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Author Topic: High Plains Drifter: Was The Rape Scene Really Necessary  (Read 40677 times)
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« on: December 16, 2002, 07:35:59 PM »

This thread started on the old board, it is a good thread and we just couldn't just let it drift away ;).

AKA23 started it and I re-posted every message as they originally appeared in the old CEWB.

 :)Feel free to add your opinion
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« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2002, 07:37:50 PM »

Originally posted by AKA23, 10-28-2001 04:56 PM

Hey guys I just popped in High Plains Drifter into the DVD player and watched it last night and I don't know but I must say that there was one scene in that really unnerved me. While watching it I kept thinking over and over again what purpose did that rape scene serve? It seemed to me to be something that didn't really need to be there unless you are painting this guy as some type of evil creature which was not the intention or impression that I got from the film at all. I'd have to say that High Plains Drifter is one of Eastwood's darkest films as an actor/director. The only films that I can think of that are comparable to it would be Sudden Impact and possibly Unforgiven. Yes, Unforgiven is a very dark film at times but I still found myself at least having some kind of an understanding as to why he did what he did and why the film played out as it did. With the rape scene, I just find this guy to be a total bastard. I can understand him killing those three guys in the barber shop at least to a degree and I can understand the majority of his other actions in the film but this action I just don't get. And then he justifies what he did having no remorse for it at all. I just don't get it. Am I missing something? A few frames after that he's being the good samaritan and giving blankets and candy to the poor. It doesn't make sense to me. If he is in fact supposed to be a sort of avenging angel (and thats a crude term for what he is I think) than why the rape scene? I can understand him punishing the town for their involvement in the Duncan murders. I can understand the majority of the Strangers actions but this one I just find to be completely immoral and totally beyond any justification whatsoever. Are we supposed to hate this character or sympathize with his actions? This rape scene just doesn't makes sense to me and I find myself hating the character the more than I think about it! But then in the rest of the movie he doesn't do anything too objectionable that would make me want to hate him. I don't quite understand why he would kick all of those people out of the hotel but since the hotel manager was involved in the murder than can be somewhat explained. But why the rape?
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« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2002, 07:39:13 PM »

Originally posted by AKA23, 10-28-2001 07:00 PM

Anybody have any answers to these questions...I've been thinking a lot about them and I just wanted to find out some other people's opinions from the board.
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« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2002, 07:40:28 PM »

Originally posted by Doug, 10-28-2001 10:10 PM

Wasn't it someone on this board who quoted Clint as saying if he'd made the film "today" he would not have included the rape scene? But I think it's a lot of PC garbage. Rape is worse than murder? I don't think so. But it is a disturbing scene. And I think it was meant to be a disturbing scene. Clint more than any other actor has chosen movies with strong and interesting women roles in them, but this movie seems to be a blemish to that reputation. I think the movie could stand without that scene, but I'm not sure it would be as strong. I don't see this movie as one where you're supposed to like the character, but as one where you uneasily root for him anyway because he so utterly and ruthlessly exposes the hypocrocy of the town.
I saw the movie recently and paid special attention to that scene. What I saw was her deliberately bumping into him, and he was trying to pass, but she kept provoking him, knocking the cigar from his mouth. And how much did she resist? At first she did, but not a whole lot, and then not at all. The ugly cliche "she really wanted it" seems to apply in this case, given the context of the movie. The movie suggests his biggest crime was not going back to her a second time. But the main issue is that she was no innocent. In a flashback we see her cheering while he's whipped in the street. I think that is even more disturbing. We see the dwarf cowering during the whipping, perhaps even afraid for his own life with all the people in a blood frenzy, and notice he makes out the best in the movie. Appropriate revenge on the town. And the suppressed Indians, they're given blankets and supplies at the town's expense.

I don't think this is a simple movie, and the rape scene is complex, and I don't think it should be looked at as an advocation of rape anymore than the movie is of violence and murder. It's harsh but everything in the movie is harsh, and the town's people beget the violence, then hired "assassins, people of low character" to protect them,and they too came to a violent end. I think it's one of the all-time great westerns, and this is just my opinion: what I saw in the movie. Without a doubt, I think, Clint's character is the most sadist and most vile "hero" of any movie ever made. Yet the movie suggests only such a hero was capable of exposing the bigger evil that ruled that town.
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« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2002, 07:43:02 PM »

Originally posted by AKA23, 10-28-2001 10:40 PM

Yes, I just saw the film yesterday and so my memory of that scene is pretty crystal clear if you pardon the cliche.
Here's the scene:


Quote
Callie: Why dont you watch where you're going? Look at this its ruined
Stranger: Theres no need for all that

Callie:All what?

