From THE ACCUSED To FRUITVALE STATION

A couple of days ago, I was watching The Accused to prepare for a class session of the introductory course in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies that I am team-teaching this semester.

If you’ve never seen the 1988 film, based on a true story, about a woman who is gang-raped in a bar, then it is worth seeing and not just for Jodie Foster’s Oscar-winning performance.

This is an important film that deals directly with rape and makes the case that it doesn’t matter what a woman is wearing, whether or not she is flirtatious, or whether or not she has been drinking and/or smoking pot; without her consent to sexual activity, sexual acts are rape. Every “blame the victim” argument you’ve ever heard is presented in this film and systematically refuted. Case closed.

The film holds up well and, unfortunately, is still instructive.

Watching, I couldn’t help but think about how some of the same strategies work well in challenging preconceptions in another film based on actual events, Fruitvale Station.

While The Accused is loosely based on the rape of Cheryl Araujo in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Fruitvale Station more directly relates facts leading up the murder of Oscar Grant, III by a police officer in the Fuitvale Station of the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) during New Year’s Eve festivities as 2008 transitioned into 2009.

What links the films together for me is that Oscar Grant (played by Michael B. Jordan), like Foster’s character, Sarah, has not led an unblemished life. He has cheated on his partner, has served time on a drug charge, has a problem with anger management, and has recently lost his job.

In other words, he’s human.

He’s also trying to get his life back on track and to provide for his family. Certainly, he does not ask to be murdered. Imperfect people – all of us – have rights, and blaming the victim is not a strategy we should accept as an excuse for crimes committed.

Two fine films.

I believe Fruitvale Station will hold up over time, too, just like The Accused.

The Accused

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