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13 January 2011 @ 07:00 pm
The Rape of Inara: On heroines, consent, and women’s sexuality.  
I've always off-handedly known that Joss had planned a gang rape for Inara by reavers at some point, but never really pursued the details past what I had briefly come across? But it's something that comes up for me often in "Firefly" discussions in the context of So Glad It Died Before That. ide_cyan provided some links in my last post with more details, and it was too tempting. I now have details. And thoughts. And rage, OH SO MUCH RAGE. Because the interview linked was done by Tim Minear, aka my TV God.

Hi, fuck you, Tim Minear. I have liked you in the past because while you’ve failed before, you have also been good about admitting the fail and then correcting it where possible, which is incredibly rare with writers. So I had assumed that you had gotten past the issues you had displayed randomly on Angel? Because you gave us “The Inside,” which is a wonderful deconstruction of some very problematic tropes and will never not be epic. And “Drive.” And “Wonderfalls.” All with awesome women and no rape! But apparently, it never goes away.

He goes on for almost three minutes about the Rape of Inara plot here (around the 35 minute mark). Which apparently is what Joss Whedon used to pitch the show to him. You know, Joss the Feminist. (Honestly, at this point, I'm surprised that Buffy had five seasons before rape entered the narrative arcs.) The word “beautiful” might have been used in the context of a RAPE PLOT. Women’s suffering/death as beautiful? My thoughts on it haven't changed. Just…I kind of want to crawl under a rock and avoid fandom forever. Tim Minear was the ONLY writer I had any respect left for.

Like, I do think that Minear tends to be at his worst when working under Joss. But his failure to recognize the fail of a rape plot in the context of Man Pain? At worst, he’s a horrible misogynist, and even at best, he’s one of the Joss-is-God people who can’t see anything wrong with what Joss does. Either way, NO WORDS.

Also, I am now gleefully happy that “Firefly” got canceled. Not that I wasn’t before, but now? I can almost forgive FOX for canceling all those TV shows if it means that Inara was never raped. Also, TV, can you stop having the women with sexuality be raped or otherwise punished for having it while pretending to be edgy for having women with ‘unconventional’ sexualities?

The rape plot/arc is described thusly, "It opens with Mal and Inara fighting (as they do). Mal tells her she pretends to be a lady and wants everyone to bow before her and kiss her hand but she’s just a whore. Then the Reavers attack and take Inara. While trying to get her back they learn that she had something that would make anyone who had sex with her die. When they finally track down and board the ship they find all of the Reavers dead and Inara shaking and traumatized. They take her back to the ship and Zoe guards her room. Mal tries to get in to see her and Zoe tells him he’s the last person Inara needs to see. He pushes past her, kneels before Inara and kisses her hand."

So the framing of the episode is through Mal, who calls Inara a whore and then learns a lesson and is forced to acknowledge that she’s really a lady. This bugged me, but I could not figure out why because of the EPIC RAGE and despair, which eventually subsided to give way to thoughts: So, what makes her a respectable lady instead of a 'whore' at the end of the show? Being raped by a gang of reavers, which results in their deaths.

In other words: A woman having consensual sex that she enjoys and/or profits from is a whore, but a woman being raped can be a lady. It's the taking away of her CHOICE that elevates her to the status of a lady because it's okay as long as she didn't want it. Is it any wonder that our fiction is so filled with RAPE when we’re not COMFORTABLE with women having consensual sex, when fiction constantly feels the need to punish women for *wanting* sex, especially sex outside the bonds of a socially sanctioned monogamous relationship? Inara is, from my brief strays into the Firefly fandom, the most hated character, which is not really surprising given how uncomfortable fandom is with certain types of heroines. But this whole attitude that Inara somehow owes Mal something and that all the sex she has as part of her profession is actually cheating on him and how she doesn't deserve him? Gah. He calls her a whore repeatedly, slut shames her, and ENJOYS it, enjoys specifically humiliating her in front of people by bringing up her profession. When she has repeatedly asked him not to, and this is our hero. The one who learns an Important Lesson from her rape.

Jessica Valenti in “The Purity Myth” states it best, “While boys are taught that the things that make them men—good men—are universally accepted ethical ideals, women are led to believe that our moral compass lies somewhere between our legs. Literally. ”

Our fiction is made up of this double standard. This is why the romance genre is so littered with rape, because heroines can be forgiven for having sex and be heroines only when they never wanted to have sex, or when the hero rapes them them, or when they want sex only with that one man for the entirety of their existence. So they get to experience it without ever wanting it because it’s the active desire that makes them 'whores,' and whores are bad. The romance hero who has had a million relationships in his past finds true love and reforms, but how many romance arcs (in or outside of romance novels) have sexually adventuress heroines who reform? Because you can’t redeem whores, apparently. Their morality is not determined by how *good* they are as people, but by how PURE and chaste they are. And it’s not even about their character because they can’t be redeemed simply by giving up their sexual liaisons because once they have fallen off of some pedestal, they’re irredeemable in patriarchal narratives.

