Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Rapists of Heroes

Heroes is a dramatic show that has many common themes, such as sexuality and violence. A theme that runs between those two is that of rape and other sexual assault/violence elements. Some of Heroes’ sexual predators have been used to bring sex appeal to the show, engaging the viewers while simultaneously repelling them, while others are meant simply to disgust and terrify. Characters Brody, Doyle, Sylar, Flint, and even Elle to some extent have threatened our protagonists with sexual violence.

Despite having no powers of which to speak, Brody is perhaps the most disturbing. He doesn’t start as an obvious threat. He’s just a cute boy who Claire finds attractive. He seems nice, going to the trouble of learning her likes and dislikes, and he rigs her effigy of the opposing team’s mascot with firecrackers as a treat for her. He seems like he’ll be Claire’s love interest of the season… until they’re kissing, and he starts getting aggressive, and Claire says no, and he doesn’t listen. Suddenly, there’s a major struggle going on. In the commotion, Claire gets killed. Jeez!
Apparently, he then dumps the body in a river. Claire comes back to life, of course, but she’s still suffered from the trauma. She can’t do anything about it, though. She has to go to school and act like nothing happened because no one will believe her if she tries to bring the cops into this, a clear metaphor for real life incidents of rape where the victims have no ability to make their attackers see justice. While Claire may not have actually been raped, metaphorically she has been. After meeting another one of Brody’s victims and seeing Brody pick out a new target, Claire takes matters into her own hands and ensures justice is delivered in a classic Heroes vigilante style.
“The prisoners kept in Level 5 are the most dangerous, the most powerful. Rapists, arsonists, killers.”
–Angela Petrelli, season 3 trailer
While Brody is definitely disturbing, Eric Doyle is a close contender. Better known as “The Puppet Master”, Doyle is a sociopathic man who longs for a genuine romance, but due to his ugly appearance and general lack of social skills, he can’t attain one. He therefore forces people into dating and having sex with him. As powers are manifestations of persons’ own personalities, Doyle’s power is to control people’s physical movements. Unlike with other controlling powers like Eden’s power of persuasion and Matt’s telepathy, Doyle’s puppet mastery keeps his victims’ minds intact, so they know they don’t want to do everything he forces them to do as he poses them like living dolls. Although he’s supposedly been reformed by Micah and Samuel, Doyle is still a creeper with a thing for controlling people.
Sylar, Heroes’ ultimate supervillain, started out basically asexual, his only lust the lust for power, but starting in Volume 2 he begins developing attraction toward the opposite sex. Being a psychopathic serial killer, his method of acquiring sexual partners is not exactly honorable. First, he pretends to be the perfect boyfriend for Maya, while really manipulating her and killing her brother, ultimately killing her (albeit not permanently). His relationship with Elle is fairly consensual, but he then kills her for no reason other than wanting to. He attacks Claire for her power in a metaphor for rape, leaving her with lasting trauma and physical dissociation. Later, he comes after her in a very rapist-like fashion, controlling her body with psychokinesis while promising that they’re destined for each other. Finally, he gets information from her using Lydia’s empathic power, which necessitates sexual contact, and Sylar forces Claire to kiss him. While always a villain, the attractive Sylar is an interesting contrast from Doyle, whose looks were intended to be grotesque.
Flint is a firestarting brute. Despite being Claire’s uncle, we are expected to feel very little sympathy for him. He loves the power that his pyrokinesis grants him, which he often uses to create death and destruction. There is a reason the company kept him locked up in Level 5 of their New York prison complex. When Elle inadvertently shorts out the power grid keeping the Level 5 prisoners detained, Flint is quick to repay her by trying to rape her as she lies helpless on the ground with half her head cut open. He later goes after a female teller at the bank he and the other escapees are robbing. Peter in Jesse’s body stops him both times, serving as a hero to save the damsels-in-distress.
Elle is not always so vulnerable, however. She possesses lightning-casting power and a wicked sense of humor. “The shrinks diagnosed me as a sociopath with paranoid delusions – but they were just out to get me because I threatened to kill them.” She is also a sexual sadist, deriving pleasure from jolting men, who she treats as toys. She specifically torments Peter, who she seems very attracted to, as well as threatening to do the same to Mohinder: “He’s adorable! Can I keep him?” said in the creepiest way possible.
Let’s look at what she does to Peter: captures him with an excessively powerful blast of electricity, refers to him as a “toy”, zaps him for no good reason, hangs off of him in a very sexually aggressive manner, seductively tells him he’ll “get used to” her jolting him and “start to like it”, presumably forcibly electrifying him every day or so for months. While not sexual assault per se, it is violence she performs for her personal sexual satisfaction and she doesn’t care about Peter. She tells Peter he’ll start to like it, which sounds like the classic rapist’s justification of “surprise sex you never knew you wanted”. He eventually tells her it worked, and he kisses her, but this seems more a parting gift delivered out of pity than evidence that jolting him a bazillion times was an effective form of seduction. Like Sylar, Elle is physically attractive and serves to simultaneously turn on and turn off the folks in the audience attracted to her.
To conclude, Heroes features several villains that engage in behavior that characterizes them as sexual predators. While not always actual rapists, these villains all have the vibe of one. Ruthless and powerful, you know they won’t hesitate to violate their prey should the opportunity arise. These villains serve to unnerve us, freak us out, and always to entertain. Some of them act as objects of desire, titillating the audience with dark sexuality that will always be stopped in time by a hero, while others act as pure manifestations of evil to be loathed and for us to gain cathartic relief as a result of their eventual defeat.

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