As sick as I’ve ever seen

Amid all the stealth-misogyny and meta-messages that exist in film and TV today, it can sometimes feel almost like a relief to encounter something completely blatant. Almost. Until the nausea sets in. A few weeks ago, I saw a film called Beserker, about reborn Vikings in the modern era.

There were two brothers, one a dark warrior attempting to kill the Valkyrie Brynhilde, the other attempting to protect her. In this iteration of their lives, Brynhilde was the doctor at a mental institution – and unaware of all this – and the warrior who wanted to protect her an inmate. During the film, the villain brother claims that Brynhilde does know the score, and is using mystical seduction to manipulate the hero brother into shielding her from a just sentence ordained by Odin. To prove his point, after kidnapping Brynhilde, he rapes her, supposedly to rob her of her powers, as that trope goes.

Then the plot twist: his claim is true. So the person we thought was the hero was really the victim, the one we thought was the victim was really the villain, and the one we thought was the villain was really the hero. If that sentence was all there was to it, fine. But that also presents the rape as heroic: it works, it spoils Brynhilde’s illusions; the alluring but evil woman is raped, which ruins her allure, and allows her male victim to see her as the evil thing she is. If the plot twist of Brynhilde’s evil was necessary, any number of tactics could have been used to carry it off. But the producers went with rape, and made it just and heroic.

BetaCandy talks a lot about backsliding in the film industry’s portrayal of women, and this has to be seen as proving her point. Is there any other time where this would have made it to screen?


  1. scarlett says

    Ugh. Sounds pretty blatant and horrible. I’ve seen some pointless rape stories (actually, I’m in the process of watching a TV show which covers it pretty well, fingers crossed) but that one sounds beyond terrible.
    And I agree – I think in some ways we’re becoming a lot more conservatiive and misogynistic then we used to be.

  2. scarlett says

    It’s an Australian show, All Saints. A (female) character is date-raped and the story arc is primarily about HER pain, how SHE deals with it. One male character – a councellor – is there to facilitate her terror and humiliation being channelled into anger and fighting spirit (I thought it was done really well – you could see that, as a professional, he was framing the conversation to lead to that point, but also that that strength and spirit had come from her, not something he’d given her). And while most of the other male character express some fury at the guy/guilt for not picking up on it sooner, it’s a general thing – the women are just as pissed off – and not about how it affects one man in general.
    I complained a lot about the quality of the show in the last season, and I got the first and second seasons for Christmas, and man, is it so much better!

  3. says

    I haven’t seen this, but form your description, it’s the plot twist that “Brunhild is teh Evil” that I take exception to.

    In the Nibelungenlied (ca. 1200), the medieval German variation of this story (which, incidentally, goes back about 1200+ years): when Siegfried goes to “win” Brunhild for someone else, it’s his rape of her that robs her of her strength. That part is at least part of the story.

    Now, the rape is not presented in a “poor girl” way, but in a “clever Siegfried” way, so the medieval version is definitely misogynistic, no doubt. Brunhild is this strong, wild warrior woman who fights alongside the men and all that before she’s “tamed” by Siegfried so that he can whisk her away to the Burgundian king.

    This though… *shudder*. Since this Brunhild is really the villain (and it’s not bad to ‘punish’ the villain, right? The villain deserves it, right?) then this modern interpretation takes misogyny further than a medieval heroic epic.

    Holy crap. Can that happen???

  4. Jennifer Kesler says

    But seriously, can people still get away with this in 2007?

    My knee-jerk answer is “More than ever”. When I was a kid in the 80’s, it was unfathomable to me that people would ever again want science taken out of schools. I definitely thought women were on the way to being “people”. I knew racism was still around because I lived in TN, but I thought it was at least wholly unfashionable – now thinking people are people is “too PC”. I stepped through a Looking Glass somewhere in the mid-90’s, and it’s making me nostalgic for the Greed is Good era. How sad is that?

  5. SunlessNick says

    This though… *shudder*. Since this Brunhild is really the villain (and it’s not bad to ‘punish’ the villain, right? The villain deserves it, right?) then this modern interpretation takes misogyny further than a medieval heroic epic.

    I hadn’t even thought of that comparison.

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