Friday, April 12, 2013

IN DEFENSE OF TREE RAPE: THE NECESSARY GRATUITY OF EVIL DEAD

Despite the mixed bag of emotions Fede Alvarez's Evil Dead remake has brought to the table and its piss-poor misleading marketing campaign, Evil Dead has brought to light an incredible amount of conversations ranging from feminism, gratuitous violence, and rape culture. An incredibly intelligent and poignant article was written in the wake of the film's release over at Bad Ass Digest titled "Evil Dead 2013 and the Politics of Tree Rape" written by the remarkably talented Devin Faraci.  I highly encourage everyone to take the time and read this article at some point, because he makes some ridiculously strong arguments.  While I agree with a large part of what Faraci is saying, I am very, VERY glad that Alvarez included the tree-rape sequence in his remake of Sam Raimi's classic flick.

When Sam Raimi made The Evil Dead, his tree-rape sequence was one of the most terrifying things in the entire film.  Watching Cheryl helplessly be controlled by the forces of nature and unable to escape, there are shots of her sheer terror as the world around her completely shut down and betrayed her in one of the most intimate ways humanly possible. According to Sam Raimi, looking back on his original film, he regrets making the sequence. As Bad Ass Digest pointed out, seen in this video interview, Raimi says, “I think it was unnecessarily gratuitous and a little too brutal. And finally because people were offended in a way that I didn't...my goal is not to offend people. It is to entertain, thrill, scare...make them laugh but not to offend them.” It is easy to see why this particular scenario could be seen as gratuitous, brutal, and offensive.  Rape is an incredibly sensitive subject, and a very real one at that.  Putting such a dark and identifiable situation in a film, something meant to entertain, is often frowned upon; which is why we don't have a vast collection of films of mother's drowning their children due to postpartum depression or the actions of humans that result in the dogs seen in the Sarah McLaughlin commercials.

Statistically speaking, 1 in 3 women will be victims of rape or sexual assault at some point in their lives; meaning there are a good amount of women who have seen The Evil Dead or Evil Dead that have been raped themselves.  There are those that believe Fede Alvarez's decision to keep the "tree-rape" sequence into the remake was one that was unwise, and his attempt to soften the brutality by using the tree solely to "hold Mia down" instead of performing the act of sexual assault made the scene particularly confusing and unnecessary...but I disagree.

In the thirty plus years that have passed since Raimi's original flick, rape culture in America is developing an extremely strong and powerful voice.  After events like the Steubenville rape trials and the constant 'war on women' within the GOP's attempts to police the bodies of women, now more than ever is a time where rape shouldn't be pushed aside and downplayed.  I'm sorry, but what defines what is and isn't acceptable in terms of rape on screen?


Mind you, all of this is coming from a girl who named her blog after the unreleased original title for a film that holds one of the most notoriously gratuitous rape scenes in cinematic history.  The thing is, whether or not someone is being raped by a person, a tree branch, or some weird tongue worm from the mouth of a deadite, rape is still rape. Don't you dare tell me that it wasn't really rape because it came from a deadite mouth, don't you dare tell me it didn't have a purpose because it was girl on girl, don't you dare tell me it doesn't count because it was supernatural forces rather than a real person, and don't you dare tell me that this scene has no place in this film. I'm sorry, but in this less than stellar remake, this particular scene is one that was just as relevant thirty years ago as it is today. Some have argued that the scene felt misplaced and was only included because of the original and you know something, so what? I don't know of a single moment in the history of existence where a rape had a purpose and was anything more than a misplaced terror in the timeline of life. You want to tell me one instance where rape is anything but a misplaced event in life and I'll bite my tongue. Was the tree-rape scene uncomfortable to look at? Absolutely. Was the tree-rape scene unnecessary? Perhaps. Did the tree-rape scene spark conversations about what is and isn't acceptable in terms of rape? You better believe it. In a society that is constantly debating the differences between "legitimate" and "illegitimate" rape, I am appalled that anyone would be questioning whether or not this scene has a purpose.

