Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Boycott Straw Dogs

Okay, I'm breaking my promise. Again. But I couldn't sleep last night because of this and then the computer wouldn't turn on so I couldn't vent about it until now.

Let me get straight to the point: You should boycott the movie Straw Dogs.

The Straw Dogs trailer has been freaking me out so I decided to look up the plot. I learned that it's actually a remake (great—just what we need: another remake) of a movie made in 1971 and starring Dustin Hoffman. That film in turn was based on a novel entitled The Siege of Trencher's Farm by Gordon Williams.

The movie is about a young couple: a non-confrontational mathematician and his liberal-minded wife (remember, the movie came out in 1971). They move to her native Cornwall to escape the anti-war protests in the US. Tension builds between the couple because the husband David expects his wife Amy to perform traditional wifely tasks, which she doesn't necessarily want to do because she's, like, liberated and stuff. At the same time, David isn't interested in performing traditional masculine tasks due to his work.

The locals don't like David and his non-manly pursuits. They do, however, like his attractive young wife, who may or may not be flirting with the workers (one of whom is her former lover).

To test David, the locals kill the couple's cat by hanging it in a closet!!! What the WHAT?! Amy tells David to confront the men about it, but he refuses.

So naturally, the men rape Amy. A punishment for her independent, flirtatious attitude and her husband's lack of masculinity.


Some other stupid violent stuff happens, culminating in the locals besieging the couple's home. David, finally pushed to the limit, ends up killing all the men. He doesn't lose control when the men violently hurt and rape the woman he loves. No, he really gets pissed when they break into his house.

Aaaand SCENE. Seriously, that's the end.

Here's a trailer for the original film:

Here's the trailer for the remake:
I don't know how closely the remake will follow the original, but you can see the same themes, particularly when Alexander Skarsgaard says, "He's got some man in him after all." The two trailers also share the same powerlessness for the wife. In both trailers, shaking, she tells her husband that there are men outside and then looks to him to protect them both.

Supposedly this is a film about violence, about how MEN will, when forced, do anything necessary to protect their property. That society is basically a flimsy facade that could disappear in a moment.

Consider this well known quote from the movie, spoken by David at his breaking points, "This is where I live. This is me. I will not allow violence against this house."

Obviously, Amy is part of that house, that property. She has been violated. In my opinion this is portrayed more as an insult to David's masculinity than a crime against another human being. In fact, there has been an ongoing debate regarding whether or not Amy's character is shown to be ENJOYING the rape.

What the movie boils down to for me, is the director, who also co-wrote the script, warning the audience that THIS is what happens when men pursue non masculine tasks, like academia, while woman attempt to be more liberated/ masculine. Total chaos. The complete destruction of society. And of course, violence and death. The rape, again, seeming to be more of an afterthought, an extension of the man's property.

You should also know that there was NO RAPE in the novel.

WHY is this film being remade for today? Why? I don't like the implication. It makes me sick that people might want to hear this sort of message again.

Rape is not an afterthought. Rape is not a crime against a man's property, it's a violent act against a human being.

And last night, all I could think about was the rape that occurred on Bates campus in 2002 when I was a student. The victim was a fellow student and the rapist was a Maine resident named Christian Averill. He raped her in the bathroom of one of the buildings that stays open late for studying. It was during finals week when the place was packed with students.

I realized later that I had walked past that very bathroom right around when the rape was said to occur.

I walked right by. But I had no idea.

Typing those words has made me start to cry.

What also runs through my mind is the fact that I almost always stop and use the restroom before I leave a building. Friends tease me about this. I drink a lot of water. So, what if I had chosen to use that bathroom? Would it have been me instead of her? Or could I have helped her? Saved her?

I'll never know. But somehow I feel like I failed her.

Did you know I just googled the incident to see what would come up and apparently in 2006, Averill's sentence (34 years in jail) was being reconsidered. The full article written by Christopher Williams for the Sun Journal is here.

