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Rashomon: POV and the Male Gaze

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    lawless

    Another reason Rashomon freaks me out a bit besides undermining the whole idea of objective truth is the way it treats the subject of rape. I realize that much of what is reportedly said by Tajomaru and the husband is what characters of that era and social status would say, but that doesn’t ease my discomfort with my favorite filmmaker putting examples of slut-shaming and rape as an act of attraction, love, or sex into his movie. Rape is an exercise of rage and power, not sex, so Tajomaru implying that it wouldn’t have happened if the wife’s veil hadn’t billowed, or that the wife loved it so much that she begged to leave with him, strikes me as rationalization. “Oh, sorry! You’re so beautiful that looking at you made me lose control of myself!”

    Some of this shades into unbelievability, especially the beginning of the woodcutter’s second version in which Tajomaru begs the wife to become his wife. *scratches head* But much of this is because the film is told from a male POV throughout, with the exception of the wife’s tesimony, and even that seems tinged by her conception of what a proper Japanese wife’s response to the events should be.

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    Ugetsu

    I think the issues surrounding the rape are a good reason for looking very closely at Martinez’s suggestion that the most overlooked aspect of the motivations of the characters is guilt (and this is particularly relevant in the context of a post war film, when all the losing societies were grappling with guilt). She does take much of her interpretation from Richie and Yoshimoto, in particular the latters view that Kurosawa was really thinking of the ‘eyes of the Occupation’ when making the film.

    What Martinez points out, something which seems to have eluded so many writers on the topic, is that in the first three versions of what happened, none of the witnesses paint themselves as purely innocent, they all implicate themselves in one way or another. In other words, what is happening is much more complex than three people simply lying to make themselves look like honorable victims. The bandit never denies his guilt, he portrays himself as a man driven by jealousy and lust, who behaved (in the context of the time) honorably by allowing the Samurai a chance to defend himself (and praising him for his skill), and then rejecting the wife, who turns out to be something of a slut. The wife portrays herself as the victim of two men fighting over their own pride, but then (completely unnecessarily) implicates herself in her own husbands death. The husband seems himself as the victim not of a vicious bandit (someone who should have been below him), but as the victim of a vicious and two-faced woman. In this sense, I think that the notion of whether or not a rape took place, or whether the wife is in some sense duplicitous, is an important plot element, and so it is inevitable that notions of consent and motive are muddied. If you want to take an allegorical or metaphorical interpretation, you can perhaps see the wife as representing the ‘average’ wartime Japanese citizen, who is fighting with the notion whether they were the victims of their leaders militarism, victims of American attacks, or were themselves implicated in what happened.

    I think if we look at the film allegorically (and I personally think this is the correct way of looking at it), the characters in all respects represent various parts of Japanese pre and post war society. I don’t think they literally stand for particular groups or individuals – I think Kurosawa was making the viewer put themselves in the place of particular characters. But I think, in the contemporary context where so many people were making excuses for their roles during the war and radically reinterpreting what happened, the wife is crucial. She could be seen as simply a weak victim of an overbearing society and an outside aggressor. But in her own story, her guilt (and by implication, the guilt of all Japanese) has led to a confusing and vague story which simultaneously portrays her as victim and the killer of her defenseless husband. I think this makes her the central character of the film, and given the theme of the film, by necessity the most contradictory and slippery character. We feel we know (to some extent) the Bandit and the Samurai and the Woodcutter. We never really get to know the Wife. I think this is quite deliberate, and must be seen in the context of the Wife standing in for the vast bulk of the Japanese civilian population.

    So while my view is that undoubtedly an element of ‘male gaze’ slips into the film, I think to overemphasis this is to misinterpret the film and a distraction from the wifes allegorical role as both victim, temptress, slut and killer, depending on your context. I think the ‘gaze’ in this film is the gaze of the merciless gaze of the judge, looking down on us all and calling us all out on our lies and evasions.

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    cocoskyavitch

    I think the ‘gaze’ in this film is the gaze of the merciless gaze of the judge, looking down on us all and calling us all out on our lies and evasions.