When we made the list of anti-heroines, I had initially listed Inara, which was questioned by nicole_anell (<3), and it occurs to me that the reason I had done so was because all my studies in Western literature taught me that Hookers with a Heart of Gold are anti-heroines, and I have never really questioned it because I like anti-heroines and it was before I started questioning the difference between authorial intent and my own interpretation of female characters.

However, Hookers with Hearts of Gold are, of course, GOOD people with good intentions who usually end up sacrificing themselves for the greater good. So why the anti with that type of heroine? Because the flaw is a moral one where morals are judged by PURITY and not actual actions or goodness. Can you imagine a male hero with that type of personality ever being referred to as an anti-hero no matter how much sex he has? We have a whole literature made up of this, of women dying for being unconventional, often in sexual terms, because if women with sexuality are not punished properly, it somehow takes away the HEROINE bit of the anti-heroine. Because they must always, ALWAYS suffer for having a sexuality. It’s probably rarely intentional, not anymore anyway, and often just seems like ‘edgy’ plotting, but our fiction is still filled with this. Do good women get punished as often? Who are the women that usually get the rape arcs? And who learns a lesson from that rape and who is hurt the most from it, narratively speaking? I…honestly haven’t consumed enough fiction with rape to start giving examples because that’s usually my cue to stop watching/reading, but I’m willing to bet that there are patterns and that they’re not pretty.

Also, lastly, the slew of comments following this planned plot detail for "Firefly" were all, "Oh, noes! I can't believe the show died before it got to that brilliance! Poor Joss." And these are the people apparently fit to decide who is and isn't a feminist? Not a single comment where anyone objected to the rape.
Current Mood: enragedenraged
Megan: undercovers: hand smoociemeganbmoore on January 14th, 2011 01:09 am (UTC)
Oh, great. Now I think handkissing has been ruined for me forever.

Also, romance novels...have gotten way better with that? But I still have to be choosy.

*depressed now*

You owe me PLL.
Nicole Anell: ginanicole_anell on January 14th, 2011 01:16 am (UTC)
Now I think handkissing has been ruined for me forever.
God, right? That made me throw up a little in my mouth.

I have no words for this, except when I heard Morena mention it for the first time I thought "Thank GOD Firefly was cancelled" and getting the full version of the plot and its ~beautifulness~ is even grosser.

Also, I'm not quite as disillusioned as you (prozacpark) because I've never trusted Tim Minear in any way female-character-wise, but it does suck when someone who at least seems vaguely capable of doing better lets you down.

Edited at 2011-01-14 01:21 am (UTC)
(no subject) - meganbmoore on January 14th, 2011 01:27 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lyssie on January 14th, 2011 01:40 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - meganbmoore on January 14th, 2011 05:03 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - havocthecat on January 14th, 2011 02:02 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - prozacpark on January 14th, 2011 01:35 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lafemmedarla on January 14th, 2011 01:35 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - prozacpark on January 14th, 2011 01:54 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ivanolix on January 14th, 2011 05:53 am (UTC) (Expand)
entertaining in a disturbing way: Inara Serra thinks you're not brightlyssie on January 14th, 2011 01:13 am (UTC)
BUT HELS. A woman being raped OBVIOUSLY has to be about the man who ~caaaaares~ about her, because it is HIS PAIN at NOT BEING ABLE TO SAVE HER. And also his confusion about whether to forgive her.

(wow, that hurt to type)

ALSO. Rape is in real life, so any woman in fiction who hasn't been raped is impossible. We can have spaceships and dragons and parasitical viruses and giant spiders that make earthquakes, BUT SUSPENDING OUR BELIEF for women with happy sexualities is IMPOSSIBLE.

(so did that)

(also, if I could just kill people with my brain, we would have better narratives, y/y?)
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: Firefly:  Inaraprozacpark on January 14th, 2011 02:01 am (UTC)
GAH, I might have cried while listening to that fuckery in the audio clip, I AM SO TIRED OF THIS CRAP NOW.

And also his confusion about whether to forgive her.

THIS is so true. And a plot element that bugs me like no other? Because it really brings into perspective that the man's problem isn't with faithlessness (because it wasn't her choice!) but with the now perceived lack of purity because women are objects whose worth can be ruined with things like rape.

