Wednesday, March 26, 2014
'austenland' and sexual assault as comedic plot device
I watched Austenland the other night. It was OK: fluffy and predictable, not exactly funny but bobbing along in that romantic comedy way. It's the lightest of light entertainment, which makes it all the more jarring that it features a sexual assault, and uses it as a plot device. (The below contains spoilers, but you should just spend an hour and a half rereading Sense and Sensibility.)
Jane (our heroine) is returning to the house at night and is accosted by Mr Wattlesbrook, who appears to be drunk. When she refuses his advances he forces himself on her and has to throw him to the ground to get him to stop.
The hero bursts in and consoles her (presumably the film is distinguishing Jane as self-sufficient because she doesn't need to be saved by him). Another, sympathetic male character helps Mr Wattlesbrook from the room telling him that he won't "cover up for" him any longer, suggesting both that this is part of a pattern and that covering up sexual assault is an honourable activity that good dudes do for their friends.
Jane doesn't call the police, or complain to the manager of Austenland (who is Mrs Wattlesbrook). Not because she is traumatised, but because the incident is seen within the film as trivial. OK, that pissed me off, but I'm used to that kind of shit in movies. What really got me going was the scene at the end where Jane threatens Mrs Wattlesbrook. She says she will lodge a complaint, and she's sure she's not the first woman he's assaulted. But she does this not because THIS ASSHOLE SHOULD BE STOPPED FROM SEXUALLY ASSAULTING WOMEN, but because she is angry that her romance was not manufactured as part of her holiday.
Then when she returns to the States and her hero comes to try to get back with her (speaking of rape culture: you rejected me in the UK, so I'll catch a plane, find out where you live, come to your door and insist you date me! Romance!) she tells him not to worry, she's not going to file a complaint. Oh good! She's not angry any more, she can drop that empty threat!
Not only is the sexual assault completely out of tone with the rest of the movie, it's treated like a joke and then a throw-away plot device. In short: fuck you, Austenland.