Stranger: If you want to get acquainted why dont you just say so?

Callie: Aquainted? Well you'd be amusing if you weren't so pathetic. (Stranger tries to walk away.) Just a minute Im not finished with you yet. you know at a distant you'd almost pass for a man but you're certainly a disappointment up close, aren't you?

You're feet m'am are almost as big as your mouth.

She knocks the cigar out of his mouth.

Callie: You know what you are? You're just trash a bottle of whiskey for courage and the manners of a goat.

Stanger: You're the one who could use a lesson in manners

Callie: Not from you whiskey breath

Stranger grabs Callie and the scene ensues...

Callie: Let go of me....

So yeah there's the scene but again I don't know if it was really necessary. You've got some nice commentary there Doug and it's interesting but somehow I feel that at the very least it could have been done differently..

Maybe they didn't need to show the whole rape scene in the barn or at least not as much as they did because even in the 1970's where that scene would pale in comparison to what's shown today when I finished watching it it left me extremely disturbed. I don't know maybe it's just me just not being too comfortable with scenes of such a forced sexual nature or maybe not but at any rate I'm wondering why Eastwood chose to include that scene in there when he could just have easily done it differently or left it out entirely? It's not that it completely disgusts me as much as it is that I don't understand it.

I didn't say that I liked the character of the Stranger but I found it amusing how at every turn he tried to fight the hypocracy that he saw in the town. He made the only real morally redeemable character Mordecai who had previously just been a lowly guy working in the barber shop into the town sheriff and the mayor as he felt that the current Sheriff was really making a mockery of justice and not doing his job and the mayor as well.

Then he goes and gives the candy and the blankets the the poor Indian family. All of these actions seem to indicate a sort of avenging angel type of character.

Sure he kills the three guys in the barber shop but I don't think anybody felt too sorry for them. They were evil characters hired sort of guns with no admirable qualities whatsoever. They completely antagonize him at the bar and then he leaves trying to avoid the situation they find him and start provoking him again because they don't like him or possibly they perceive him as somewhat of a threat to themseleves or their industry I don't know. When they put their hands on him as if they are going to rough him up he gets tired of the bull**** and kills 'em. Now I don't think I would have done the same thing in the situation but I can least somewhat understand the action.

Then, after that all of his actions can be attributed to punishing the town for their role and their blind negligance in doing something about the murder of their Sheriff Duncan. It can be said to be a sort of penance for their actions. Some of those who helped out and stood watching one of their men get brutally beating get killed and others are just adversely affected but when the Stranger leaves the town is pretty much in severe disrepair; the killers themselves meet their end...some of them in the same manner as those that they killed and the town and Duncan seemed to have been avenged. So, all of these actions at least come to some sort of an aim...some sort of a purpose that I can somewhat identify with.

The rape on the other hand, I cannot identify with. Is rape worse than murder Doug well in many cases I'd say yes it is. If we're going to have the death penalty for cold blooded murder than rape should fall into that same category. It's a very violent and very controlling type of action. And that's why I don't understand it? If Stranger is indeed sent to avenget the murder of Duncan and really only uses violence when violence has been committed against him or when the threat of violence is present (as in the barber shop) than why the completely unjustified rape? Yeah, well I don't buy this she asked for it crap that people are saying these days there is absolutely no justification whatsoever for forcing yourself sexually on another person. Absolutely none. I know you're not defending the action and are ony using this expression to try to explain the scene in the movie with a type of modern context Doug but that still doesn't do it for me.

But what about my other question? The fact of the flashbacks coming through Mordecai and Stranger? I'd like to explain that more as well....
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« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2002, 07:47:21 PM »

Originally posted by Daisy, 10-29-2001 09:55 AM

I'd rather be raped than murdered. Just.
I believe that the significance of the rape in HPD is that it is part of the revenge. This woman is part of the general wickedness of the town - she gets raped for her sins.

This action makes Clint an avenging angel with a difference - he is almost completely amoral.

