Tuesday, September 06, 2011

I Won't Be Seeing this Remake (by res ipsa)

Come to think of it, I won't be seeing the original, either.

Trigger warning: rape, violence, assholish attitudes re both

I just read this NYT article about a remake of Sam Peckinpah's "Straw Dogs" and my jaw dropped when I came to this bit:

There are few more unnerving scenes in movies than the rape of Amy by her ex-boyfriend, Charlie (Del Henney), and what makes it so memorably terrifying is the awful ambivalence it engenders in both the victim and the viewer — of either sex. Appallingly, Amy, who resists strongly at first, begins to feel some stirrings of pleasure as her old lover does his worst.

What’s maybe more unsettling, though, for any viewer who considers himself or herself reasonably civilized, is that you sort of understand why: her husband’s wishy-washiness (and persistent passive-aggression) has primed her for Charlie’s brutal decisiveness. (Emphasis mine)

(Stipulating that I'm writing about a review of a movie I've never seen.)

First of all, who is "you"? Second, that "of either sex" line aggravates me in the same way that pundit laziness with respect to the relative responsibility of our two dominant political parties for the shit-show situation in which we find ourselves aggravates me (i.e., the "Both sides do it!" crap that is slung in our media day in and day out, but I digress...). Is there any data on Rafferty's assertion? I wasn't old enough to get near the original "Straw Dogs" when it played in theaters, but I have a hard time believing that both sexes were ambivalent about watching Amy's "old lover [do] his worst". After all, Rafferty spends the first part of the article telling you just how many people walked out of the movie when it was screened. I wonder how many of those were women and how many were men?

Then I'm told that because the husband is simultaneously physically unaggressive and emotionally passive aggressive, that well, it's kinda sorta really quite understandable that his wife enjoys being raped. Because it demonstrates some much-needed "decisiveness", or something. And Rafferty's use of the word "appalling" with regard to Amy's enjoyment of her rape? Well, I think it tells you more about how Peckinpah (and Rafferty) feel about Amy, than it does about how Amy feels about being sexually assaulted. After all, according to Rafferty one of the reasons that the original "Straw Dogs" got everyone so bent out of shape was the "gathering militancy of feminism".

Anyway, I've never seen a Peckinpah movie and had always wondered why he was so "controversial". Now I know. He was a sexist asshole. Terrence Rafferty sounds like one, too.