been portrayed with extreme historical inaccuracy and prejudice, and not just because every single person who worked for the villainous Sir Stuart Strange, especially the bunglers Wilton and Pettifer, was unbelievably stupid and incompetent, nor because everyone in the East India was so irredeemably wicked that the audience cheered when one of them got killed (oy, talk about bad writing and one-dimensional characters, even if it was slightly emotionally satisfying to see the bad guys eventually get knocked off).

The Prince Regent © FX

I knew James was going to somehow “escape” or negotiate his way out of the Tower of London, if only because the Prince Regent has been portrayed as one of the most disgustingly grotesque and inept characters in television history, and because his man Coop, for all his political power and threatening demeanor, has proven himself an incredible amateur, even with an experienced torturer-executioner doing his nefarious bidding, and with the prisoner James arrested for treason and confined in a prison as historically escape-proof as France’s Bastille.

Atticus and James © FX

If you’re a man on Taboo, i.e., if you’re a man who has also been helping James throughout the season, I know that you’ve already won a coveted spot on James’ new boat, commandeered by the East India expressly for James in exchange for the coveted Nootka Island & Sound, and that you’re going to acquit yourself admirably in the finale’s big and explosive Shoot-Out At the Docks.

I knew, after the opening scene of the finale, that if you’re a woman on Taboo, you’re meat for the grinder, or food for fishes, as they say, no matter how much James Keziah Delaney claims to love you and no matter what he does to rescue you from someone else’s clutches.

James, having a vision, © FX

I knew that James Keziah Delaney was going to be on that boat (no matter how he ultimately got one) headed for America at the end of the Taboo season finale no matter what happened to him in the series — assassination attempts, duels, torture, waterboarding, seizures, hallucinations, visions, betrayal, etc. — because he was the star, I mean, the STAR of the show and not just because he was played by Oscar-winner Tom Hardy who is also one of the producers and whose father “Chips” helped write the series.

How do I know all these things?
Because they are some of the weaknesses in Taboo’s writing, present during the entire season, but magnified exponentially in the finale.

Despite its flaws and weaknesses, Taboo was intense and intriguing enough to make me look forward to it every week, albeit in the hopes of an emotionally satisfactory finale that might reveal some strong historical political commentary (e.g., on slavery, the slave trade, imperialism, colonialism), some startling moral commentary (e.g., on incest, madness, slavery, imperialism, colonial rebellion, war), or some impressive exploration of the metaphysical (i.e., James’ visions and his ability to “hear the dead sing”) and the relation of the spiritual, metaphysical world to the physical one (e.g., that James and Winter were actually both ghosts who were able to significantly impact the physical world around them).

Unfortunately, Taboo didn’t deliver in the areas that most interested me. Instead, the finale deteriorated into a predictable, although well done, Shoot-Out on the Docks, with James and a chosen few of his (mostly male) comrades finally heading off to Nootka on a ship that replaced the British Union Jack with the Stars and Stripes because everybody on board was somehow transformed miraculously into “Americans” with a Safe-Passage extorted (by James via “stepmother” Lorna) from the spymaster Countess Musgrove.

But before we get to the important questions that didn’t get answered in Taboo’s finale, which made both the finale and the entire series ultimately disappointing, let’s recap what happened to all the characters.

Representing King and Country

The Prince Regent © FX

The Prince Regent
(Mark Gatiss, in prosthetics and extreme padding)
Still eating (almost always with his fingers, it seems), last we saw of him.

Sir Solomon Coop © FX

Sir Solomon Coop
(Jason Watkins)
Penultimately seen cursing aloud to himself as he walked down the royal hallway into the presence of the Prince Regent to inform him that all their plans were bust.
Last seen just standing there while his Highness made pronouncements, between bites of food, about hanging the traitor James.

Chichester © FX

Sons of Africa Attorney Chichester
(Lucian Msamati)
Last seen standing alone in James’ bedroom attic, holding two now-useless testimonies against Sir Stuart Strange, whom he wanted to prosecute on behalf of the Crown for (illegal) slave-trading.

Representing the American Colonies

Dumbarton © FX

Dr. Dumbarton
(Michael Kelly)
Dead. Stabbed by James after he revealed that he knew Dumbarton was, in reality, a spy for the East India, which no one — and I mean, no one at all — saw any evidence of before the finale.

Countess Musgrove © FX

Spymaster Countess Musgrove
(Marina Hands)
Probably returned to playing cards and drinking with her society lady-friends after giving Lorna the Safe-Passage for James et al.

Representing Society’s
Downtrodden & Unfortunate

Winter © FX

Winter
(Ruby-May Martinwood)
Dead. Murdered by Pettifer of the East India after being one of the few truly likable characters in the show.

