Over at LA Weekly, lead film critic April Wolfe has rolled out a deeply reported and utterly fascinating look inside the professional world of stunt choreographers — and other cast and crew — who are tasked with enacting rape scenes on the screen. The story focuses primarily on the toll such work takes on even the most dedicated of professionals, with the added caveat that many of them are eager to see the kind of widespread industry change that would make this particular set of skills far less in demand.
Business, however, is booming. As Wolfe writes about choreographer Deven MacNair, one of the main voices in the story: “She picks up the phone when producers call with a potential scene. She has continued to pick it up — rape scenes are everywhere. MacNair is grateful, always positive, ready to do what’s asked of her. At the same time, she — and others — hope the industry might stop to consider the toll of the number of rapes it depicts on screen.”
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The current media landscape is rife with movies and television projects that include rape scenes, as Wolfe points to a slew of offerings that fit the bill, from “The Handmaid’s Tale” to “Westworld,” “The Birth of a Nation” to “Room,” “Elle” to “Don’t Breathe,” and those are just recent projects. (Our header photo up top is from Gaspar Noé’s 2002 drama “Irreversible,” which features one of the most graphic and horrifying on-screen rapes in recent memory.)
As Wolfe notes, “media attention to rape in film is targeted mostly at how audiences perceive the scenes and lamenting the studios’ sheer mass of sexual violence on screen. Many articles ask the question: Are these scenes gratuitous? But rarely do we think about the filmmakers, actors and crew who make on-screen rapes happen, like MacNair. How do they feel?”
According to many of the sources that appear in the article, they’re more than ready for a change, though a number of unnamed voices expressed reticence to sounding off on the topic, concerned that it might keep them from continuing to get work.
But MacNair is undeterred and she shared with Wolfe her own plan for changing the landscape, as she “is focusing on a new cause these days: pushing filmmakers to actually hire women stunt actors to double for female actors. She’ll still choreograph your rape scene — and do a damn good job.” Still, even MacNair admitted, “If I do less next year, that’s OK by me.”
Be sure to check out Wolfe’s whole piece over at LA Weekly, it’s essential reading.