The presence of rape in SFF especially irks me because with all the world building, they can't write rape out of their narratives? And we must have rape even when we're pretending to have a society where there's no sexism. Because rape is dark and edgy and just adds to your apocalyptic world-building.

(also, if I could just kill people with my brain, we would have better narratives, y/y?)

At the very least, why can't I punch people through the intrawebs? Repeatedly? And motivate them to do better?
(no subject) - lyssie on January 14th, 2011 02:14 am (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: Big Love:  not easy being second wifeprozacpark on January 14th, 2011 01:42 am (UTC)
ME TOO, BB! *clings*

I really just need to...never read/listen to anything the writers have to say outside of their work. This would improve much. GAH.
Be cool, Gail. Be cool.: [firefly] companionamathela on January 14th, 2011 02:10 am (UTC)
Wow. That's.

Rape plots are horrible enough when it's the woman's plot (like, it's SO HARD to think of interesting things for female characters to do, rape is so EDGY AND INTERESTING), but when the focus is on someone else's epic man pain? UGH. JUST. STABBING FIERY RAGE.
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: Pretty Little Liars:  friends.prozacpark on January 14th, 2011 05:11 am (UTC)
I don't understand this narrative fascination with rape arcs. At the very least, can people not recognize what a narrative cliche it is? Gah.
(Deleted comment)
lilacsigil: Zoe angry by paradisacorbasililacsigil on January 14th, 2011 02:18 am (UTC)
Yes, I was the same. It *seriously* undermines your universe to have these high-ranked prostitutes who are universally respected, then have your main character ~coincidentally~ speak for the mainstream trope of "ew dirty girls yuk worthless whores".
(no subject) - sabaceanbabe on January 14th, 2011 03:08 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - prozacpark on January 14th, 2011 05:13 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - chesauroshin on January 18th, 2011 05:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)
M: SG1 - Does Vala have to cut a b!tch?mfirefly10 on January 14th, 2011 02:25 am (UTC)
This is the only time I've ever been happy about Firefly's cancelation. I can't even...I remember hearing something about the needle Inara had in the pilot being an anti-rape weapon but I never knew there was a planned gang-rape plot or that it would be told from Mal's POV. (What the frak is that about?! Inara suffers through the one of the most traumatic things that can happen to someone and it's all about Mal's man!pain?! *shakes head*)

This is why I try to avoid reading interviews with writers because it makes it much harder for me to enjoy their work and not think about the ridiculous crap they've said.

Sad, sad day...
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: Anne Taintor:  Vala - act her ageprozacpark on January 14th, 2011 05:23 am (UTC)
An Inara rape plot is just...an incredibly bad idea even without the male gaze approach to it. Because within a narrative where you have men criticizing her for her sexuality, it can't ever not read like a narrative punishment for it.

And yeah, I try to avoid interviews, but have a hard time resisting if I get linked.
(Deleted comment)
themadpokerthemadpoker on January 14th, 2011 02:53 am (UTC)
It opens with Mal and Inara fighting (as they do). Mal tells her she pretends to be a lady and wants everyone to bow before her and kiss her hand but she’s just a whore.

Wait, that never gets better? DDDD= I watched the pilot of Firefly and one of the things that really bugged me was the way Mal talked to Inara. I kind of figured he got over that though because I know they're a big ship in the fandom. (I never watched past the first episode, it didn't really grab me) I don't get it, how are they a ship?

I can't really respond to your last point because I generally avoid fiction with rape as well but I wouldn't be surprised if you're right.
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: The Vampire Diaries:  Katherine - pastprozacpark on January 14th, 2011 05:29 am (UTC)
The first episode bored me, but I loved Inara and stuck around for her, so I'm especially glad that this never happened.

And yeah, if anything, Mal's treatment of Inara gets worse, and most of the fandom just blames/hates Inara and acts like she's cheating on Mal or something? Just...it's a mess, the entire fandom.

The Proverbial Bull in a China Shop...: sad flygirlsabaceanbabe on January 14th, 2011 03:10 am (UTC)
I really don't think I can listen to that.
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: BSG:  Karaprozacpark on January 14th, 2011 05:31 am (UTC)
Basically, two men squeeing over the epic originality and the BEAUTY of a woman being raped. You're not missing anything. I kind of wish I could unhear it.
(no subject) - ide_cyan on January 14th, 2011 07:22 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - prozacpark on January 14th, 2011 07:56 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ide_cyan on January 14th, 2011 07:58 am (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: TSCC:  Sarah/Gun OTPprozacpark on January 14th, 2011 06:56 am (UTC)
It's like the shows wonder what's the worst thing that can happen to a man, and it's always that someone has *gasps* spoiled the PURITY of his love interest! Definition of Man Pain, pretty much.

