This movie made me feel incredibly uncomfortable from the very beginning. This had one of those cases of a rape depicted real-time in a scene while nothing was being done about it. I understand the cinematic point of doing so, it puts you right into that lawless post-Apocalyptic place that the movie is set in due to the nature of the way it was conducted and the surrounding circumstances. For those who haven’t seen this, the male partner is killed in front of her by thugs on a power trip and then she is brutally raped, probably still looking at her partner’s dead body.
I’ve seen rape culture talked about a lot since beginning this blog on a multitude of websites, but few times has it been like this. Watching the scene on the big screen, rather than just reading about it, brought a whole new level of discomfort to it. I was put on edge immediately and there was no turning back. I couldn’t shake the very personal way that it effected me. Later in the movie, a young girl is presented to a guest with the “gift” of sex. She is being forced to offer herself to this man and is lucky that he is a good man, even though he didn’t stop the prior rape scene. I felt like they had used the rape scene to show his disconnect with other people during his mission and then his refusal to take adventage of her and an attempted rape that he breaks up to show his re-connection to people. This movie repeatedly uses women as plot devices only and in some of the most disgusting ways that I’ve ever seen. I’m not usually one for films that I know will do this, so I manage to avoid most of these kinds of disturbing scenes. This one snuck up on me because it sounded it was going to be religious.
And it is religious. It is about a blind man who wanders the desert for 30 years with a Bible. What can be more religious than that? It is also about a man, the very one who forced the girl into prostitution, who is looking for a Bible. The entire plot is set around this search and his explicit desire to use it to exploit and subjugate people with it. He has a modicum of power now but he knows that with the Bible, he could have great power over people, especially illiterate people like the ones he is currently managing with promises of booze and women, because,the Bible has the right words.
I don’t tend to like things with themes of the way power sickens people (usually men in movies, which is its own gender issue), the way corrupt people use religion to subjugate others, or the outright subjugation or objectification of women. Almost everything this movie deals with sickened me.
Let me also say that it was well worth watching. Yes, these were my nightmares for what the world would be like again (as it has been depicted as being in the past during certain eras and in certain places) but it also brought into light what some of the people of the Bible may have gone through in those times when power was so precariously held. Think about it for a minute, there was more than one ancient king or pharaoh that didn’t blink an eye at killing toddlers and babies to stay in power. There was more than one man who was so afraid of other men killing him for want of his wife that he bid her to lie and tell them she was his sister. Watching the horrific circumstance of power that is so easily lost and the plight of women during such an era did a really good job of humanizing figures like Sarah and Rebekah in the Old Testament, and Mary in the New Testament.
Thinking about this movie on the heels of this months reading also brought with it a whole new humanity and awareness about women who do still go through this. These horrific scenes still get played out in parts of the world where the rule of law sits precariously under someone’s ability to enforce it. There are women who go through these scenes still and it is a job for feminism and women’s rights groups to help those who advocate for our sisters wether in other countries or found in our own. It is also the job of men to stop these things from happening. It is within their ability to not participate, not put down that judgement or punishment for women, and to stop it when they see it happen. This is a problem that we are able to stop if we are able to end our complacency with what happens in other countries and advocate with those who live there for it to stop. We must support those who are advocating for such women’s rights in any way we can so that such a horrific movie scene in the US can no longer be reality for someone half the world away or in our backyard, and it isn’t just women. It is a daily fear (or so I’ve read) of the transgendered community that people will react in a manner similar to these horrific scenes when they come out or are outted in places as progressive as the US.
The treatment of women in this movie is my nightmare, but it is reality for many people. How do we get it to stop?
To finish the discussion on The Book of Eli, I’d like to end with its final scene:
Keep the faith, in whatever it is that you have faith in, and fight the good fight against corruption of all kinds.