10 comment(s):

Illsa Gorrey said...

I'm of a mixed opinion as well. On one hand, perhaps it's squicky enough that it gets people to consider the horrors of rape. On the other hand, altogether too many people already think of women as fuck dolls, so it could be just another moment of gratuitous titillation in their eyes.

There are altogether too many misconceptions about sexual assault, as you have pointed out. A sexual assault need not include penetration for it to be disturbing enough to disrupt someone's life, and I mean permanently, on a psychological level. One does not get over being sexually assaulted.

Speaking personally, I was sexually assaulted 15 years ago. I don't think about it every day. I can go out to the grocery store at night without fearing or thinking about it. I will point out that I do live in a fairly safe if distressed area. I don't have bars on my windows or double locks on my doors. But there are things that I do that I know I do because of the rape. They are defensive measures. That asshole left a huge scar on my psyche and an inability to ever again relate to men in a normal way. I do not forgive him.

Jason Beck said...

Part 1- I was disappointed in the "Evil Dead" remake, because I found it to be fairly uninteresting and a bit tedious. I had hopes for it to be better, however it lacked cleverness, charisma, or really anything very interesting or original. It had some great effects and gore, but not much else to set it apart or above the slew of other possession films that have been coming out en mass for several years now. It wasn't a horrible movie, just incredibly average (other than the decision to use practical effects, which I applaud) and conventional. I expected more.
Having said that, I found the 'tree rape' scene to be kind of throwaway- I did not find it to be near as emotionally draining as most rape scenes in most movies (horror or other) I've seen. This may be because it didn't seem like a "real rape" (whatever that means) to me. I know that you feel very strongly about this, as evidenced from your blog post, but I have to respectfully disagree with you. Rape is about power, and sometimes about sex. The violation (I do consider it a violation) in the movie was about infection. The deadite wanted to infect Mia, so it transferred it's energy to her, 'possessing' her. It transferred it to her by that disgusting mass of infected looking roots or whatever, but it was quick and there didn't seem to be any pleasure, and it didn't seem to choose that particular way of infecting Mia to dominate her. The root was on the ground and climbed up her body, and entered the first opening it reached, like a candiru. If you are attacked by a candiru, you don't say it raped you. If a bacteria penetrates your pores, or you are infected by a venereal disease (during consensual intercourse), you don't say the venereal disease raped you just because it entered through your vagina. Now if every time the deadites wanted to infect someone, it did it that way I would say you have a point, but the next people it infected it went through the mouth, eyes, and facial pores (in the form of vomited blood), and when it didn't have an easy entrance Mia bit a hole in the other girl's hand for it to enter through (and I assume it entered the other guy through one of the many holes in his body through the water he was laying in. I have no idea how it got the brother- that was just another ridiculous example of bad storytelling, I guess. We know it got him somehow because the book said that for the sky to rain blood and the (disappointingly weak and conventional) queen deadite to come back 5 had to be infected. But it seemed like he just blew himself up. But I digress). So it didn't seem so much like a rape to me, as an entrance. Movies like "I Spit On Your Grave" and "The Entity" are disturbing and hard to watch because of their realistic rapes, but this one, as I said, seemed a bit throwaway. Basically just thrown in to reference the original and as a bit of an 'ick' factor.

Jason Beck said...