    Ugetsu, we’ve discussed how the “judge” is “us” but have we thought about how the “us” might also be stand-ins for “the gods” or “god” ? If we invert it all, how perplexed god must be, looking down at us trying to understand our motivations, rationalizations, random actions, thoughtless cruelty, and ability to throw one another under the bus at the drop of a hatpin!

    lawless, I understand exactly what you are saying about the male gaze and how infuriating it is to come across such a bald example of male chauvenism and the subservient position of women (from both Tajomaru and the Samurai!), but I think it is in the service of the storyline-not a personal view of Kurosawa’s. I also think it is complicated by what we might call the “female gaze”-Mifune’s pulchritudinous masculinity is ridiculously intoxicating in this film-and then that too inverts as he becomes a fearful baby or a raving idiot, as the scenes dictate. I go through a whole spectrum of emotions while watching most of the characters.

    But, back to the idea of the “male gaze”. Haven’t you also suffered through countless “classic” books and films (and even works of art) where women are imprisoned by societal roles, expectations and judgements-turned into playthings, or worse? It doesn’t make it any more palatable to know that these attitudes have been common in many cultures throughout time and space…perhaps the only comfort is to know that Tajomaru is, indeed, a bad guy. I will put forward that so is the Samurai. The woodcutter is a bad guy redeemed.

    Is it possible that the suggestion of the woman’s enjoyment of Tajomaru’s advances is the most offensive thing? I imagine every rape case in which the woman’s honor is questioned is like this, still.

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    lawless

    Coco:

    but I think it is in the service of the storyline-not a personal view of Kurosawa’s.

    I agree with you, which is why I phrased it as him putting these things in his movie and didn’t ascribe any intentionality to it. I also acknowledged that these are historically apt reactions. But the way the topic is handled makes me profoundly uncomfortable, and it is for the reason you identify: the suggestion that the wife welcomed Tajomaru’s advances. If she welcomes Tajomaru’s advances, this was not rape. But the movie sets it up as rape. All the characters agree that it was rape, at least to begin with, and Tajomaru is clear that he wanted to kidnap her as a precursor to rape.

    As an aside, a well-known article about the uselessness of rape laws in the period prior to their reform in the 70s and 80s said something to the effect of a woman is kidnaped and raped, the perpetrator is caught, convicted, and sent to prison for a long time … for the kidnaping because either the penalties for rape were so insignificant or, under the circumstances, the prosecutor decided it was impossible to prove rape and didn’t charge it. As another aside, it is possible for victims of rape, both male and female, to experience sexual pleasure without that constituting consent. So the idea that she “liked it” doesn’t really address the issue of rape vs. non-rape, but it is taken by the perpetrators and their apologists to diminish or eliminate culpability.

    The movie is saying two irreconcilable things: it’s rape, but she consented. Or it started out as rape, but she enjoyed herself, so she consented or it wasn’t so bad. This is the kind of reasoning that creates a huge divide and lack of trust between men and women.

    In Japanese society, what seems to me to be the most likely outcome here is the wife killing herself. Maybe the audiences see, and are meant to see, her as complicit because she doesn’t do that? I can sort of see her switching allegiances and deciding that if her husband is ashamed of her and doesn’t want her back, she’s better off with the bandit, but that tends to reduce the experience of rape to a test drive or taste test. (The rape of Dinah in the Bible is a similar story, but there, the victim knew the perpetrator.) It’s not unknown for women to marry their rapists, but still, it’s an outlier and tends to convey the (probably unintended) message that rape doesn’t really mean anything because it’s in women’s nature to resist and men’s nature to overcome that resistance. The “they really want it” theory also used in some romances in order to get past the difficulty of “the nice girl says no.”

    Honestly, I think the samurai is worse than the bandit. Tajomaru is at least honest about his intentions; he wanted her by hook or by crook, although he blames her beauty instead of his own lack of control. The samurai is every man from traditional society who looks on his wife as his property and doesn’t want her back once another man has had her no matter how hard she fought or resisted. How much of this is due to his discomfort at having to watch the rape, I don’t know, but still I fault him for his apparent complete lack of empathy for what she just went through.

