Stop the Spit
What is my pain that you trample it through the dirt?
My body abused, unearthed from my dignity
Well positioned for the pleasure of your calloused eyes
You, who pretend to regenerate me in blood – in vengeance
Create instead a monster, soul less, inhuman
An Open Letter to Meir Zarchi, writer/director of the I Spit on Your Grave movies,
Not many movies can boast success from its low budget origins with a popular franchise decades later. So from a commercial standpoint, your achievements are undeniable. However, your success comes at the price of monetizing rape as entertainment. I can see how a possible message of empowerment for rape victims is layered beneath the gore and shocking images. But, empowerment comes in the form of brutal revenge which complicates any well-intended message. What is blatantly obvious, though, is the objectification and exploitation of women reduced to a naked body used for profits.
I stumbled on these movies through my college studies. I have viewed the original 1978 film and the 2010 remake. I will not be watching the remaining sequels. I was intrigued by the controversy surrounding the movies. I wanted to decide for myself whether these movies are a “step-forward” from the demoralizing portrayal of women in the days of the final-girl slasher movies. Indeed, the female protagonist, Jennifer, survives the end and by definition is not a final-girl. But, after viewing and analyzing both films, I was sad to find little improvement on the “forwarding” of the female character despite the thirty years of real-life female empowerment that stands in the void between the first and second movies. By “forwarding” I’m referring to the characterization of Jennifer that provides more than just a superficial shell of a person. Other than a dedicated writer who can afford to rent a secluded retreat for a summer, Jennifer is a friendly and attractive woman. She has no history, no family, no friends, no individual traits that establish her as a three-dimensional woman. When she embarks on her murderous rampage what little humanity she possesses is cut off as she hacks into her deserving victims. Jennifer is a diabolical killing machine that appears to have only needed a reason to unleash her sadistically creative attacks.
I have no doubt that some are satisfied by watching the bad guys get what’s coming – up their ass with a shotgun. But how many more are sickeningly satisfied by the visual stimulation of a wide-screen rape scene? And who is your target audience? Your marketing posters that sexualize the rape victim in her provocatively cut rags or torn, skimpy outfits seem to target a particular type of onlooker. Do you really think that rape victims who are already blamed for enticing men to rape them because of how they dress or how they look will be fans?
I realize this is a fictional horror movie. But I ask what is fictional about the horror of rape? You say you want to “depict the real horrors of rape”. The real horrors are the psychological, emotional, social, spiritual, and physical trauma that sex assault victims are left to live with - if one can call that living. No amount of blood or guts smeared over the memory of such a heinous crime can erase the pain. In fact, I would argue it would make it worse.
These movies are a disheartening attempt to engage in a truly despicable real-world problem offering no real solutions. We are in an influential age of media. Makers of media should be called to higher standards for what is available to consumers, especially those who choose to get involved with extremely sensitive matters. It is my understanding that a new installment is currently in the making entitled, “I Spit on Your Grave: Déjà vu”. From the self-explanatory title, I can imagine it will be yet another rusty cog in the perpetuation of violence against women masquerading as entertainment.
I ask that if you are passionate about helping the millions of rape victims that have and will certainly endure the uphill battle of proving their innocence, create a work that moves against the tide of injustice, a work that highlights the devastation of this crime to give hope to victims and truly empower women. You were given the opportunity and means to transform your personal experience into a transformative experience to bring positive change. Audiences deserve better. Victims deserve better. The woman you helped all those years ago, in desperate need of rescue, she deserves better.
Waiting for Better