Spoiler Warning: If you haven’t read the graphic novel, and don’t want to know a major plot point of the film, stop reading. If you have read it or don’t care, continue on and hit us with your opinion.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan recently spoke with MTV’s Splash Page about the rape scene in the upcoming film Watchmen. To the great relief of fanboys worldwide (and I imagine to the lesser relief of fangirls) he’s confirmed that it’s “really very violent.” He was even kind enough to provide an unintentionally snicker-worthy attempt at innuendo, saying “It was a three-day process shooting that particular scene, and it was hard… It was three of the hardest days of filming I have ever had to do.” Shameful Mr. Comedian, shameful.
My initial response to MTV’s posting was to ask why? Not only why is this news, but why does the scene need to be “really very violent” anyway? Yes, I realize rape is a crime of violence, not of sex, and yes, I realize that by that definition any scene involving rape is unavoidably violent. But is the event so important to the plot that it needs to be highlighted and glorified as “one hell of a violent scene?”
The Comedian (Morgan) is shown in a flashback assaulting Silk Spectre (Carla Gugino), before being interrupted by Hooded Justice (Glenn Ennis) who proceeds to beat the crap out of him. The actual assault runs about ten panels long in the original comic, but only the final one or two show the rape (or attempted rape) in progress. There are plenty of punches, kicks, and scratches before he bends her over and makes her go “ghuuchh.” The violence on display doesn’t look as if it should take more than a minute of screen time, but has director Zack Snyder decided to give this particular plot point more visual and dramatic weight?
Much has been made of Snyder’s attention (re: obsession) to detail while bringing Alan Moore’s classic comic to the big-screen. Photos and trailers have shown costumes, props, and panels themselves brought uncannily to life with an amazing exactness so we should expect nothing less from the rape scene… right? “When you’re looking at the comic book you only get a couple panels so there is a lot of stuff there that needs to be filled in,” Morgan said, “so we fill in the blanks there between three and four panels, and it turns out to be one hell of a violent scene. And it’s all intact.” Makes some sense, but it’s a fine line between dramatic necessity and gratuitous filler. Good taste aside, could the violence of the scene go too far for the purposes of the story and character arcs that follow?
There seems to be some disagreement over whether or not The Comedian actually rapes Silk Spectre or if he’s stopped by Hooded Justice before her bat cave has been penetrated. If that ambiguity is to remain onscreen then Snyder’s filler will need to focus solely on the beating and not elongate the part that makes Silk Spectre go “ghuuch,” but even then the line may still be crossed. The Comedian is present throughout the story in the form of flashbacks that show him to be a pretty bad guy. Later revelations in the comic force the readers to re-evaluate their view of the man just a bit, but will viewers be able to do the same after watching him pummel, pound, and rape a woman for a few minutes?
** More Potential SPOILERS Alert ** Silk Spectre is seen crying over a picture of The Comedian, and when it’s revealed that she had a consensual relationship with him after the assault and that he’s the father of her daughter (and biological sequel, Silk Spectre II) the audience needs to empathize with her. As written by Moore, his physical transgression was forgivable. (Either that or Silk Spectre was just a poorly written female plot device.) Rape is the one thing I’m unable to become desensitized to onscreen, no matter how many times I’ve seen it and no matter how skillful the filmmaker. I would assume (and hope) that the same can be said for most viewers, meaning Snyder has a difficult task ahead of him here. We need to be able to feel compassion for the man she loved to understand her pain, but witnessing his vicious, brutal, and overly violent assault on her an hour earlier may make that impossible. Morgan says “It’s rated ‘R’ for a reason” but I’d like to think that rating is for violence and themes throughout and not just due to one gratuitous assault that in the grand scheme of Watchmen‘s plot really isn’t that important.
What do you think? Should the rape scene be as quick and ambiguous onscreen as it is in the comic or should it be even more violent? Have you ever made your sex partner go “ghuuch?”