‘Promising Young Woman’ & ‘Luckiest Girl Alive’ – Pertinent Netflix Films That Break Silence On Rape

Both these films were revelatory not because they were dealing with anything new but because they had a clear, strong message out there - break the silence!

When I first saw the trailer of Promising Young Woman on Netflix, I thought it was a run-of-the-mill thriller, at best, a run-of-the-mill psychological thriller. I did save it to my watch list, though mostly because I enjoy all thrillers however predictable they might be. It was only after I had watched the film that I realized what a pertinent movie this was and how important the subject.

Promising Young Woman

Of course, a young girl being assaulted in high school or college is hardly anything new, right? Nor is what follows…the stigmatization, the blame game (she was drunk, she was wearing an excessively short dress, she was asking for it!). Even while these far too familiar situations were unfolding on the screen in front of me, I heard myself muttering in barely controlled rage….how dare they! The nerve!

Obviously, it doesn’t end there. What follows is the slut shaming, the denial, the reluctance to believe the victim, and of course, the “locker room talk”.

The last term is particularly disturbing since it essentially implies that men naturally and instinctively talk differently amongst themselves than they do in a mixed gender audience.

Anyway, a girl being sexually assaulted in school or college is far too common, which is what has perhaps normalized this horrendous thing. The truth however, is that it IS a crime and has to be treated as one. The boys, shockingly even some of the girls, in the movie repeatedly claimed innocence, arguing that they were “kids” when the incident occurred. “We didn’t know what we were doing back then”. That was the collective response when they were questioned by the victim’s best friend, years later. While she was looking for remorse, what she essentially got was a casual shrug off, as though what had happened just wasn’t important or even relevant anymore. Well, if you didn’t know what you were doing, how in hell did you do it?

Of course, all of the onlookers, as well as the perpetrators of the crime, did in fact go on to lead perfectly normal lives, while the victim and her best friend had anything but. What sealed this dastardly deal was the total and complete lack of any kind of regret, even in the end. The sheer callousness, the heartlessness, the coolness, is actually something that will make you want to retch. Retch at the brutality that human beings are capable of.

Luckiest Girl Alive

Promising Young Woman did remind me a little of Luckiest Girl Alive, the movie that was made based on the bestselling novel by Jessica Knoll.

I was a lot younger when I read that book and so it wasn’t surprising how much it traumatized me. Then I watched an interview by the author in which she did come out and say that the book was based on her own life. She admitted that she initially brought her novel out as a fictionalized account since she wasn’t sure how people would define what had happened to her. She was waiting for validation, she wanted to be sure that she had in fact, been assaulted. The fact that she was actually uncertain about something so huge, so life-changing, just proves how much society really wants to shrug off, deny, what a woman says, how much even her friends and classmates want to disbelieve her, not take responsibility, not act. Simply because it’s more convenient or easier to do that.

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Both these films were revelatory not because they were dealing with anything new but because they had a clear, strong message out there. We are sick of normalizing something that isn’t normal at all. Sick and tired of accepting, tolerating something that is simply unacceptable. That was a moment of total clarity for me as I hope it will be for all other viewers too. These movies have to be made. These books have to be written. These subjects cannot be deemed uncomfortable or inconvenient any more. They simply have to be discussed.

Promising Young Woman and Luckiest Girl Alive are both streaming on Netflix though the former will be taken down on the 30th of September. Watch them please!

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About the Author

Rrashima Swaarup Verma

Rrashima is a senior corporate analyst with over 20 years of experience in the corporate sector. She is also a prolific writer, novelist and poet and her articles, stories and poems are regularly published in read more...

34 Posts | 38,684 Views

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