RED ZONE: How Hollywood influences rape culture

Even back when movies were in black and white, Hollywood films normalized sexual assault. The media has played a serious role in de-stigmatizing rape, which has created a colossal problem for victims of sex crime everywhere. The idea of rape culture is often overlooked or distorted by the media and the produced content that we pay so much of our attention to.

The objectification of women’s bodies and the insensitivity that exists due to the influence created by famous movies is immeasurable. Promoted by the film industry, glamorizing rape has seemed to have become a normal concept in today’s culture. Rape culture is represented by the justification of sexual violence based on society’s standards which normally results in the victim being blamed for the crime.

Sexual violence occurs in countless movies and television shows for the purpose of entertainment and that is what causes this misogyny. The abusive behavior that we see produced in Hollywood is what makes humanity less aware of how serious sexual assault really is.

hollywood sign.png
Photo credit: Jian Bautista

Any form of sexual harassment, whether it’s rape, assault or even something as “minor” as cat-calling, should not be taken lightly. That is why we should see less of these things on-screen and more prevention activity. Hollywood won’t change without challenge, so that leaves this heavy situation in the people’s hands.

Joy Chavez Mapaye, professor in the department of Journalism and Public Communications who specializes in media studies, thinks that media literacy is part of the answer.

“I don’t think that changes in Hollywood and media will happen without protest. So as long as people continue to consume the products without objection, it tells media producers the existing portrayals and narratives are fine. I believe that by being better media consumers and creators, ordinary people can have a profound influence in shaping new narratives that are helpful and not harmful,” Mapaye said.

Mapaye is a firm believer that both Hollywood and media influence society’s view on rape culture.

“Many studies have shown media portrayals of women are ones that tend to focus only on their appearance. Meanwhile, media portrayals of men show that violence and aggression are solutions to problems. Women are often portrayed as victims, men as perpetrators. More focus needs to be on healthy relationships. These stories set up expectations and provide a guidebook for behavior,” Mapaye said.

Mariah DeJesus-Remaklus, a journalism student at UAA, also believes Hollywood has a strong role in the normalization of rape culture.

“As much as I love storytelling through film and writing, there’s a lot of subconscious activity going on when we read and see things,” DeJesus-Remaklus said. “If a movie or show is portraying sexually graphic scenes that represent women as objects in any way, there are subliminal messages telling us that this kind of behavior and treatment is okay. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be sexual; showing a female character as the unnecessarily weak and inadequate image society approves of, is just as bad as showing her half-naked and being violently manhandled.”

DeJesus-Remaklus also notices the insensitivity that the motion-picture industry produces.

“We unknowingly accept certain ideas that are shown through movies, music videos, etc. and those can eventually be internalized to the point where we express and advocate them in our everyday life. You can see it in the way we talk, dress, think, act and treat others. We consume so much content at nearly ever point in the day and it can be difficult to step back and take a moment to really look at things from a less passive angle,” DeJesus-Remaklus said.

President of UAA’s Film Club, Yoshina Okamoto feels passionate that Hollywood films have deeply embroiled rape culture in our communities.

“I think that Hollywood influences rape culture a lot. Everybody watches TV and movies, and because of that, entertainment media has a large responsibility in influencing the culture of our lives, and unfortunately, a lot of times this responsibility is mishandled,” Okamoto said.

Okamoto has her own solution to reduce the sexually violent culture we are witnessing.

“I believe that allowing more marginalized people like sexual assault victims, women and people of color to play roles in film creation and production, the entertainment industry will take a more hands-on charge toward de-stigmatizing rape,” Okamoto said.

There is some sort of constant violence and sexual assault in seemingly everything we watch on-screen, which includes rape or threat of rape in films all over the spectrum. Almost every case of these produced stories involves a weak victim that, is nearly always a woman. This is what creates the perception that women are merciless, which motivates the culture we are experiencing.

Hollywood might just have too much influence on American culture. Whether it’s through film or through media, more attention needs to be paid to reality and real-life situations rather than the characters on the theater screen.