What kills me is that according to the article, Averill's lawyer George Hess, "argued that the defendant's actions did not rise to the level of 'heinous.' Had his client beaten the girl or held her hostage for a prolonged period, he might have deserved a higher sentence, Hess said."

Hess, you are scum. How dare you. You think rape doesn't qualify as heinous unless the victim gets beaten up on the OUTSIDE as well as the inside?? Unforgivable.

The problem is, he's not the only one who thinks that way. That's why people are going to go see this remake of Straw Dogs and they will talk about how man can't suppress his natural, violent self rather than talk about the rape.

This needs to change. It has to. And each of us has to be a part of that change, with the actions we take and the things we say, and the products we buy, and even the blogs we read.

Did you read that gossip bloggers were referring to Kim Kardashian as the "whore bride" during her wedding weekend? It's that kind of casual language that drives me crazy. "Whore," "slut," these are not words that we should use to describe women. Even professional prostitutes deserve better (and they should be legal and protected by the government, but that's a post for another day). She made a sex tape with her boyfriend. How does that make her a whore? And why don't we apply the same term to her boyfriend of the time, Ray Jay??

It makes me sick.

I apologize for such a dark post today, but this is such an important issue for me. I will never forgive myself for walking past that bathroom that night. Never. We can change things for the better, but we have to be aware of the problems first.


  1. Good for you for posting this. I absolutely agree that the casual language of today about women is totally inappropriate. I certainly won't be seeing this movie either. You know, makes me wonder if a man was raped (and I mean a girl using something on him while he is powerless to stop it) what men would think or feel? Betcha they would be howling with outrage and push to make the punishments for the crime harsher. But because most men feel they need to dominate everything, including women, the punishment will NEVER fit the crime.

  2. "He doesn't lose control when the men violently hurt and rape the woman he loves. No, he really gets pissed when they break into his house." Had you watched either film or even done some research on the plot you would know that Amy does not tell him about being raped therefore condemning him for not defending her is a flawed stance to take. He is driven to violence when he realizes that the men will not leave him nor his wife alive. However once pushed to violence David does not stop until everyone of the attackers is dead despite his wife pleading for him to not kill Charlie (her former lover and not one of her rapists) after Charlie shoots the man attempting to rape her.

    Director Peckinpah defended Straw Dogs as an exploration (not an endorsement) of violence, that was purging him of obsessions with violence resulting from human inability to communicate; that David is the story's true villain — deliberately, yet subconsciously, provoking the violence, his concluding homicidal rampage is his true self.

    Every depiction in the media of violence against women is not intended as an affront or attack on femininity. Sometimes it is used effectively to help explore larger ideas.

    While I agree that derogatory names and words used in relation to women is a travesty I find it indicative of the culture that we have created for ourselves. As a society we have much less respect or sensitivity when it comes to offending or pushing boundaries. Bear in mind that the "gossip bloggers" you reference target their content to female readers so what does that say about the state of mind of the larger populace of females?

  3. Hi Anon, (This is ME, Jennifer, by the way. Am having many and varied computer issues at the moment).

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It's true, Amy doesn't tell David about the rape and I did know that prior to writing the post. I just find it difficult to address every issue of the plot. But yes, that is true. However the fact that the plot was written this way is, to me, a troubling decision by the writers. Especially considering that she was not raped in the original novel.

    You say that violence against women is sometimes used to explore larger issues. To me, that's a problem. That is not okay. And I feel that violence against women is a large issue in its own right. Particularly since so many stories of "man's" violence are limited to MEN and not humankind. Including other women in the plot of a story would help in this regard but often the woman is merely the property, the victim, the fallout.

    I think my biggest issue is not with the original movie (though I do find it troubling), but with the fact that it has been REMADE. I don't see the point. Are we still struggling with this ridiculous notion of emasculated men who put their property and souls in danger by suppressing their natural violence? Are we still looking at women as victims with no agency in their own lives, who are raped and then keep it a secret and then, when their lives are in danger, shiver and shake and look to their husbands to protect them?

    I suppose we ARE still struggling with these issues. I just wish we weren't.