TV Showrunners Are Refusing To Feature Rape & This Is Why It's Important

Photo: Helen Sloan/ Courtesy of HBO.
Final-fucking-ly. Television showrunners are finally paying more attention to the disgust and backlash against the constant inclusion of brutal rape and sexual assault scenes in shows.

According to Variety's story, "The Progress and Pitfalls of Television's Treatment of Rape," the treatment of sexual violence on screen is actually going to change in 2017. But not without some major lifting. As Jeremy Slater, the executive producer of Fox's The Exorcist, tells the site: "It has become a plague on the industry.” But it seems like a remedy is on the horizon.

The showrunners for Starz's American Gods and NBC's Hannibal have sworn to eliminate sexual assault from their scripts. This is a bold promise that will hopefully make it to the ears of other TV writers, many of which are often male.

Various female writes told Variety that their male contemporaries often turn to rape as a way to add character depth or emotional development. The unnamed writer elaborates, saying, "You can use it [a rape] as a reason for anything she might do,” the writer says. “She’s ‘damaged goods,’ physically, emotionally and mentally, and I think that is a bad, bad message to send to women who have been sexually assaulted." Often the scenes are not even part of the narrative of the show; it's used a shock tactic to make audiences gasp and wince, knowing how much of a violation and trigger sexual assault is for many men and women. But thankfully some shows are pushing back against this accepted treatment of rape.

The president of ABC, Channing Dungey, also adds it will be easier for her network to eradicate exploitive sexual content than it will be for the premiere networks like HBO (which was heavily criticized for the portrayal of Sansa Stark's rape). "It’s actually very hard to out-cable cable or out-stream streaming, when it comes to dark, edgy, violent, highly sexualized” content, she tells the magazine. “We just can’t go to the same places that they can go to.”

The key to all of this is that a scene depicting someone being sexually assaulted and attacked should only be used in the most nuanced, purposeful, and emotionally pure way. Netflix's Jessica Jones was praised for how the title character's story was told through the way she dealt with her rape. It's moments in TV like this that can serve as a way to enhance the connection a viewer feels to a character. That's real TV.
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