Mark Millar was recently quoted by The New Republic as saying that his use of gang rape in Kick-Ass 2 was just to show how bad the guy was, saying that rape doesn’t matter in comics. Every single article I’ve read about it demonizes him as insensitive, stupid, and somehow contributing to what seems to be described as either a “pro-rape” or at least a “condoning by not discussing rape” Western culture.
Come on, guys. Millar may be mysogynist, but he’s hardly pro-rape.
What he meant was, it’s not any bigger a deal than a decapitation (which he also discussed). Now, Millar is a guy who uses rape quite a bit, and he catches more flak for it than Garth Ennis.
Laura Hudson (senior editor at Wired) responded, in the same article, by saying rape and decapitation aren’t the same:
“It’s using a trauma you don’t understand in a way whose implications you can’t understand, and then talking about it as though you’re doing the same thing as having someone’s head explode. You’re not. Those two things are not equivalent, and if you don’t understand, you shouldn’t be writing rape scenes.”
I’m not sure I agree with her: Ultraviolence is ultraviolence. Millar no more understands what it is like to be raped than he understands what it is like to have his head explode. Moreover, the experience of being raped (or having your head exploded) is hardly singular or universal; different people respond in different ways to the same situation. I know this because I am disabled, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people say to me: “If I had to live with what you go through, I’d never be able to handle it!” Bullshit. But those people aren’t stupid, they’re just ignorant. And if they’re writing a work of fiction about what it’s like to suffer, they might draw on my experience as an example—even if I don’t think of it that way. In other words, Millar’s use of rape to measure depth-of-evil says much more about him and his own fears than it does about rape itself. Just as everything a writer does says more about the author than the reader. Except insofar as different readers can walk away with different interpretations of the same work of fiction–which says more about the reader than the author.
Of course our culture is more afraid of discussing rape than exploding heads. They cut the rape scene out of The Walking Dead’s TV show, and they’re cutting it out of the Kick Ass 2 movie, because the topic is deemed too disturbing. And yet heads explode constantly in Walking Dead, and Kick Ass 2 will feature brutal torture. Why are we afraid to depict rape? And if writers choose to depict it, rather than calling them insensitive or inartful, maybe we should be happy that the issue is being discussed at all? Or is this like when rap culture adopted the “N” word, and then were criticized for making a hateful word less hateful by coopting it and taking the punch out of it.
With that in mind…
This is an article on comic book rapes.
Zombie incest rape. Man-on-man rape. In comic books.
It’s happened more often than you think…Hit more if you want to read this column, but I’m warning you: It’s pretty dark. I’m not sure why I was inspired to write it.