I’ve grown quite weary of the spunky heroines, brave rape victims, soul-searching fashionistas that stock so many books.
She’s not picking a fight with survivors. Her “issue” is with the tropes writers use to render their female characters likable, or “strong” in capital-A Acceptable ways. And I think we’re all familiar with writers—often male, never survivors—raping their female characters to make them Interesting, to make them Good, to make them Survivors. It’s the Joss Whedon thing, the Lev Grossman thing, the Game of Thrones (HBO) thing: there’s no faster way for a male writer to tell his audience that a woman is strong but not too strong, strong enough to emotionally weather Terrible Things but not too strong to fight them off. It makes them brave, but in a sexy, victimized, nonthreatening way. They’re touchable because they’ve been touched but it’s not like they’re sluts, not like they liked it. They’re strong, these female characters, strong like the men have been told to write, strong enough to claim sympathy—and indeed they’re inherently sympathetic (and their rapists inherently, easily monstrous), telegraph-sympathetic, moral-absolute sympathetic—but their strength isn’t too much for your average audience member (usually male audience member) to take. They’re not too strong to, say, spoil rape fantasies.
It’s lazy. It’s cheap. It’s hideous. It has nothing whatsoever to do with telling rape survivors’ actual stories. It’s weak writing. And it’s endemic.
To stick within the examples I’ve named: Joss Whedon raped Buffy, violated the bodies of multiple female characters, ended the series with her violating the bodies of women all over the world, would have raped Inara (to save everyone else!) if Firefly had been picked up. (Let’s teach Inara the whore that sex is only permissible when he says it is, let’s curb Buffy’s superhuman power and make her and the audience very sure that she can suffer like all women can.) Lev Grossman has a fox god rape Julia Ogden’s soul out, literally tears her soul from her womb lining, but it’s okay in the long game because he ejaculates divine power into her. Game of Thrones (HBO) wrote Cersei Lannister as softer, more likable—and to prove that she was really not that threatening after all, changed a consensual sex scene to her brother raping her on her son’s bier. (Her brother, Jaime, continues to be portrayed as a complex guy who’s fun to be around.) Similarly, Frank Miller thought Catwoman was too hard to like, maybe, all that slick saucy charm and stealing stuff, so he made her a poor rape victim so we’d know she was a person, really.
I could go on.
It’s seven in the morning and I’m tired.
I’m tired of Joss Whedon (noted geekboy “feminist icon”), of Lev Grossman (NYT’s golden child), of men like this of writers like this of trends like this. I’m tired of going to production after production of Measure for Measure and watching directors choose to throw away scenes of difficult power dialogue for the spectacle of making the play’s powerful central zealous fierce but arguably dislikable female character gain vulnerability when she’s thrown sobbing over a desk. I’m tired of watching cable shows and biting my fist and I’m tired of fucking thanking the shows that don’t rape my girls.
And yes, that means I’m tired of female characters whose bravery and vulnerability and narrative interest is contingent on their suffering. And tired of what they represent. Not tired of deeply thought, respectfully written, complex fictional characters with equally deeply thought, carefully and respectfully written rape storylines or histories—in whose number I count Gillian Flynn’s own Camille Preaker (her own admitted favorite character, a rape victim and occasionally brave in complicated ways). But this has nothing to do with them—with victims—has it? That’s the problem. Those stories, of likable palatable not-too-tough tough girls that break easy for their usually-male creators and their male-eyed audience, don’t care about victims. They’re not about her. They’re written for someone else.
Dumbledore, notorious for giving second chances Dumbledore, let Sirius rot in Azkaban for twelve years.
He must have known Sirius well due to his time in the Order, he must have known what James meant to Sirius. Dumbledore was a…