Monday, September 12, 2016

BLACKBIRD/UNA remind us: the male POV reigns supreme

I finally read the script for David Harrower's BLACKBIRD and it turns out to be exactly what I suspected it was - a male fantasy in which the victim of child rape and her abuser are portrayed as a couple in love. Or as Ben Brantley said when it was first shown off-Broadway at the Manhattan Theater Club:
This is essential, since for “Blackbird” to work, you have to accept it as a love story — a tragic, horrible love story that destroys lives, but a love story all the same. Mr. Daniels and Ms. Pill are extraordinary in guaranteeing this acceptance.
In spite of the Ray character having a cellphone, the play BLACKBIRD is pretty much obsolete in the United States. In the play there is apparently no sex offender notification laws so that only Una and, maybe, Ray's wife know that a convicted child rapist has access to another twelve-year-old girl. The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act has been the law of the land in the United States since 2006. So the play was already obsolete by the time of its first off-Broadway production, let alone the recent Broadway production.

What's really bizarre is that we are apparently supposed to believe Ray when he says he won't sexually abuse his wife's 12-year-old daughter. In spite of the fact that pedophiles have an extremely high rate of recidivism. The strong chance of a pedophile victimizing another child is what caused the creation of the Sex Offender law in the first place.

So why do theater organizations want to produce an obsolete play about a pedophile and his victim "in love"? Because theater is still completely dominated by men, and men's misogynist attitudes towards women and girls, and theater loves to wallow in the endless, helpless pain and suffering of women - something theater has done since THE TROJAN WOMEN. Plays like this are much easier for men to watch because of their cultural conditioning to view women as the Other, which reduces any painful feelings that could result from empathy.

I guaran-fucking-tee you that if, instead of a pretty woman in her twenties showing up ready to have sex in a trash-strewn company break room with a man pushing 60, the man was a priest and he had abused a twelve-year-old altar boy, who was now in love with and DTF the priest, these male critics would not find it nearly so romantic.

Naturally Blackbird was turned into a movie, "Una" made by men. As the Todd VanDerWerff in Vox says:
But the far more troubling error is that Una depicts, in several flashbacks, what happened when Una was 13. To its credit, Una knows her statutory rape was horrifying; less to its credit, it can’t figure out a way to visually reflect that horror. Thus, the flashbacks have a strange romantic, erotic charge that really shouldn’t be there.

I'm not sure what he means by "shouldn't" be there, but I think the fact that they have a "romantic, erotic charge" tells us what the men who made the movie actually feel about the scenario. The review later notes:
And yet, all the same, neither film can entirely escape the fact that it was written and directed by a man. They might feature women as protagonists, but the thing both films want you to think about is ultimately something that has nothing to do with those women: the thought of being a rapist who is understood, yes, but also absolved, and maybe even forgiven.

Well but of course films about rape will be told from a male point of view and include a plea for understanding and forgiveness. And it will continue to be that way as long as men continue to dominate the world and use their power to harm women.