Fighting with the Sky

Why don't we call it what it is?

Posted on: February 9, 2010

Ok, it’s time for a big admittance on my part: I watch 24.  But this is not a post about why I watch 24 (nor do I want to get into it in the comments), it’s just something that I do.  Maybe I’ll try to address that for a post at a later date.  Maybe.  What this post is about is one of the story lines that started playing out this week that had me closer than ever to screaming at the television screen.

So last week, a former FBI agent, Renee, was undercover trying to regain the trust of a Russian arms dealer that she was undercover with 6 years ago.  Last week, he threatened her into sleeping with him.  This week, she pushed him a little bit on a deal they were trying to make and he started to beat her.  So she grabbed a knife and stabbed him repeatedly.

Jack was telling the head of CTU what happened.  And the head of CTU responds by saying something along the lines of: “What happened?  Did she lose it?  An hour ago she was sleeping with him and now she’s stabbing him…”  No, she wasn’t sleeping with him.  He raped her.  And then he beat her.  No wonder she stabbed him.  Have we ever heard of self-defense?  At least Jack called the stabbing self-defense and didn’t blame Renee for killing the Russian and then stabbing him (he was trying to pull her off of the Russian and she turned and stabbed him before she knew what she was doing).

But NO ONE on the show is calling what happened to Renee as rape.  The Russian, Vladamir, threw a glass against the wall, threatened Renee’s personal safety, and threatened the deal that they were trying to make (that has to do with unsecured nuclear cores) if Renee didn’t have sex with him.  That’s rape.  No, he did not grab her out of an alley as she was walking around and hold her at gun point while he forced himself on her.  But threatening someone into having sex is rape.  It’s not even the so-called “gray area” of date rape.  It’s rape.

And it seems like next week the head of CTU is going to continue to blame Renee for losing a lead even though he raped her and beat her and it was very clearly self-defense.  Ugh.  Seriously?  It is bad enough that they refuse to call this rape.  What makes it even worse, to the point that I am thinking about writing a letter to Fox, is that they want to blame the victim for defending herself and don’t even understand why she would stab Vladamir.

This is precisely the kind of thing that promotes the rape culture that we live in.  If 24 is not going to call this rape and blame Renee for defending herself against her rapist, it just perpetuates the same thing happening to real women.  Who is going to believe someone that is raped if the media and pop culture is not going to call things like this what it is: rape.

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6 Responses to "Why don't we call it what it is?"

nice post! we harp on the culture war Hollywood unleashes on women and this is yet another example. Also, an additional assault on women: calling women who act in strong ways, crazy.

You have to remember, though, that Renee could have called the CTU reinforcements in when it became clear that she was in danger. However, she chose not to let them take her out of the situation and she chose to go dark.

Let’s not allow our analysis to take all agency away from this female character.

Yes, there are potential things that Renee could have done to get out of that situation, but there is not guarantee that they would have worked (Vladimir still could have raped, beat, and/or killed Renee if he found out she was working with CTU if she called in reinforcements). And just because she could have called in reinforcements and didn’t, doesn’t make it any less of a rape. She obviously did not want to have sex with Vladimir and he threatened her into having sex with him. That’s rape.

Thank you for posting this. I too guiltily watch 24 and was mortified when I saw this. And in response to Clarissa, she might have made this “choice” to go dark, but in context she didn’t believe that she would get the information they needed to secure the weapons.

She was doing just what Jack would do on the countless times in the series he has gone “rogue” and then been hurt by it. We’ve never blamed him for being attacked or tortured or tied up. In the next episode, Jack is tortured specifically because he went “rogue” against CTU. But I am sure there won’t be any calls that that was his fault.

Thank you for writing this!
My husband watches 24, and sometimes I’m in the room. I was in the room last week, during this episode, and I said all those things to him as we were watching.

Rene was raped. Period. There was cohersion — she had to stay undercover and act as her “character” (or cover or whatever the code word is for it) so they could get the thing done. In order to save the world from nuclear warfare, she had to have sex with him: that was rape.

Let’s say your abusive boyfriend says if you don’t have sex with him, he’s going to beat your children (who are sleeping down the hall). Yes, you could call 911, but the abuser rapist is going to get to your children to beat them a lot quicker than the cops are going to get to your house to arrest him.

Rene did not have the choice to say no because of the situation she was in. And when she stabbed Vladimir, he was hitting her, on top of everything else. What she did was self-defense, and if the show doesn’t make that perfectly clear, then we should write Fox about it.

Good review of the show, although I don’t watch it. My area of expertise is to critically analyse childrens shows from a feminist perspective. Much more covert than adult shows. So much more subtle. In effect, it’s a prelude to introduce our children to the norms of the adult world, which for one, hardly recognise rape.

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