To follow up on my previous post regarding Mark Millar’s recently publicised thoughts on rape as plot device–
1: Harry Potter and the Heavily Female Fandom
Nearly Headless Nick, or Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington, is a character from Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone who continues to appear throughout the seven book series. Harry Potter, you may know, is the most popular and profitable children’s series of this century.
Nearly Headless Nick is a ghost – the non-survivor of an anomalously traumatic decapitation. Children enjoy this character because he is funny – adults find him amusing enough to cast John Cleese in the role.
You see, beheading is not a credible danger. It’s rare enough to be, as a threat, hyperbole.
Rape though. That doesn’t appear in Harry Potter, the storybook series you’d read to your kids! Wait – does it? It does: in book six we’re told the story of Tom Riddle’s genesis and it is that he was born of a coupling that owed everything to love potion. Tom Riddle, sr, was raped by Merope Gaunt. She adored him. She abused him. It happens. It shouldn’t.
But the different between the Mark Millar approach and the Rowling attempt is that Rowling takes rape by fraud or rape by intoxication as its own weight – this is not ‘to show that someone’s a bad guy’. It’s to begin to explain how somebody became a bad guy; it’s the first event in the cruel and loveless life of Lord Voldemort. J K Rowling may not have done justice to the real life children born of rape – whose destinies are not written, who retain all the potential for love and generosity that any baby has – but she took rape seriously. As an act with consequences.
2: Bags of meat
A beheaded body, a bodiless head, is not a person. It’s bone, meat & gristle – a butcher’s work. A lump.
It’s scene dressing, really, and note the way that I say “it”; chopped-off heads are funny, because of narm. We can’t take them seriously because the brain doesn’t accept their humanity. That’s why Futurama’s shelves of celebrity-inna-jar, Mombi of Oz, or that weird ‘evil head, good body’ hero/villain duo from the Aladdin cartoon worked. A head that’s detached from a body, dude, that’s like… far out…
I hope you’re not missing the obvious. Rape culture and ingrained misogyny tell us that “a woman’s body” is an it, a parody of life really, an object. To be used for titillation and atmospheric shock – regardless of the woman living through it. This is why the comparison is so telling: a woman’s body – breasts, genitals, mouth, eyes, hair, buttocks, legs, nails – is perceived to exist independently of the fact that it is, they are, the channels through which life is experienced. Non-divorceable from a brain and/or soul that represents the awareness that we call existence.
3: People who are more people than others
As an author, it’s not necessary to respect life. Mark Millar’s comments suggest that as an author he does not respect the living.
Update: Read Megan B’s personal blog on the subject here.