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Hollywood’s decades-old influence on rape culture

With the rise of the #MeToo movement, the eyes of American feminists have been on Hollywood. The American public has shifted their attention to directors, actors and other members of Hollywood’s entertainment industry and how they have contributed to rape culture far beyond the hills that house the Hollywood sign. Rape culture and sexual assault have bled into the lives of anybody with a Netflix subscription or ticket stub from their local movie theater. Though Hollywood itself only takes up about 30.7 square miles, the media produced within the city limits has the unique ability to reach all 3.8 million square miles of the United States. Hollywood’s messages are not confined to the borders of America, and have become an international source of entertainment.

It is no wonder why in the U.S. one in five women has endured either an attempted or completed sexual assault. Messages encouraging and desensitizing sexual assault are represented in box offices and television sets nationwide. This growing epidemic that seems to have adopted its origins in Hollywood dates back to the 1970s. In 1973, the award-winning Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci conspired with actor Marlon Brando to film a rape scene involving the actor and his co-star, actress Maria Schneider, which took place on the set of “The Last Tango in Paris.” This film was nominated for not one, but two Academy Awards and several other prestigious recognitions. According to a 2013 article published by Elle Magazine, “Bertolucci admitted that star Maria Schneider never consented to it. Bertolucci confessed… that he and Marlon Brando came up with the idea to shoot the assault scene in which Brando’s character uses a stick of butter to rape Schneider on screen.” Brando was 48 years old; Schneider was only 19.

The Guardian notes that the most disturbing fact of the incident was not the assault itself, but what Bertolucci said to Brando prior to the filming of the assault. Bertolucci desired Schneider’s “reaction as a girl, not as an actress.” This statement incriminates Bertolucci for staging an assault against a young, vulnerable woman for his own professional gain.

More heartbreaking than the assault itself is not that Schneider has to relive her rape every time she watches the Academy Award-winning film, but that she didn’t even know that what happened to her is assault. She explained before her death in 2011 that she only felt “a little raped by both Marlon and Bertolucci.” There was no outcry and therefore no response or legal action taken against the director or actor for the assault. The Guardian further reported that the “common theme is that we continue to disbelieve women who are assaulted.” But how can we believe women when they are unsure if what they went through was assault?

The moral of this situation and many other nonconsensual situations that take place daily is that rape and sexual assault should be unarguable. If no consent is given, it is rape. If you feel “a little raped,” you have been raped. Now is the time to speak out, against Hollywood and against our attackers. It is time that people like Brando and Bertolucci be held accountable. No woman should ever feel “a little raped.”

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