These last couple of days have been stressful for one main reason – catching up on shows. Wanting to write about all of them isn’t helping anything either. Again, I’m trying to condense all of these things I want to yell at you about into an easy-to-read blog post.
This week, it’s episode five of “Harlots.”
I know I posted episode six on my Instagram story as the #WCWFilmClub choice of the week, but when I rewatched it, I realized shit goes down in the previous one.
“Harlots” was created by Moira Buffini (“Byzantium,” “Jane Eyre”) and Alison Newman. Episode five was written by Jane English and directed by China Moo-Young.
**SPOILERS AFTER THIS WARNING!**
I chose this episode because of the rape scene. YEAH, I SAID IT.
In an old podcast I used to do with friends, we discussed Mark Millar and his politics when it comes to including rape scenes in his comic book and films. Essentially, Millar said rape is just something to show how horrible a villain is; Showing a villain raping someone is on the level of showing this villain decapitating someone.
As a bad feminist, I used to argue that I knew what he meant; Rape is bad, just like decapitation is bad.
Knowing more now, that guy sucks hard.
Victims of rape often don’t find justice even after pressing charges, going to court AND testifying. Yes, decapitation is a sad and gruesome crime, but I’m pretty sure no one is grilling victims of decapitation about whether or not they were ACTUALLY decapitated (I know this might be silly to say, but it’s reality). My point is it’s insensitive to try and defend rape in popular culture as “just a scene to shape the character.”
So for a show that was created by women, written and directed by women, to include a rape scene had me reeeeeally thinking again – is this okay to show now?
The episode ended in what I’m assuming was supposed to justify the rape scene – Charlotte, who was raped by George, calls his ass out at a distinguished dinner party he forced her to attend and telling all his friends that he raped and abused her. Then all his uppity friends are disgusted by him and leave the room in the middle of dinner, while Charlotte leaves the house altogether. Redemption?
I love this show because it’s run by women and if there’s gonna be a show about women selling their bodies to live, it SHOULD be written and produced by women. Shows/films that sexually exploit women just for the allure are too often written by and for men. The women of the “Harlots” team do an excellent job of using sex to explore socioeconomic issues and events of the time, AND making it a point that sex is the least of these women’s worries because they’re too busy scheming and shit.
I know it might not be every feminist’s cup of tea. Some may argue it pits women against women and I can see their arguments for it. Some may say it’s just another story about women having to use sex to get their way. But I will support anything that promotes progressive and positive sexual ideals when it’s for and by women.
“Harlots” albeit centers on sex trafficking, but attempts to bring the focus on the “real” women and their “real” experiences (I say “real” because the history may be accurate, but the characters are fictitious).
And the fact that this sex-centered show still clarifies that even if these women ARE selling sex, RAPE IS NOT OKAY.
The series is a great watch overall. The writing, directing and acting are all well done. I had to pause in my binge watching because there was so much drama, it stressed me out.
If you watch the series and have thoughts about episode five, leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter or Instagram!