    Ugetsu – It is true, and important, that the first three witnesses implicate themselves in one way or another. It’s what you write after that which goes off the rails for me.

    I don’t see how calling the wife a slut can be justified. How is having had sex with a second man under physical duress slutty? At worst, she’s tired of her husband and ready for a change, considering that he shows no loyalty to her or desire to avenge her honor. Even if she truly consents and cooperates midstream, legitimately enjoys herself and wishes to ally herself with Tajomaru for reasons other than pure practicality and to save her life, how is that sluttish? She didn’t seek out the encounter!

    The use of the term in itself is an example of the slut-shaming I reference in the initial post. Instead, the bandit’s story, which we know is unreliable anyway, shows her to be fickle. But I wouldn’t draw any conclusions about anyone other than the person testifying (or the medium, in the case of the husband) from the confused tissue of lies and truth we’re given.

    I also have difficulty with pronouncements that a movie that is realistic (as opposed to fantastic) and set in a particular place and time (here, Heian period Japan, which is not treated as a Golden Age in any way) is not really about that place and time but about some other place and time (the occupation and Japanese war guilt). It’s a plausible interpretation of the film by its viewers, but I find it hard to believe that Kurosawa, whose emphasis has always been on storytelling, was consciously trying to show that through the medium of this film. And even if you are correct, framing the underlying story in a story of a rape and murder is still highly problematic to me because it accepts age-old tropes that are used to excuse rape and belittle women. I still find that offensive and think there were better ways to make the allegory.

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    cocoskyavitch

    lawless, finding the nuances of our personal response to the film is pretty awesome, and looking farther out to the universals is also so very good…I thank you. I think you have spent some valuable thinking on articulating the problem of sexual pleasure and rape-something that really needs to be looked at, and with a clear eye. And your experience with the law gives an historical framework. I remember in the 70’s I read an article on the change in rape laws in Italy-rape had been almost impossible to prove up ’til then because, well, everyone knew women “really wanted it”. So, thank you for separating out this issue of sexual pleasure.

    As another aside, it is possible for victims of rape, both male and female, to experience sexual pleasure without that constituting consent. So the idea that she “liked it” doesn’t really address the issue of rape vs. non-rape, but it is taken by the perpetrators and their apologists to diminish or eliminate culpability.

    This is an important point, lawless.

    The samurai strikes me as universally loathesome in all versions of the story-he may, indeed be the worst, but I cannot tell because Mifune is so handsome-it skews all my reasoning.

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    Ugetsu

    Lawless

    But the way the topic is handled makes me profoundly uncomfortable, and it is for the reason you identify: the suggestion that the wife welcomed Tajomaru’s advances.

    But surely the whole point is that the suggestion that the wife welcomed Tajomaru’s advances comes… from Tajomaru’s testimony. It is Tajomaru who depicts the act as a rape which was after a bit of token resistance welcomed by the wife.

    When you look at the four versions of the rape we have:

    1. The rapist claiming that she really enjoyed it, but later proved herself to be unworthy of him.

    2. The victim claiming she fought her attacker in vain, but was more horrified by her husbands response to her shame than the rape itself.

    3. The Samurai claiming that he witnessed her ‘shame’ as she was raped, and then observed how the Bandit cleverly persuaded her that her only option, now that her virtue had been taken, was to go with him. It was only in accepting the Bandits ‘sweet words’, that she became, in effect, the Bandits accomplice in murder, refusing to take the honorable course in killing herself or making the Bandit kill her. The Samurai blames her not for the rape, but in not being strong enough to stand up to the Bandits blandishments and promises.

    4. The woodcutter only arriving at the aftermath of a presumed rape, to see the Bandit begging for her forgiveness for what he did and proclaiming his willingness to do anything for her. After this, she reacts in a defensive way, pointing out her impossible position and making the two men fight it out for her, after which, both men are revealed to be cowards and quite pathetic. Her reaction to this is shame and provoke them even more, which arguably was the only way she could ever protect her own dignity. But she makes it clear she considers them both weak and unworthy of her.