My problem with the rape comes from the fact that it is generally played for laughs. It is considered funny when the woman comes back later and tries to shoot him in his bath. The whole thing is handled very light-heartedly.

I fear that the idea is to have a darkly comic premonition of what the stranger is going to give the rest of the town. he's going to **** it up!

Using rape as a metaphor in this way is offensive - so is getting cheap laughs out of it. So is the implication that if a woman flirts with a guy she deserves to get raped Doug!

If shot today the rape would either be absent or played as far more seriously - an indication that this movie is going to take the anti-hero thing a lot further than ever before.


AKA - Isn't Mordecai really the only good guy in the town, the one who suffers at their hands - the only one who cares what happens to the Deputy but is powerless to prevent it? That's why it is through his eyes that we see the flashback - we witness it through the eyes of a helpless spectator and are not forced to share the perspective of the morally bankrupt villagers.

The second flashback is of course wierdsville. The Stranger is remembering something he could not have witnessed. This is the act that has summoned up the avenging angel - it tells us that he is connected explicitly with this act and has "knowledge" of it. Not even a brother or friend seeking revenge could have this kind of vivid imagination. He must be a spook!
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« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2002, 07:50:16 PM »

Originally posted by Hapnindude44, 10-29-2001 11:40 AM

I'm like all of you rape is an offensive thing and certainly not a joke. But aside from that fact I always interpreted the scene as that the woman was in some wierd way attracted to this character. This rugged looking man of mystery that suddenly comes riding into town. I mean look at the men she had to choose from in the town. But I kinda felt that the "accidental" bumping into him was a way to get his "attention" without actually bidding for it openly. She wanted to save face with the townspeople but at the same time indulge into what was in her mind. Now do I think she asked for rape? The answer is "no". I think she wanted his attention but she got more than she bargained for. And perhaps as someone already pointed out it was her "payback" for her own selfishness for being complicit in a man's death. I always interpreted Clint's character saying "Okay, you want my attention?... I'll show you what kind of attention you deserve!" As I say that's how "I" kind of saw it. I'm also not arguing it was justified I'm just giving my interpretation of what happened. Was the scene necessary? I don't think so. It would have been just as good without it. Most of the time things like that go into movies because some writer's, directors, and studios think you can't have good a movie with out it. I'm sure if it were made today the story would be minus that scene. Just my opinion.
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« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2002, 07:55:51 PM »

Originally posted by AKA23, 10-29-2001 12:07 PM

You have some interesting points there Daisy but I'm still not buying that an "avenging angel" type would be that amoral and morally bankrupt himself. How is he to punish the town avenging the heinous murder of Duncan if he is himself to commit actions analagous to or at least comparable with the actions of those very townspeople that he is sent to condemn? The rape is played for laughs....uhh..I'm not too sure about that one Daisy. I wasn't laughing during that scene at all..I was genuinely disturbed by it. I do suppose it is treated lighter than it could/should have been so making it a bit more serious and a bit less "comical" I guess would be aproppriate but I don't find it all that comical to begin with. Sure the confrontation between Callie and Stranger is comical as you can see in my posted statement of the scene above but I don't find that actual act of the rape very comical at all.
Letting this tone of the rape aside I still don't understand why, although you have given a good explanation of your view, the rape was included at all? It just proves that the Stranger is in fact a completely amoral figure. Would an amoral figure make the only moral person in the town the leader and law maker of it? And would a completely amoral person as you put it be so kind as to give the candy and the blankets the poor Indian family? I don't think so. I don't think that the rape fits in with the rest of the film and the actions of the Stranger are far more understandable AFTER the rape scene than during it. As I said I can somewhat identify with the rationale of the Stranger in most scenes but this one I just don't get.

Daisy in regards to the flashback scenes I think you've given a good explanation that I would give credence to in regards to the Mordecai flashback scene it does make sense to see that through his eyes. However, with the Stranger scene as you state it's rather weird. I think there isn't any other way to interpret that scene than to believe that he had some kind of knowledge of the murder of Duncan. Not only this but he knew intimate details that he would only know if he was Duncan himself or possibly an avenging angel sent down to provide penitance to the people of the town for their actions.

