All the warnings: spoilers and triggers
Lying in bed, I placed my hand on my husband’s back beside me. The cat purred like a 70s engine, curled up between our pillows, and I smiled.
“Are you awake?”
“Yes. I’m trying to think good thoughts,” I paused, “like kissing our son’s chubby cheeks, his hugs, the cat purring, you, and the rhythm of the road noise. It sounds like breathing. It’s soothing.”
He knew why I was doing this. He had his own way of coping. He’d already taken a late-night stroll.
The Magicians is probably dead to me. I don’t know if my husband will continue to watch or not.
You see, they had a blatant rape scene in their series finale. Worse than that, the rape gave this character special powers because of the nature of the rape (I won’t give any more details about this.).
It’s different for me, and honestly, I think I’m still processing the scene. There was the shock as I realized what was coming. There was that thought, “I hope she dies,” because death is preferable to rape.
How do you watch someone else get raped on television when you’ve been raped?
I can hear the defensive reasoning for showing this rape:
It was in the books (I never read the books.)…
She got special powers…
She let herself get raped to save the other character…
There are people who believe these things justify the choice to show rape on television for viewers – as if these might be enough to exonerate the producers, screenwriters, and director for subjecting viewers to this trauma…
It’s not out of character for the show, but they’ve made other choices in the past. They didn’t show some sex scenes. They didn’t show a character getting molested as a child. They hinted at these things and danced around them, but we didn’t see every detail.
I thought they would stick to the “hint-and-dance-around” strategy for something like this. I was hopeful. Honestly, I was more hopeful they would stick to gruesome gore and I could just block the images instead of PTSD…
Of course it’s different for me – for my husband. Watching someone get raped on television is like watching it happen to me. I am her, and my husband is powerless to stop it from happening, so we sit there, our guts punched, our eyes welling-up struggling to suffer to the end, the way it happens in real life.
It is a kind of torture – torture to the viewers with this experience. And how many people have this experience? How many have someone close to them with this experience? Scores. This isn’t some isolated, once in a while thing – a significant population is impacted by rape and sexual abuse.
For those who haven’t been, why would we suggest the experience through entertainment? The level of empathy created through this show is questionable because the level of pain of every character is so high. At a certain point, I chalk their moodiness up to a problem of personality as opposed to the trauma each character struggles to address. In short, it’s too much.
I’ve turned myself off before – turned off my caring. I did it while living in India so I could walk down the streets and not weep when I saw acrobatic children performing for a coin, or a man with a bandage across his face barely able to ask for anything, or the state of the slums visible across the road from gated houses cared for by servants.
A certain level of pain renders a person numb.
If the goal of the show is to increase empathy, I’m not sure how successful it can be because of that numbing effect. If I’m numb to the pain of the characters because I’m already overwhelmed by their pain, another more traumatic scene isn’t doing the show any favors, but rather the opposite (Which honestly is unfortunate, because the character’s shock after that scene was done very realistically.).
So I don’t think I can watch it any more. I don’t see it as a helpful enterprise for society or culture, but rather, just another show to heap onto the pile to desensitize us to violence, which is exactly the opposite of what cultural creators should be doing.
While I wait for entertainment to provide counter narratives to these things, I will think of the things that make my heart light – butterflies, misting rain, wildflowers, a toddler hug, a loving husband, a stranger’s generosity, the scent of autumn air, and the joy of seeing a friend after a long absence. The world needs more focus on these things – the wonder and real magic of the world. We’ve had enough focus on pain.
What do you think about violence on television? About sexual violence? Leave a comment below!
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