    The first three views are clearly self-exculpatory justifications by each of the ‘witnesses’ for what happened. The Bandit admits the rape, but can’t help but point out her passion for him in the end, and explains the fact that she wasn’t with him when he was caught by saying she turned out to be unworthy of him. The Wife describes herself as a victim of rape and a wickedly irrational husband. The Samurai doesn’t claim she enjoyed the rape, but claims she abandoned him all too quickly to protect herself. The Woodcutter, with perhaps the incentive to distract attention away from the missing dagger, avoids the issue of the rape, and simply witnesses a pathetic squabble between two proud blowhards and a woman who toys with them when she is faced with their worthlessness. In this version, it is implied that the Wife may have been the instigator of the whole affair (in claiming that she saw the Bandit as the ‘way out of the farce of her life’.)

    I think that all four of the accounts of the rape and the aftermath are in each case credible and psychologically realistic when considered from the position and perspective of the witness. The only time she is shown as enjoying the rape is in the rapists story. In her own evidence, she was simply a victim of rape, no more or less. In the Samurai’s account she was raped and resisted, but only afterwards turned against her husband. In the final version, her entire role is ambiguous, she is as manipulative and twisted as the men are pompous and cowardly.

    In all the accounts we only see fragments of truth, filtered through guilt and shame. In none of the views do I see any judgement, implicit or explicit by the film maker – Kurosawa is letting us all come to our own opinions, each one as unreliable as the witnesses beliefs.

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    cocoskyavitch

    Ugetsu,

    I think that all four of the accounts of the rape and the aftermath are in each case credible and psychologically realistic when considered from the position and perspective of the witness

    Kurosawa is letting us all come to our own opinions, each one as unreliable as the witnesses beliefs.

    Do you not see how this might be painful for a woman to look at this and think about a contemporary rape trial with an actual, live victim-that the woman’s veracity may be dismissed, that her motives may be questioned, that all of her attitudes and actions surrounding the rape may be up for review and personal “opinion”. Rape is one of those crimes where the victim is often doubly victimized by the legal process itself. Surely you see that?

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    Ugetsu

    Coco

    Do you not see how this might be painful for a woman to look at this and think about a contemporary rape trial with an actual, live victim-that the woman’s veracity may be dismissed, that her motives may be questioned, that all of her attitudes and actions surrounding the rape may be up for review and personal “opinion”. Rape is one of those crimes where the victim is often doubly victimized by the legal process itself. Surely you see that?

    Well, of course I see that. But what I find it very interesting is the notion of attaching the concept of ‘male gaze’ to a film where, perhaps more than any other film up to that point, we are given a while range of subjective viewpoints – the ‘neutral’ viewpoint at the Gate, the Judges view during the court scenes, and the viewpoints of each individual witness. I think its Keiko MacDonald who points out in Richies book on Rashomon that the camera work is subtly different in each of the versions – while we don’t have the witnesses eye view as we have as the ‘Judge’, we are clearly seeing what happened in the Grove from the subjective view of each of the participants, and this includes the raped woman (even down to the fade out at the moment she claims to have fainted).

    And as for questioning or doubting her word… well, we also questioned and doubt the word of the murdered man, so there is nothing unique about how the female character is treated in her account of what happened to her.

    I think that if we are to examine whether the film involves a distortion through the Male Gaze, or for that matter, inappropriate views of rape, a good start is to look at what the scriptwriter/Kurosawa did to the original Akutagawa story. It may be significant I think that the Wifes version is the one which seems to have altered the most (apart from the Woodcutters version, which does not appear in the story). In the Akutagawa version, the Wife says she killed her husband to hide her own shame – he should not have witnessed her shame, so she kills him, but then fails to kill herself.

    Still he went on gazing at me with loathing and contempt. My heart breaking, I looked for his sword. It must have been taken by the robber. either his sword nor his bow and arrow were to be seen in the grove. But fortunately, my small sword was lying at my feet. Raising it overhead, once more I said “Now give me your life. I’ll follow you right away”.

    When he heard these words, he moved his lips with difficulty. Since his mouth was stuffed with leaves, of course his voice could not be heard. But at a glance I understood his words. Despising me, his look said only “Kill me” Neither conscious nor unconscious, I stabbed the small sword through the lilac-colored kimono into his breast.