I have realized that the lack of limitations when it comes to gender roles are what draws me to so many of the SFF things I read/watch? So it always feels like a bigger betrayal when it fails because it's not limited by our real world dynamics/rules and can do better. Firefly, OTBH, never did well with anything. It's a pretty formulaic Western in space that manages to both be horribly racist and incredibly sexist but people treat it like the second coming.

Buffy got a lot of things right, but I would never rec it to you because I know that you watch for characters and Buffy, in my unpopular opinion, doesn't have many interesting ones (it's still the ONLY show where I have a plot-related investment instead of a character-based one.) I also suspect that I would hate it on principle if I were to watch it now, knowing all the Joss fail. I almost think that I would be able to accept the good bits of BSG and reject the badness if only the fandom could stop worshipping at Ron's feet and praising him for his miracles? Undeserved fandom glee always makes me react with more hatred than the thing probably deserves, so I completely understand (and approve of!) your decision to shun Jossverse. ;)
Cassandra: firefly: inarageekturnedvamp on January 14th, 2011 04:14 am (UTC)
OH MY FUCKING GOD, I am so appalled by this.

And it sounds stupid from a storytelling standpoint too. Like, what would the mechanism be? I know this is science fiction, but seriously--is it some random virus she picked up the day before, or a superpower Inara has always had to kill with her evil vagenda but it only works on Reapers so she never knew about it before, or what? Because if just having sex with her killed everyone, that would have seriously cut into her ability to make a living. Plus why would the Reavers not just eat her and wear her skin or whatever after it quickly became obvious that the raping was not going so well for them? They're CRAZY, but not unable to discern cause and effect and act on their observations.

All of which pales before my horror of INARA WAS GOING TO BE GANG-RAPED. I'm SO glad I didn't know that until now.
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: Stargate:  Valaprozacpark on January 14th, 2011 07:01 am (UTC)
Do you remember when Inara ominously eyes that syringe in the pilot episode? Well, apparently, injecting herself with that makes anyone who will rape her die. Which is what the plot was going to utilize.

Although, I'm pretty sure that if this plot had gone through, it would have led to Inara quitting her profession because she would've learned her lesson about sex being traumatic and Mal was always right. /bitter.

Edited at 2011-01-15 06:05 am (UTC)
Merry Fivanolix on January 14th, 2011 05:57 am (UTC)
I'm so sickened by this I just...can't deal with it. I was never able to like Mal (or Joss) for things that they've done/said before, and they've mostly just enraged me, but this just gives me such visceral revulsion. I am so tired of women's sexuality as currently shown on televison. So fucking tired.
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: The Inside:  Girl Saves Self.  <3prozacpark on January 14th, 2011 07:03 am (UTC)
Yeah, this is exactly how I felt last night after finding out about it. And yeah, some of it had to do with my disillusionment with Minear, but most of it had to do with men talking about the beauty of a woman being raped as if it's the best plot ever. SO MUCH RAGE AND HATRED.
Ide Cyan: blackide_cyan on January 14th, 2011 06:13 am (UTC)
I'm not sure it would help with your respect for the show if I linked to a Bryan Fuller interview describing what was planned for Wonderfalls Season 2, if you don't already know about it.
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: Wonderfalls:  Living the life.prozacpark on January 14th, 2011 07:05 am (UTC)
Are you possibly referring to the immaculate conception plot or is there more fail I should fear?

But yeah, that arc seems to have consent issues written all over it, sigh.
(no subject) - ide_cyan on January 14th, 2011 07:14 am (UTC) (Expand)
Sageshobogan on January 14th, 2011 07:15 am (UTC)
Oh my fucking - eugh. How can you not see how appalling and problematic that is?

Rape plots can so easily be both, and usually are, but this is like they were trying.

The extent of my knowledge was knowing what the needle was for. This is just...eugh. I can't even be coherent.

Also? The amount of hate for Inara makes me sad. It doesn't surprise me in the slightest, but it saddens me.
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: Kill Bill:  Bang bang.prozacpark on January 14th, 2011 08:07 am (UTC)
I only knew that there was a rape plot planned, but the details are just...*headdesk*

I took one look at a single Firefly forum when I got into the fandom, and it was pretty much filled with Inara hate. I never looked back, and while the fans like blaming their hatred of Inara on how shallow she is, or how she CHEATS on Mal, or leads him on (are we watching the same show?!), what they really have a problem with is her sexuality.
Havochavocthecat on January 14th, 2011 01:57 pm (UTC)
I think I'm going to be sick. Ugh.