Why everyone needs to watch Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman
The film that deals with rape culture and leaves you speechless
Winning an Oscar and two BAFTAs, Promising Young Woman is the smash hit film that everyone’s talking about.
But it’s so much more than just a comedy thriller film. It has undertones of a romantic comedy, with an unforgettable montage to Stars Are Blind by Paris Hilton which will have you smiling at the TV without even realising it.
However, I can almost guarantee that that will be the only scene of the film which will have you smiling. The film deals with rape culture but does it in such a way that will practically leave you speechless.
The film stars Carey Mulligan as Cassie. And we follow her while she appears to be on somewhat of a revenge mission, the reason for which is revealed later on in the film.
The mission involves going out to bars, pretending to be blind drunk and waiting for a man to come and take her home. Then, as they begin to sexually assault her, she suddenly sobers up, scaring the living daylight out of them. After which, they start to comically quake in their boots as they realise they’ve been caught red-handed.
At first this seems quite cool. She’s proving a point which is long overdue. She’s teaching a crucial lesson, no one’s getting hurt and we’re here for it.
However, as the film continues, we learn more about Cassie’s own, genuinely heart wrenching story. Her best friend Nina was raped and filmed by a group of boys in medical school, the consequences of which led her to commit suicide. Slowly, we realise that people in this story have been and do get hurt – far beyond repair.
Interestingly, the film doesn’t focus on the main rape incident itself. In fact we don’t even once meet the victim, Nina.
Instead, it focuses on the years after. And it becomes clear that everyone responsible for the victim’s eventual suicide continued to live their merry lives as normal. They all became successful lawyers and doctors with beautiful families – and more money than they know what to do with.
The scariest thing about this is that it rings true to survivors’ experiences in real life. If they do share their story, it’s fairly rare for them to be believed, and even more rare for extreme measures to be taken to rectify the situation. Earlier today, The Tab reported that 59% of female uni students have been sexually assaulted with only 7% reporting it to their university. Two thirds of respondents also said they were unhappy with how their case was handled and more than have weren’t told the outcome of their cases at all.
Is there even anything that can be done to rectify such deeply damaging situations? Who knows, but it would be nice to see someone try!
If you’re a boy who actively engages with the conversation about rape but considers himself completely innocent, you might be. But this film will make you think twice. If you’re a boy who knows deep down that he’s guilty of inappropriate behaviour, however extreme, this film will make you want to apologise.
If you know anyone who’s a victim of any kind of sexual assault, or you are one yourself, this film will be really triggering. But it will show you that you’re not remotely at fault, no matter if you were drunk or sober or wearing a short skirt. You were never ‘asking for it’.
And most importantly, it will make you feel like your corner is being fought.
Satisfyingly, the film not only gives visibility to the rape victim, but ultimately, it gives her power – even though she is dead. It also unmistakably puts the boys involved to so much shame that you’ll be taken aback by how strong the feeling of hatred is that you’re left with when the film ends.
While this film does deal with a very definitive sexual assault case, it also gets you thinking about the less definitive ones. It makes you question the everyday locker room chat or the catcalling, the ‘grey-area’ incidents that happen between two drunk friends or exes, or even between couples.
All of these situations are constantly occurring and not being spoken about or dealt with. And I think it’s all down to the attitudes towards women that certain men have been allowed to hold for far too long.
These attitudes are so pervasive and overwhelming that I don’t even feel slightly capable of having an impact or trying to tackle them personally.
Instead, all I feel I can really do is participate in the conversation by day, and try to watch my drink and look out for my friends by night.
However, films like Promising Young Woman, may be difficult and massively uncomfortable to watch. But they raise awareness, get people talking and make everyone re-evaluate certain behavioural decisions, both past and future.
It’s not much but it’s a start!
Cover image credits: www.looper.com