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Promising Young Woman is every woman’s nightmare, but also a fantasy many of us have had – what if took the law into our own hands?
“It’s every guy’s worst nightmare getting accused like that.
Can you guess what every woman’s worst nightmare is?”
This line made me pause to take a deep breath. Such is the power of that one question.
I believe 10 out of 10 women would have the same answer to this, which talks of a not-so-shocking albeit absolute harsh reality.
The lines quoted above are from a 2020 released movie ‘Promising Young Woman. It has a sort of Gone Girl vibe to it, with its essence rooted in seeking revenge.
Some spoilers ahead
Cassie, a young medical school dropout, is harbouring a deeply traumatic event from her past. In order to find sense in this chaos and set things right in the world, she regularly frequents bars pretending to be drunk. She waits to see whether a man would approach her, to help get her home safe or try to take advantage of her. Unfortunately, it’s usually the latter. Once she is taken to their place, she flips the switch on them letting them know she is sober and calling them out on their intentions – that of wanting to have sex with her while she is intoxicated and even unconscious.
While this move seems absolutely risky to the viewer, given the fact that so many things could go wrong and pose a danger to her life; one must admit that there is a supreme satisfaction in watching these potential molestors/ rapists squirm, once Cassie points at for their deplorable thoughts and actions.
This does not lead to any legal course of action in the movie but seems to show the main lead aiming to call men out on their wrongdoing and striking extreme fear in their lives, such that they would think 10 times before pulling something like that on any woman ever again.
The story lets on quite early how her friend, Nina, at medical school was raped and the boy got off scot free. It also shows another aspect, of how it was the men have committed this crime, participated in it and we find out later, even videotaped it; it is also women who played a role in the same; women such as the medical student who refused to believe Cassie’s friend as well as the Dean who appeared as if she did not remember the incident or who Nina was initially.
And that is for sure one of the worst scenes from the movie – to have a woman herself blame the victim instead of believing her.
“She was promiscuous, she drank too much, she put herself in a vulnerable position” and so forth – as if the issue of a woman’s consent and her right to basic respect does not exist.
While this movie may have been exaggerated for the sake of creating a thriller/crime story, it highlights the core issue of morality with reference to sexual crimes. It delves into the psyche of individuals in a society such as ours who would rather block such information from their awareness as it is too disturbing or upsetting to have in their conscious awareness.
Family members, friends, relatives, colleagues and at times, even spouses, refuse to acknowledge a woman’s truth. Sadly, while the episode may be over, the psychological toll it takes on survivors lasts a lifetime. It affects their world view, decision making, self-esteem and trust in themselves and others.
We live in a post #metoo time; however, while the movement surely ignited women to find their voice, those in our country suffer in silence daily. Whether it be domestic abuse worsening during the pandemic and lockdown, childhood/teenage abuse or rape, what women have to be worried about on a daily basis is unfair, to say the least.
As exaggerated and candy-flossed as this movie was, it made me think – Why must women have to turn towards deviant or criminal behaviour in order to find justice? What are the options when the legal system fails a victim? Is this what we must resort to?
Sadly, the movie’s ending reaffirmed my belief that no matter how a movie seemed to show a woman taking matters into her own hands, it still ultimately led to her being a victim of violence.
Perhaps the few times women have actually lied or ‘cried wolf’, has made society doubt all women’s voice and stories (unless there is an actual confession at play), calling all of it merely feminist propaganda.
A woman’s worst nightmare doesn’t end at the incident but the fight that follows to survive, be heard, believed, supported, and be entitled to justice and the right to live her life.
It is ironic how I am finishing writing this, with the movie Pink on my television in the background.
No matter which culture or country, the narrative for women is the same – fight to survive, fight the odds to merely live.
Top image is a still from the movie
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