    In the film of course this is left more ambiguous, which I think is a curious thing – it makes her a weaker, more pathetic character (but I’d also note that all the characters are left with more dignity in the short story as we don’t hear the account of the Woodcutter).

    I’m not sure whether the film version was deliberately more ambiguous about the Wifes version, or whether Kurosawa intended the audience to interpret her reasoning from her actions, and perhaps we, as a modern audience, just don’t get it, so perhaps it was not intended to make her seem so weak.

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    Vili Maunula

    Lawless, while I can see where you are coming from, I don’t really agree with your assessment of how the rape or the film as a whole is portrayed. I would like to point to Ugetsu’s responses here, as everything I wanted to say is pretty much there.

    You also mentioned that you have trouble believing that Rashomon could or should be treated as allegorical. This seems strange to me, considering that the entire starting point of the film is that what you see is not really what is/was there. While I don’t know if Martinez’s interpretation is necessarily valid (but Ugetsu’s take on it sounds very convincing to me), I do think that Rashomon by its very nature is very open for interpretation.

    And while Kurosawa definitely was a great story teller, I’m not sure if I can think of a single film of his where the story doesn’t seem to be secondary to something more meaningful that the film appears to want to communicate to its audiences. I wouldn’t personally classify Kurosawa as a purely story-driven director.

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    cocoskyavitch

    So while my view is that undoubtedly an element of ‘male gaze’ slips into the film, I think to overemphasis this is to misinterpret the film and a distraction from the wifes allegorical role… as both victim, temptress, slut and killer, depending on your context.

    Yes, Ugetsu. I think we all get that, but what I see in lawless‘ discussion is a sensitivity to the central issue of how rape is viewed…and she indicates there’s a difference as viewed by men as opposed to women.

    You again used the word “slut”.

    ..victim, temptress, slut and killer

    as one possible way of seeing her, without addressing lawless’ statement

    …framing the underlying story in a story of a rape and murder is still highly problematic to me because it accepts age-old tropes that are used to excuse rape and belittle women.

    So, while we all “GET” the idea that there are several viewpoints yaddayadda multiple ways of seeing these events, I also think we are sidestepping whether or not “slut” ever is one of the ways of seeing a rape victim in terms of the rape. I don’t think it is justifiable to use that language here. The very term “slut” is a loaded gun used to keep women in their places both anciently and currently….do you get what that is about?

    I wish that I were able to articulate this more clearly. lawless has made the kind of distinction it seems to me that deserves real respect because it questions OUR attitudes.

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    Ugetsu

    Coco

    o, while we all “GET” the idea that there are several viewpoints yaddayadda multiple ways of seeing these events, I also think we are sidestepping whether or not “slut” ever is one of the ways of seeing a rape victim in terms of the rape. I don’t think it is justifiable to use that language here. The very term “slut” is a loaded gun used to keep women in their places both anciently and currently….do you get what that is about?

    I agree the word should not be used in normal discourse, and I apologize if you found it offensive – I used the word just the single time in direct response to the use of the term slut-shaming in Lawless’s original post, I thought that was quite clear from the context.

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    cocoskyavitch

    It is my inability to articulate my thoughts that makes this harder than it should be, not any incorrectness on your part, Ugetsu.

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    Vili Maunula

    I must say that I still don’t have anything substantial to add to this thread, but I nevertheless wanted to thank all of you and especially lawless for everything that you have so far discussed here. Very thought-provoking stuff.

    So, don’t mind me, just go on. 🙂

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    cocoskyavitch

    But what I find it very interesting is the notion of attaching the concept of ‘male gaze’ to a film where, perhaps more than any other film up to that point, we are given a while range of subjective viewpoints – the ‘neutral’ viewpoint at the Gate, the Judges view during the court scenes, and the viewpoints of each individual witness.

    In thinking about this for a while, I have come ’round to the point where I think that this is, indeed a film from a male point of view, and that female motivations are displayed as if viewed by or written by a male (which of course is the case) and that is unsettling.

