i don’t like the suggestion that art should avoid any particular topic

i watched a film called irreversible a while ago. it’s a french flick that is infamous for a brutal rape scene in it. a friend told me about the film and said it was really good, but pointed out the rape scene was tough to watch because it was so convincing. he said it was quite long, like 10 minutes or so, and done in a single, non-stop shot. my pal found it hard to stomach but felt that there was a purpose to both the scene and how it was done. he felt that such a horrific event shouldn’t be edited or stylized, that it should be shown unflinchingly to try to communicate just how ugly and awful it truly is. i thought that was really interesting.

then i was chatting with another friend (a film studies graduate) about the same film, and mentioned all of this to him. this friend seemed to disagree with what my first friend had said, suggesting instead that no acting, directing, or anything else could come close to communicating the real horror of rape, and it was offensive to attempt to simulate it for the sake of film.

i can understand both arguments and think either position is reasonable, but i think the rationale for the second one is kind of flimsy and over-generalized. you could use the same argument and posit that any art about any sensitive issue trivializes it, and is offensive to those who have actually experienced it. i think war films are a great example of this: anyone who has been in ground-level combat will likely tell you that war is hell, so by my second friend’s logic, wouldn’t it be offensive to veterans to see a bunch of artists dancing around on a staged set, trying to imitate something horrible that they have not experienced and couldn’t possibly understand on a visceral level? sure, i think so.


i love the deer hunter but i bet that if i had survived being a POW in vietnam, i’d probably find its depictions of war cheap and inaccurate.

that wouldn’t make the offended veteran’s opinion the ‘right’ opinion though. there would probably be just as many veterans who felt the opposite way. my point is there’s no consensus on what’s offensive so i don’t think it’s fair to say any subject matter should be taboo due to its sensitive nature.

i think that, like most things in life, this is not something you can make a blanket statement about (even though those are my favourite kind of statement to make). i think each case must be judged on an individual basis: was that art exploitative? did it do justice to whatever it was trying to recreate or communicate? was it being respectful to the subject matter? each viewer should be critical and think about these kinds of questions, come up with their own answers, feel what they personally feel about a piece of art, and accept that other people may feel differently.

to each their own, for fuck’s sake.


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