This serves as a good follow-up to my earlier post about the misuse of sexual violence in fiction:
... at the age of 41, at about 94 minutes into "The Divide," I reached a breaking point, and I realized that I am pretty much incapable of sitting through one more cheap, pointless, exploitative rape in a movie.
I haven't seen The Divide (as I type this it's trending at 19% on Rotten Tomatoes, make of that what you will), but I have seen The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Irreversible, the latter of which I discussed specifically in my previous post and the former of which I feel roughly the same way he does about.
Again, it's not the presence of sexual violence in a story that bothers me, but the thoughtless way it's used so much of the time. It's too often used as shorthand to make a character a monster, or make a setting that much bleaker, or do something else other than address the subject of sexual violence itself. It is, as Drew says in the quoted piece, button-pushing, or a stacking of the deck, and that cheapens our understanding of it.
People have asked me, isn't this a backing-away from the idea that we need to confront the worst in ourselves through our art? I thought about it, and the answer I came up with was: It all depends on how you go about doing it and to what end, doesn't it? It's one thing to write Last Exit to Brooklyn as a reflection of the world you were surrounded by since you were a child, and another entirely to put a rape scene into a film as a way to make someone all the more of an irredeemable skunk.
A while back I was reading a historical manga series where there was a great deal of this sort of "atmosphere". It got numbing after a while, and soon it started to have the wrong effect: I started thinking more about the creators than I did about the characters. At some point I bailed for less compulsively ugly territory. I don't feel like I missed out on a great deal.
And at this point I'm not rushing out to see The Divide, either. A shame, because when I heard the basic premise described I had the feeling it might be a pretty good little sleeper. But I have the bad feeling I know too much about it now to want to bother.