    The larger dynamic-woman in a man’s world-(an the male gaze implies that) is one we encounter often to a greater or lesser degree in the arts of the past, (and, sometimes, present) and is the elephant in the room when we discuss certain (many) of our favorite films in this forum.

    It would be difficult to ascertain the authenticity of the female voice with any certainty relative to units of measurement…and I would concede a fair degree of subjectivity, too…so, it may be easy to dismiss this vibe/feeling/awareness/ and yet, I know that I often have to elide whole chunks of what I find somewhat offensive to my understanding of equality and fairness in regards to male and female cultural standings.

    In most cases we say to ourselves “well, that was the past” but in the case of rape-attitudes from the past are present in the present. I think I’m done trying to explain, so I hope that is illuminating and not furthering the confusion…

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    Amnesty11

    Coco, I often feel the same way. I was brought up on musicals, but how can I now allow my children (especially my daughter) to see Gigi or worse, Carousel (“When he hit you, did it feel like a kiss? Yes, just like a kiss mama…” Good god!) I agree with a lot of what you and lawless have to say about this. It’s always been the case, in classic film and in romantic music of the past, that I don’t agree with (and/or am offended by) much of the values of the time period, and yet can enjoy the art form for its art. I guess that means tippy-toeing around the message and I know that’s a slippery slope. A tough conversation to articulate, but I think we are many of us on the same page here.

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    lawless

    Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to this, in part because other priorities have prevented me from digesting everyone else’s comments and responding to them. It’s clear that isn’t going to happen, and this is now a dormant thread, so I’ll try to be brief, because I think some clarification of my original point is in order.

    In the interest of getting the thread up, I was probably too flip and used too much shorthand.

    “Male gaze” is probably the wrong term to use here; however, there really aren’t any good choices that are both concise and not overly loaded with political baggage. What I was getting at was that the story is told from a viewpoint that takes patriarchal culture, which I would define as one in which biological and heterosexual maleness is equated with action and power and anything else is equated with passivity and lack of power as a given without any sort of examination. It’s so much of a default assumption that most people don’t even notice it’s there. It’s the way in which the story arises from and reinforces those default assumptions that bothers me.

    Most feminists would probably have used the term “rape culture” as shorthand; I think the term, which implies that everyone who participates in and benefits from this default patriarchal culture consciously condones or advocates rape, is more incendiary than helpful.

    My problem with the movie’s presentation of what is perceived as rape has to do with why a story so implausible is the one that was chosen as the vehicle for this exploration of the nature of truth and reality. That in and of itself suggests to me that what’s being questioned here is the reality of the wife’s experiences; in other words, questioning the veracity of rape itself. In a world where women are the chattel of men, is there such a thing as rape? Once we get to that level, I feel like we’re in a world similar to that depicted in Margaret Atwood’s book A Handmaid’s Tale. Under those circumstances, it would be more surprising for me not to have a negative reaction to the story.

    That’s not to say that the none of the versions of what happens between the bandit, the husband, and the wife are impossible, just that they are implausible. And that implausibility is due, imo, to the fact that what is depicted here is a male fantasy that has no bearing on what rape really is and how it’s experienced outside of the realm of art; as I said earlier, every version other than the wife’s does not depict a rape because the wife’s reaction to it is diametrically opposed to how rape victims experience such things.

    While it’s technically true that the wife only yields to the bandit in his version, her behavior afterward in all the versions other than her own is inconsistent with her being raped because she doesn’t process it as a violation but rather as a release from bondage. A woman who’s been raped doesn’t generally offer to become the wife or concubine of her rapist. In Japanese culture, after her husband’s rejection, the culturally appropriate thing to do would be to commit suicide. Her failure to do so is a puzzle and also undermines characterization of this as a rape.

    In fact, given the possibility that there are facts we don’t know about, this reads to me more plausibly as a conspiracy between the bandit and an unhappy wife to get rid of the husband. So no matter what the version is, the wife behaves disloyally without any context, which at least The Outrage provides.

