Netflix Comedies Glorify Sexual Assault

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Steve Dietl/Netflix

Janelle Camba, Editor in Chief

Trigger Warning: Mentions of rape, sexual assault, non-consensual sexual activity

 

Over the summer, Netflix’s “Cuties” sparked a controversial uproar concerning the sexualization of children. The film’s inappropriate poster received strong backlash on Twitter and even caused “#CancelNetflix” to go viral. However, Netflix has another problem that strangely can’t be found trending on Twitter. In 2020 alone, Netflix released two original movies that showcased sexual harassment and normalized rape culture—both movies were comedies.

 

“The Wrong Missy” featured two incidents of non-consensual sex. The film’s premise is that the main character Tim unintentionally finds love with Missy, an obsessive and disturbing thrill-seeker. During the movie, Missy forces Tim to take a tranquilizer, then sexually assaults him as he’s unconscious. Later in the film, Missy once again sexually harasses him while he’s asleep. Both scenes were written off as comedic, and in the end, the unhealthy relationship received their cliche “happily ever after.”

 

Netflix hardly learned their lesson after releasing “Holidate,” the newest dime a dozen Christmas romcom. Not even ten minutes into the movie, viewers meet a one-off obsessive girl—not unlike Missy—who forces herself on Jackson, a main character. After Jackson expresses discomfort multiple times and rejects her advances, the girl continues to sexually assault him. Rather than antagonizing this behavior, the movie plays it for comedy and even glorifies it by feeding into the stereotype that men only want sex.

 

Unlike the “Cuties” scenario, Twitter users haven’t taken up torches to cancel either of these movies. In fact, only a small portion of reviewers seemed to care. This begs the question: Why?

 

There’s always the possibility that advertising played into both issues. People were quick to attack “Cuties” before it even came out due to inappropriate advertising that sexualized the starring minors. However, in order to know about the sexual harassment in “The Wrong Missy” and “Holidate,” people would actually need to watch the movie because the content isn’t explicitly featured in trailers or marketing.

 

Movie reviewers seem to have a different opinion. The few who expressed concern over the films’ promotion of rape culture associate the issue with society’s nonchalance toward male victims of sexual assault.

 

“[In ‘The Wrong Missy’], it is difficult for me to imagine that if the gender roles were reversed, there wouldn’t be an uproar. Why do we treat male sexual assault so differently?” asked a movie critic.

 

Kirsten Hawkes, a reviewer of “Holidate,” explained what made the movie so problematic.

 

“Non-consensual sexual activity is always sexual assault and making the victim male doesn’t make it funny,” said Hawkes in her review.

 

The public turning a blind eye to these issues magnifies the overall problem with how society treats male sexual assault victims. However, many have to wonder why Netflix greenlit these projects in the first place. Movies undergo a long and thorough approval process from script to screen involving rewrites and editing. Viewers need to keep in mind that Netflix representatives purchased, revised, edited, and produced this script. It went through the writing room, table reads, and many other stages. During the years it took to create these movies, not once did someone think to cut any of the scenes that made a joke out of sexual assault. Netflix’s lack of action further highlights the business mentality that a controversy only matters when they get caught.