That’s not an entirely accurate statement. Aside from the occasional Stargate or Greys’ Anatomy marathon, I rarely watch TV. Not even for the movies. I do enjoy series though. I torrent a season at a time and get completely lost in the story. But then again, everybody watches series in chunks these days. There are down sides, of course. Like, if I watch 13 episodes at a time, I can see the exact spot where the writer ran out of ideas. And I get tired of re-used tropes far more quickly.

For example, I adored Big Bang Theory for a while, and the first time Sheldon said, ‘My mother had me tested,’ I nearly split my sides laughing. But after watching 15 episodes in a row and hearing the phrase fifty times, it gets a little boring. The up side is it beats waiting a whole week for my next fix of Penny. Still, lately, I’m not so sure serials worth it. And it’s all because of one simple word. Rape.

Disclaimer: this could be a trauma trigger, so please read with care.

Causes of rape

For most women, rape is the worst thing that could happen. Fear of rape affects where we go, who we talk to, how we dress, and what time we go home. Once it has happened, well, there’s always the fear that it could happen again. In any given situation – a fire, a war, a robbery, a quiet street, a crowded matatu, a riot, a one-on-one job interview … the fear is always there.

I suppose that’s why I like series. They run for an hour at a time, and in that space, I can forget the stresses, and yes, the fears of ordinary life. Here’s the thing though. I found a recent quote that said art must reflect society. And so even in fiction, there is lots of rape.

I’ve learned to consciously avoid what I call ‘depressing’ points of fiction. I won’t watch anything with gender violence, racism, slavery, abduction, child abuse, or feminism as a theme. So I’m one of the few that hasn’t looked for 12 years a slave. I prefer to stay with smart comedy and safe, fluffy fiction. Big Bang Theory. Last of the summer wine. Eureka. Charmed.

So I was pretty happy when I found Downton Abbey. It has everything! Beautiful clothes. Genius lines. And best of all, lot and lots of British accents. *happy sigh* Until Anna.

I understand that fiction must portray reality. I get that art reflects life. What I don’t get is why we feel the need to use rape quite so callously. It’s like a writer sits back and thinks hey, nothing has happened in the story for a while. Let’s just throw in a random rape to move the plot along.

Downton Abbey

I don’t understand why a man would feel the need to rape a woman. In theory, I understand the power, the need for control. But why not kick a dog, or shoot a plate. Why force yourself on a woman just because you’re – what – cold, lonely, angry, horny? And when a writer decides to do that to some random character, then really, why?

I understand – on a logical level – that rape evokes such raw reactions that you can’t NOT use it in drama. But in a strory that already had everything – including a rabid following – it was rather needless to throw that in. I feel ambushed. I feel rather like I was attacked myself. Granted, as one who has experienced rape, I feel that way every time I see it in fiction. But this one hurt me more specifically, because it was so callous, so uncalled for, so out of character for the show.

It felt exactly like walking down a safe, harmless street and being jumped by a rapist. It hurt so much specifically because I never saw it coming. And in that way, it was a very realistic portrayal of the act, because no victim ever sees it coming.

That’s part of why it hurts so much. You’re happily walking down a street, or you’re at a job interview, or you’re spending time with a man you trust. Suddenly everything changes. You’re not a human being anymore. You’re an object that somebody wants, and they viciously take what they want, simply because they can.

I’m generally fussy about what I watch. Now I feel nothing is really safe, not even trite, fluffy period dramas loaded with wit and British accents. I doubt I’ll be watching Season 5 of Downton Abbey. Or Scandal. Or Broke Girls. Or anything really. In fact, I’ll probably stick to really old books and documentaries.



And reality shows on cookery and fashion. Because at least rape hasn’t snuck into that market yet. And on that note, I’m off the find the Great Gatsby. On PDF. But maybe I should Google it first, just to be sure there’s nothing in there that I don’t want to read.

♫ Everything ♫ Alanis Morissette ♫

115 thoughts on “Giving up on TV

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