    At the end of the day, and with the caveat that it wouldn’t have allowed him to base the movie on the Aktugawa story, Kurosawa could have created a movie about a different situation — let’s say a kidnapping and murder with no element of rape — from equally irreconcilable points of view in a manner that makes the participants’ behavior more psychologically plausible given what is depicted as happening. I don’t think it’s possible to create a movie about the relativity of truth and the inability of humans to perceive it that doesn’t uphold the patriarchy when the topic is rape because in the end, it will either resolve the facts in favor of one version or the other (rape or not rape) or it will show a hopelessly snarled “he said, she said” that only reinforces existing prejudices about women being untrustworthy and unreliable, especially in sexual matters.

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    cocoskyavitch

    Worth waiting for, lawless. Well said and well done!

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    Amnesty11

    Bravo! It will probably take about as long as you took to write it for me to digest it, but fantastic food for thought. A feast!

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    Amnesty11

    Or, Brava! in this case… 😉

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    Vili Maunula

    Lawless, also I would like to thank you for this very thought-provoking read. It is an interesting point of view that you offer, and there are some excellent questions that you pose that go directly into the heart of the matter. Indeed, why is rape really part of the film in the first place? I’ll have to think about that one.

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    Meera

    Thanks a lot for a very enriching discussion. I have not watched Rashomon, but was intrigued by the synopsis of the movie and how at the centre of the different narratives was the question of whether a rape took place. As Lawless pointed out

    Kurosawa could have created a movie about a different situation — let’s say a kidnapping and murder with no element of rape — from equally irreconcilable points of view in a manner that makes the participants’ behavior more psychologically plausible given what is depicted as happening

    I agree with this. If the aim of the movie is to present the difficulty of determining the veracity of something, it could have been something that does not raise deeply disturbing questions that are asked even today. The definition of rape is at the heart of your very enlightening discussion, as I understand it. I too found your point that victims of rape may also experience sexual pleasure and how it can’t be held as proof that rape didn’t take place pretty insightful.

    Also, the matter of the rape victim having to testify in court about what happened to her, her testimony that gets cross-examined and thus having to undergo the humiliation again is something that has always disturbed me. Just recently, there was a celeb party reported in my country where a model accused a sportsperson of misbehaving with her. The owner of his team went public with his statement that it can’t be called misbehaving as the model was “all over” the sportsman and therefore he couldn’t have done anything inappropriate. I found that it also hinged on the same question of consent, that if a woman shows an interest in a guy, she cannot complain if he behaves inappropriately with her. The question of consent is so disturbing. Also in all matters of rape, the first attempt on the part of the accused is always to question the veracity of her statement, including her behaviour and how it might have called forth a certain kind of response from the perpetrator.

    While I am sure Rashomon cannot be called a sexist movie or anything, I too find it disturbing that the crux of the debate is about the truth of a rape attempt.

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    lawless

    Coming back to this after a long break, I just wanted to add some things I’ve seen since to the discussion that back up my point that Rashomon is a fantasy. It is not what rape is like or how it’s experienced in the real world. I know much of this is going to come off like a lot of feminist gobbledygook if you don’t read the links, but I hope to provide enough context to counteract that. Fair warning: TRIGGERS AHEAD for rape and sexual assault. If that will bother you, DO NOT READ the links. You may not even want to read the rest of this post.

    First off, to provide general context, is this description of the patriarchal paradigm of heterosexual male sexuality, with “heterosexual” and “male sexuality” being synonymous. To quote:

    Male sexuality has been socially conditioned to comprise of the same components as sports: it is aggressive and domineering, and it views women as “opponents” to defeat in order achieve high status within a male social order. Boys are taught to drive forward to see how far their partners will allow them to reach sexually, preoccupying themselves with wondering what comes next rather than enjoying the moment, essentially displacing the excitement of intimacy with the excitement of competition, until finally, in order for a man to be aroused, a woman must be objectified.

    The post goes on to describe the two extremes of attitudes toward sex: what the poster calls the “rape culture” model and the “consent culture” model.

