Thursday, February 11, 2010

Brief Abuse (Stargate)

As I’m rewatching Stargate SG-1, I just watched season one’s “Brief Candle” episode. This one, I remembered fairly well, and I remembered liking its quaintness. O’Neill teaches a bunch of Kool-Aid-drinking human slaves that their god lied to them, shows them to live life more fully, and he comes to appreciate life more himself. It’s that, true, but there’s also an incident of rape that is completely ignored because it’s a female doing it to a male. Not only is this presented as essentially okay, but it forms the basis of a romance portrayed as healthy. Stargate thus continues to perpetuate the sexist meme that men are unable to be raped by women.
The plot of the story has SG-1 being honored by the locals of planet Argos after Daniel delivers a baby. There’s a party, during which the woman Kynthia gives O’Neill a special cake (looking like a pizza with flower toppings). His acceptance means they are married, and he ignorantly eats the cake. The cake contains some sort of drug that lowers his inhibitions. He’s moved off into a secluded area where she performs a sexy dance, while he passively watches, his mind clearly negatively affected by the drug as shots from his point of view show us. Kynthia takes him into a building, where they implicitly have sex. He snaps out of it a few hours later, apparently unable to remember what happened.
Okay, this is, like, date rape. He was drugged, and during the drugged state he allowed someone to have sex with him. That’s not proper consent. I mean, Kynthia didn’t mean to hurt him—she thought he would understand the cultural gesture of marriage proposal and act accordingly—but the intent needn’t be the deciding factor. Were O’Neill in his right mind, he would never agree to have sex with a native for a whole number of reasons. If drugs are used to get people’s minds to a state where they would agree to have sex where they otherwise wouldn’t, it’s rape.
Is this… acknowledged at all? No, O’Neill was just showing bad judgment. When it’s revealed that he was drugged, the show only focuses on how foolish he was to accept the cake. This is interestingly similar to how female rape victims may be chastised for not being careful with their drinks. Even the cake, though, is glossed over.
Even though O’Neill didn’t really want to have sex with Kynthia, the event is treated as a start to a romance between them. The Argosians are infected with a nanite variety that causes them to rapidly age, each person living only 100 days, and O’Neill’s “bodily contact” with a local causes him to become infected as well. So, while the others are at Cheyenne Mountain Complex looking for a cure, O’Neill stays behind where he interacts with Kynthia. She helps him out when he’s feeling miserable, and he guides her to not be afraid of her god’s supposed power. When SG-1 fixes everything, they have a romantic moment as he says goodbye.
O’Neill: “We’ll send some folks by now and again to check up on you.”
Kynthia: “My heart would be glad if you were one of them.”
O’Neill: “Sweet Kynthia, I’ve learned so much from you. I’ll treasure every day of my life because of you.”
Kynthia: “For thousands of days?”
O’Neill: “Sure hope so.”
Kynthia: “That is almost forever.”
O’Neill: “Almost.”
(He kisses her)
This romance is not consistent with the usual depiction of rape. Were it a woman victim, there would be obvious psychological trauma suffered, and people would be pressuring her to talk about it. Now, he doesn’t have to be broken up over it, but a simple acknowledgement would be nice. The official episode summary says that “he is seduced by Kynthia, a stunning Argosian woman”. Seduction is giving in to temptation against one’s better judgment, not being drugged so heavily there’s no judgment left. The ironic thing is that this episode was written by Katharyn Powers, who wrote the earlier episode “Emancipation”, which was a heavily preachy story about a woman (Carter) fighting misogyny and defeating a man who intends to rape her. Seems like a double standard to me.
This whole scenario is, I think, comparable with the rape in Veronica Mars. Dick puts GHB in Madison’s drink, intending to date rape her. Madison rejects the drink because it isn’t diet and, being petty, she spits in it and hands it off to Veronica. Veronica gets drugged out of no significant act of malice, and Cassidy rapes her as a result of what the drug did to her ability to consent because of some stupid conflict with Dick over what it means to be a man. I word the description of her rape like that because due to the inconsistency in stories, it’s unclear if Veronica was completely unconscious or simply brought to a compromised mental state. Now here in Stargate SG-1, O’Neill consumes a mind-altering substance, loses his ability to consent, and has “bodily contact” he wishes didn’t happen when he comes to his senses. In contrast to Veronica Mars, this happened not out of willful knowledge but rather a misunderstanding. Kynthia believed that his acceptance of the cake was him consenting to the marriage and all that entailed. The result, however, is the same in that O’Neill has sex without being able to really consent.
To conclude, Stargate inadvertently depicts an act of rape. This is unremarked upon because of sexism that says men can’t be victimized in this way. I am once more disappointed with Stargate. Like I said, O’Neill doesn’t have to be in a wreck over this, but they should at least acknowledge what it is. I’ll continue onward in the series and hope it gets better, but I kind of doubt it will.


Anonymous said...

I don't see what your problem is and why you're trying so hard with this all.
The "rape" counts as something okay because
1) it didn't leave Jack with any kind of trauma
2) he was not inflicted pain upon in any form
3) he actually liked it
4) there wasn't ANY kind of negative consequence of the "rape" itself

For women, being raped can be a bad thing for three reasons. One, because they are humiliated - it didn't really happen in this case. Two, because it hurts, because it scars their body - also didn't happen in this case. Three, because it comes with a consequence that will follow them throughout their life (such as a trauma, or a baby) - this did not happen either.

Therefore, there wouldn't have been any point to b*tching about it any more than they actually did. (Let me emphasise once more that Jack DID like the whole process).

cs said...

Getting infected with an STD that prematurely ages you and shortens your lifespan by orders of magnitude doesn't count as a negative consequence? Yeah, I know they cured it at the last minute, but still.