Madame Helga © FX

Helga
(Franka Potente)
Dead, killed in the Shoot-Out after being “rescued” from the East India.

Representing James’ Cohorts

Atticus © FX

Atticus
(Stephen Graham)
Last seen on the ship bound for Nootka after admirably acquitting himself in the “rescue” of Helga and companion, and in the Shoot-Out at the Docks.

Cholmondeley © FX

The womanizing but still charming chemist (& medical doctor) Cholmondeley
(Tom Hollander)
Dead, hoist by his own petard (i.e., killed by an explosion of his own gunpowder), during the Shoot-Out on the Docks, though he was carried onto the boat before he expired.

Representing the Oh-So-Wicked East India

Thoyt © FX

Family attorney Thoyt
(Nicholas Woodeson)
Last seen???

Wilton © FX

Wilton
(Leo Bill)
Dead. Shot in the head after delivering the East-India-commandeered boat to James and his men.

Pettifer (foreground) © FX

Pettifer
(Richard Dixon)
Dead. Killed by Atticus after allowing Helga and the other whore to be “rescued.”

Godfrey © FX

James’ childhood companion, the “Molly” Secretary Godfrey
(Edward Hogg)
Last seen huddling onboard (below-decks, I think) with James et al, headed to Nootka.

Sir Stuart © FX

Sir Stuart Strange
(Jonathan Pryce)
BOOM!
Dead and splattered as he sat behind his desk in the East India, cackling with glee as he opened what he presumed was the deed transferring Nootka from James to the East India (in exchange for the rescued whores and for the boat).

Representing James’ Family

James’ mother, in a vision © FX

Mother
Dead, though we don’t know when or how.

James’ father © FX

Father
(James Fox)
Dead. Poisoned with arsenic by servant Brace because… because Old Man Delaney was wearing makeup? because he wasn’t a Christian any longer? because he was wearing makeup and because he wasn’t a Christian anymore? Brace’s motive wasn’t made entirely clear.

Brace © FX

Loyal family servant Brace
(David Hayman)
Last seen alone, sobbing in the dark, abandoned in the family home with an aging doggie, presumably because he poisoned James’ father with arsenic, and despite his poignant pleading with James to be allowed to accompany him to Nootka.

Lorna © FX

Stepmother Lorna Bow
(Jessie Buckley)
Last seen Unconscious on the boat to Nootka, shot in the shoulder or upper arm after proving herself not only the sole developed female character of the series but a serious Bad-Ass besides since she could fire a gun with the best of the men in the Shoot-Out on the Docks. I assume her character lived.

Geary © FX

Brother-in-law Thorne Geary
(Jefferson Hall)
Dead. Killed with a hat-pin through the heart as he lay sleeping, by his spouse-raped wife Zilpha.

James’ & Zilpha’s son Robert © FX

Son, by incest with his sister Zilpha, Robert
(Louis Serkis)
Last seen on the boat to Nootka with James.

Zilpha © FX

Supposedly belovèd sister Zilpha
(Oona Chaplin)
Dead.
Suicide by jumping into River Thames in the finale after James cruelly abandoned her and cast her off himself in the penultimate episode.
Dead.
Or, as Vulture reviewer Sean T. Collins wrote, “tossed off a bridge by writers who couldn’t figure out anything more interesting to do with Oona Chaplin.”
Dead.
Killed by the writers in a ridiculously stupid move that takes all the “taboo” out of Taboo.

Taboo’s Big
Unanswered Questions

Alas and alack, some of my most important questions, which were raised by Taboo itself during its first seven episodes, never got answered, not even in the finale.

• Is James Keziah Delaney dead, resurrected, or was he just born with a really strange ability to hear the dead “sing” to him?
• What are all the dark things James did that are so much worse than what the East India obviously did?
• What, exactly, did the East India do to James that made Sir Stuart state that “this was all about revenge” and make Sir Solomon Coop ask, “My god, what did you do to him, Stuart?”
• Did Sir Stuart and the East India sell James into slavery? If so, did Sir Stuart, who owned the sunken ship on which James was the sole survivor, sell James into slavery because he refused to cooperate in the drowning of the slave “cargo” bound for Sir Stuart’s brother’s plantation in Antiqua?
• Was James a slave himself?
• What happened to James’ mother?
• What did James’ father regret so much that he stood on the banks of the river calling to James in Africa?
• Did James’ own father sell him into slavery for incest with his sister Zilpha?
• Does James really love his sister or does he just like having sexual relations with her?
• Did James cast Zilpha off for her own protection while he dealt with the murderous East India and the Crown’s Sir Coop-ster, or was James really that much of an SOB?
• Is that single tear the sole evidence we’re going to get of James’ grief over the death of his belovèd sister? I mean, come on, now, you writer-guys…
• Is James really and truly a ghost and is that why no one in Great Britain, emphasis on Great, can kill the boy?
• What in God’s name is so important about Nootka that everyone and his brother will commit the 7 Deadly Sins and break all the 10 Commandments in order to have that silly little island?