    Rape culture: Sex is about a man, who is the only one who actually desires sex, pushing a woman as far as she is willing to go. Sex occurs in a rigid set of steps: kissing, then breast-groping, then manual, then oral, then PIV; any other sex acts are signs that the man has Super Won (or that he’s a pathetic loser). Any tactic, short of ignoring a direct no (and even then) is allowable. Rape is basically like committing a foul: as long as you don’t do anything that’s technically against the rules, it’s all good, and calling someone a rapist for ignoring a “I’d rather not” is like the ref calling the ball out of bounds when it was clearly inside. If they have intercourse, the man has won and the woman has lost: he’s awesome, and she’s a slut who needs to learn to respect herself. The woman’s goal is to get a man into a relationship; if she gets his commitment, he’s pussywhipped and she’s a Smug Married/Be-boyfriend-ed (God I love Bridget Jones). Queer people can, with some straining, be fit into this model; the general idea is that one is the ‘man’ and another is the ‘woman.’

    Consent culture: Some people decide that sex (whatever that means to them) would be fun and then have mutually enjoyable sex with each other. The end.

    Which of these two models does Rashomon exemplify?

    The other post I’m linking to is an account of an acquaintance rape that even the victim didn’t identify as a rape at first and which her female friends blamed her for. She wrote it because the debate over Rep. Akin’s remarks about how women rarely get pregnant from “legitimate rape,” which themselves should have come with a trigger warning, triggered memories of her experience.

    While it is probably naive for a woman to assume that she is safe from rape while sleeping in a room with a man she’s acquainted with but who isn’t her boyfriend or lover (and that’s not to say rape isn’t a possibility even then, just that the odds are better), that most certainly does not shift the responsibility for what happened to her. (In addition, there’s a possibility that she was dosed with something.) Even if, for the sake of argument, someone reading this thinks she was asking for it or giving mixed signals, her reaction to the event, even though she doesn’t think of it as rape at first, is 180 degrees different from what we see in the film, even in the wife’s version.

    It doesn’t surprise me that Kurosawa made a film that so totally bought into a male fantasy about rape because it’s hard to transcend one’s culture. Nor am I saying that Kurosawa himself is a male chauvinist pig, rape enabler, or anything like that. I’m just saying that he didn’t question his and the culture’s default assumptions about men, women, and sex, assumptions that the underlying story he used for his film embraced and traded on.

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    arghya

    I saw the film “Rashomon” after 63 odd years since it has been created….though I have heard Akira Kurosawa’s name from my schooldays…I always blame my “destiny”, who stopped me to see this great film, till I became a man of 52 years….

    However, the effect of the film on me is something like a line written by a nobel laureate poet of my country, named Rabindranath Tagore….It says ” Please be silent… and let me love…” …

    Whenever I find people, doing postmortem on great creations…. I try to vanish from that place, murmuring the line, as I mentioned above….. Rashomon is the property of it’s spectators & never…I repeat, NEVER be a property of it’s critics… Sorry if I hurt someone…..

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    Vili Maunula

    Welcome to the website, arghya!

    arghya: Rashomon is the property of it’s spectators & never…I repeat, NEVER be a property of it’s critics…

    But aren’t critics also spectators?

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    dudu

    A film, if accepted by the mass is beyond all criticism….. A critic does not have anything to do with such a film….

    If at all he is an intelligent critic with a lot of “critical” observations on a film like Rashomon, He should go for making another film superior to it…

    In another view-point, I support arghya’s comment that, Film-critics are always invited free of costs to preview the film…. But common spectators always pay for their tickets…

    So the true share-holders of any film are it’s spectators and not the critics………

    I can feel Akira’s heavenly smile, if he were alive, by reading this comment 😆

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    Vili Maunula

    A film, if accepted by the mass is beyond all criticism….. A critic does not have anything to do with such a film….

    If you truly believe that people should not be allowed to freely discuss and share their views on films or other works of art, regardless of how their opinions happen to relate to the views that other people have, I do not think that our little community really is the right place for you, to be honest.

    I can understand if you do not agree with the content of the discussion, but to disagree with anyone’s right to express their views is quite beyond my understanding.

    Totally unrelated, but there seems to be some sort of a problem with our forum as the quotation marks and apostrophes get escaped weirdly with backslashes. Sorry about that! I shall investigate.

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