Part 2-Was it exploitive? Yes, indeed. Of course it was. But horror movies (or at least a lot of them) are made to horrify. Rape is horrific. I can understand why people put rape in horror movies. What I wonder, tho, is why is it always females who get raped? There is a lot of male on male rape in reality (and it goes even less reported than female rape), and second to castration, it probably horrifies men more than anything (come to think of it, why is there not more castration in movies? I can think of some, but it's not shown very often. But it horrifies men like nothing else- just watch "Make Them Die Slowly" with any man to see a good reaction). Why do people seem to want to horrify women with rape scenes, but not horrify men with their ultimate fears of anal rape and castration?
There's only 2 reasons I can think of- 1) the MPAA frowns more on male on male rape than male on female rape (and why is that? Maybe that has something to do with this 'rape culture' I keep hearing so much about); and 2) females seem to find male rape and castration in movies humorous and entertaining, or at the least it doesn't seem to bother them much, while males (at least most males) find female rape to make them uncomfortable at best, but usually horrifying. So female rape horrifies the whole crowd, while castration and male rape only horrifies half the crowd and often delights the other half. You want to horrify everyone. I'm just writing while thinking this one out here.
This is getting a bit long winded, but you said you liked to spark discussions, so the last thing I want to mention is exploitation and 'going too far'. Is showing a graphic rape, or animal cruelty, or castration, or children dying, or anything else 'going too far'? If the point is just to horrify and disturb, I'd say not. If you want to entertain, I don't know. Animal cruelty bothers me, and there's been a rash of movies lately featuring it (particularly towards cats, which is one of my favorite animals and one of the most abused). Off the top if my head, besides the "Evil Dead" remake there's "The Collector", "The Collection", "Drag Me To Hell", and "Splice" (the last 4 of which were cats). Hell, even one of my favs ("Re-Animator") has a cat dying (and being brought back to life and dying again). But I go to horror movies to be horrified (as well as entertained, and sometimes amused- it depends on the movie), so I don't have any problem with the animal abuse in them (even tho animal abuse n real life is a very real problem and goes on every second of every day). I don't think you can go too far- actually, I think we can go much farther (as long as it isn't real). But I wish it was all done with more style and a keen eye, and with more emotional impact than it is usually shown with. We just need better movies all around, not all these conventional cliched color by numbers ones that keep getting made.
But if a horror movie shows you something that 'gets you' (be it a child's death like a good friend of mine hates, or animal cruelty like I hate, or rape or castration or the famous clitdectomy from "Antichrist" (which even made me squirm) or whatever), they probably did what they wanted to do- Get you!

American Psychette said...

Fantastic point m'lady. We need to take a critical look at how remakes in particular handle rape. Why is the rape in the original "Last House on the Left" changed for the remake? I have yet to see the remake of "I Spit on Your Grave" but I wouldn't be surprised if it looks entirely different from the original.

I love your writings and would love it if you would check out my blog and my most recent post at http://americanpsychette.blogspot.com that talks about how horror is actually empowering for women.

Anonymous said...

Oh lord you crybaby women make me sick, it was a movie...get over it bitches

gaurdian said...

What the hell.I cant believe im livin ia a world where sometimes people even don't know when they crossed the limit.This is rape which we are talking about, there is not a single way in which we can say weather it is necessary or not.ALL girl/women are as equal as men or in some ways are better then men.films motivate so many peoples it should be used for entertainment + awareness. If we make them saw the weak side of women they will think women are weak and will remains weak, and only men's are above them .o come on ...these kind of scenes should be removed from a movie. The films should be watched for proper entertainment not for something which change the entire thinking about women. Just like death, rape is always useless. I m a boy and i cant even tell how much i hate this bloody damn word. I seriously get damned when i read,Saw someone telling-girls should've wear small clothes, it provokes men.so sick thinking come into this world nowdays .. Seriously if im a girl and im walking naked alone on the streets, you still don't have right to rape me

estetik said...

I will keep it in mind, thanks for sharing the information. Keep updating, looking forward for more posts. Thanks.
Estetik

Joe said...

The reference to the remakes above (both of which I saw, like the "Left" one more than the other one, which was pretty disappointing) leads me to ask if the blogger here ever put up a review of the remake of "Day of the Woman." I looked for it in the past and never saw it. I guess I missed it. Does anyone have a link?

I have not seen the remake of "Evil Dead," but appreciate the subject of the post overall. Rape is a horrible subject and unless it was done in a totally shoddy way, the inclusion here remains sadly relevant.

BJ-C said...

Joe-I refused to review the remake because it angered me that they had the audacity to remake that film in the first place.

Joe said...

Thanks for the clarification. You talked about it and even as I recall talked about the movie poster so I thought you might review it.

But, that explains it.


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