And why didn’t we get to see more of the gorgeously buff-to-the-max Tom Hardy as James Keziah Delaney in this kind of scene?

SERIOUS TRIGGER WARNING HERE
Do Not Say I Didn’t Warn You
Proceed At Your Own Risk
The Boy is Obviously Nude

And this one?

And this one…

(which, I admit, looks like it was clandestinely taken by a Taboo crew member or extra since it  doesn’t look like anything that FX could have shown here in America but which could have been in the original BBC production and then cut from the US show which really annoys me if that’s what happened because we’re all adults here and… I’m just saying…)

Zilpha & James © FX

Now that Zilpha is dead, and I can only assume that she is, indeed, dead since she “kissed” brother and love-of-her-life James “good-bye” in his vision of her body underwater, there’s no more “taboo” in Taboo and it doesn’t look like anyone much cares if there’s going to be a second season any ol’ way.

Taboo’s finale, though action-packed during the second half of the hour, neglected to answer any of the most intriguing moral questions it posed during the season.

Because the writers also killed off the woman who was half of the “taboo” relationship, the finale was ultimately unsatisfying and disappointing.

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Filed under Actors, Historical Drama, MiniSeries/Limited MiniSeries, Taboo, Television

Rape is Rape, No Matter the Victim’s Age or Gender

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Trigger Warning:
Rape & Sexual Abuse

In May 2014, the White House released an all-celebrity-male narrated Public Service Announcement (PSA) entitled “1 is 2 Many” about sexual assault on college campuses. Having watched the PSA, I have quite a few problems with its script, including its emphasis on, “If she doesn’t consent, or if she can’t consent,” and the male narrators, including VP Joe Biden, saying things like, “If I saw it happening, I was taught to do something about it,” or “If I saw it happening, I would speak up.”

There are also comments about not blaming the victim. Here is the White House’s PSA on sexual assault and rape, 1 is 2 Many, followed by several reasons why it is completely ineffective and will have no impact whatsoever on sexual assaults and rapes — on women, young girls, and men — anywhere in this country.

The accompanying statement on the White House’s page for the 1 is 2 Many PSA directly contradicts or avoids mention of several of the things implied in its own PSA.

Despite the significant progress made in reducing violence against women, there is still a long way to go. Young women still face the highest rates of dating violence and sexual assault. In the last year, one in 10 teens have reported being physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend. One in five young women have been sexually assaulted while they’re in college. While men compromise a smaller number of survivors, male survivors are no less important.

• There are serious problems with the semantics in this White House “statement,” including the “fact” that “men comprise a smaller number of survivors” — which may mean that fewer men die from the assaults and rapes or that fewer men report said rapes — and the “male survivors are no less important.” No and less are both negative words, so stating that male victims are no less important is, in fact, implying that they are not as important or that they are less important. The statement should have read male victims of sexual assault and rape are just as important as females, or, at the very least, that male victims of sexual assault and rape are equally important.

• The PSA itself never mentions males being assaulted. Both heterosexual and homosexual males can be, and often are, assaulted and raped on college campuses, sometimes because of their sexual orientation, sometimes because the campus has a “Males Can Not be Raped or Sexually Assaulted” mentality, as was true in the case of both Universities where I spent the majority of my career as a Professor (for details, see When is Rape NOT Rape?).

Again, I quote from the White House website:

In response to these alarming statistics, Vice President Biden is focusing his longstanding commitment to reducing violence against women specifically on teens, students, and young women ages 16-24. The Vice President pushed for the inclusion of vulnerable groups in the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, and he remains committed to supporting all survivors.

• Neither the first nor the second paragraph — and no place in the actual PSA — are any statistics of sexual assault and rape provided. “Despite the significant progress made in reducing violence against women,” we are told, without any numbers or percentages to indicate that any progress whatsoever is being made. Furthermore, neither the statement nor the PSA distinguishes between “violence against women” and reported assaults and rapes, when RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network) evidence shows that only an average of 40% of rapes that occurred were reported during the last five years, and of those, only 3% were prosecuted successfully. Furthermore, even when they are reported, they are not always prosecuted or even counted in the statistics, as my own personal experience and my tenure as a Professor indicates. Additionally, the “alarming statistics,” which we have just been told have been significantly reduced, in the first paragraph, and which are causing VP Joe Biden to act, are not stated.

• What about girls and boys under the age of sixteen or over the age of twenty-four? Are they less important or valuable than those between the ages stated? I was first raped at the age of three, by my own father, who raped me for two years. Then I was raped consistently from the age of five to eighteen by my stepfather, as were all my siblings, all younger than I, and some of whom included my stepfather’s own biological children. My mother raped me, with implements, when I was 11 years old, right after I began menstruating, damaging me so severely that I was unable to have children. Yet this 1 is 2 Many never mentions children who are sexually abused. Why are children of all ages and both genders not included in this “Violence Against Women Act”? Why is this not a campaign against RAPE, period, rather than a campaign against violence against women aged 16-24?

The White House statement accompanying its PSA continues:

Vice President Biden also joined President Obama when he created the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, co-chaired by the Office of the Vice President and the Council of Women and Girls. The Task Force is releasing a new initiative, Not Alone, which provides resources to students, advocates, and universities. By targeting the importance of changing attitudes that lead to violence and educating the public on the realities of abuse, the Vice President is leading the way in an effort to stop this violence before it begins.

• We are not told how Students are to be Protected from sexual assault and rape, only that a “Task Force” has been created (which means absolutely nothing since Task Forces traditionally offer only recommendations, and are not endowed with any legislative powers to create or enforce laws). Therefore, this Task Force, whether led by VP Biden for his remaining 2 years in office or not, will have no power to prevent sexual assaults or rapes anywhere.

•  There are also several problems with this White House-promoted all-male-narrated PSA, the first of which is the fact that it is narrated by older, celebrity males who, no doubt, would never even consider committing sexual assault, and not by college-aged males or other men who might be the ones assaulting and raping other college students. It is also not narrated by victims — of any age or gender — of sexual assault and rape, whether or not said victims reported those assaults and rapes to authorities.

• Despite the White House’s page for the release of this PSA, which relates statistics regarding the sexual assaults for girls younger than college age — “1 in 9 teen girls will be forced to have sex” — this fact is never mentioned in the PSA. This is a terribly glaring omission. I was “safe” from sexual assault and rape when I attended college, whereas I had been continuously raped for fifteen years in my own home by my father, stepfather, and even my mother (with instruments). Rape, no doubt, occurs as often, if not more often, but gets reported less, when it is part of incest, is committed by a family member, or takes place in the home by someone known to the victim. The RAINN statistics are chilling.

• Why the change in language, from “sexual assault” and “rape” to “forced to have sex”? The White House, among others, may think that semantics are not important in this instance (which I seriously doubt), but semantics are always vitally important since semantics influences people’s emotions, then their perception of the situation, often without their being consciously aware of such influences. “Forcing someone to have sex” is not as violent as “sexual assault” which is not as violent as “rape.” Why the change in wording? To make rape more palatable? Rape should never be acceptable, and the semantics should not be changed to make it more comfortable for people to talk about or to prevent. Whoever wrote this page for the White House’s 1 is 2 Many PSA knew exactly what he was doing when he specifically and intentionally chose these words to describe rape. Just as the Universities where I taught chose to exclude “Date Rape” and even “Acquaintance Rape” from their statistics when they became legally obligated to report “rape statistics” to the state, the White House is using semantics to soften, if not actually eliminate, the extreme violence of rape in its stated campaign against it.

• The WH’s PSA male-narrators consistently state that “if they saw it happening,” they would “do something about it” or “say something,” or that they “wouldn’t blame her; [they] would help her.” What about someone’s — anyone’s — doing something to prevent the sexual assaults and rapes in the first place? The PSA directly contradicts the White House’s statement that “the Vice President is leading the way in an effort to stop this violence before it begins,” by stating that if these male narrators “saw something happening.” Seeing something happening and then saying or doing something is not action, it is reaction. In any and all cases, acting while or after seeing an assault or rape taking place is not prevention.

My final problem with the White House’s page and its PSA is its title 1 is 2 Many. Because One is not TWO many: One is TOO many. Writing such an important statement as if it were cutesy, harmless text trivializes the entire atrociously violent crime of rape.

Shame on the White House, shame on its widely touted but completely misleading and ineffective PSA, shame on Biden and Obama for their ineffective contributions to preventing rape against every victim, no matter the age or gender.

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(guest post on RachelintheOC)

Head-Bangers’ Ball:
Escaping Abuse the Hard Way

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Filed under #CSA, Childhood Sexual Abuse, Memoir, Preventing Childhood Sexual Abuse, Rape, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Violence, Violence