What does everybody make of the scene I know that we have discussed this before but at the very end where Mordecai is at the grave of Marshall Jim Duncan and he looks up at Stranger and says something like you know I never did know your name. Stranger replies something like yeah, you do. As the camera pans out and we again see the grave of Marshall Jim Duncan. What's up with this? How can this be explained? Wouldn't that support him being Duncan himself and the flashbacks him remembering his own tragic end? Maybe not but at any rate with all of these clues and the flashback scenes and Clint dodging all of those bullets in the water and getting out of bed before he is ambushed and all of that I don't see how Clint CANNOT be some sort of supernatural type of figure. Some people still say he's not and I just don't see how with all of these events and characteristics how he could possibly NOT be a supernatural figure.At any rate, what does everybody make of that scene at the end that I described above? What does that mean??

So, now we've got three things to discuss. We've got the rape scene, the flashback scenes and the scene at the very end which calls into question the notion of Stranger not being some kind of supernatural figure. Instead of an avenging angel COULD this possibly be Duncan himself? You know I just don't know. Who is this Stranger anyway?
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« Reply #8 on: December 16, 2002, 07:57:31 PM »

Originally posted by Daisy, 10-29-2001 02:21 PM

You are right AKA the rape itself is not played for laughs. What I meant is that it is treated as a joke bfore and afterwards in a quite unforgiveable way (by today's standards)
The rape scene could go and the film would probably be better for it. But it's there so we have to account for it.

Frankly, rape scenes were VERY fashionable at this time in cinema history. Shameful, but true.

If the rape is taken less seriously than it should - I think it is also meant to mean less to the audience when it comes to interpretting the Stranger's character - it just doesn't matter all that much. This is wrong-headed but in keeping with the way it is presented.

As for being an "Avenging Angel": that has to be kept in heavy parenthesis! He might be an "Avenging Demon" as far as we know - that would fit better with the satisfaction he takes in some of his actions and the painting of the town like hell.

Ambiguity is all in this movie and it is there for the sake of it. Some of these questions don't have answers - so consider them significant.

I agree with you - if the Stranger isn't supernatural then the narrative makes no sense at all!

Daisy
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« Reply #9 on: December 16, 2002, 07:59:33 PM »

Originally posted by HighPlainsDrifter, 10-30-2001 12:14 AM

Does Clint have a fascination with rape? I can name numerous other Eastwood movies that include some form of rape-related scenes or dialog. Just to mention one: The Eiger Sanction--Hemlock tells Jemima Brown that he tried rape and decided he liked it.
I read an interview with Clint some time ago where he said that originally the stranger in High Plains Drifter was supposed to be an avenging brother. By the time the movie was finished, he had become more of an apparition. Straight from The Man.
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« Reply #10 on: December 16, 2002, 08:01:23 PM »

Originally posted by Daisy, 10-30-2001 04:30 AM

HPD asks:

Quote
Does Clint have a fascination with rape?

I don't think so. What is certainly true was that 1970s cinema had a facination with rape scenes.

It is the ultimate combination of sex and violence - the big sellers!

The women's movement was big at the time - maybe it was also a way for male dominated Hollywood to try and put the uppity females back in their aprons!

More enlightened times now prevail.

Daisy
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« Reply #11 on: December 16, 2002, 08:03:44 PM »

Originally posted by GMAT, 10-30-2001 12:22 PM

Since when did something have to be "necessary" to be included? If you don't identify with the rape scene, AKA (and only sadists would), that's the point. Eastwood wasn't playing a singing cowboy here. He was playing a vicious (if righteous) character who some observers have characterized as the Devil. Eastwood had the guts to not play the game by the rules and play the hero almost as if he were the villain. That mentality, after all, is much closer to the reality of "real life." I commend Clint for his revisionist and uncompromising stance - most of the time, there is no white hat/black hat dichotomy in the real world.
The rape can also be read as such: men receive the pistol, women receive the phallus. Not pleasant, but neither is Lago and its citizens.
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« Reply #12 on: December 16, 2002, 08:06:01 PM »

Originally posted by GMAT, 10-30-2001 12:33 PM

The dialogue from The Eiger Sanction is clearly a joke. I wouldn't make too much of it ... as Doug noted, Clint has a reputation for featuring strong and intelligent women characters in his films and for being a "feminist filmmaker," so I think that his overall body of work absolves him from any guilt.
And, AKA, of course the Stranger and Mordecai are connected ... they see the truth and are allied in a corrupt town - isn't that obvious?

I'm not sure that the rape scene is played for laughs as much as it's played for violence. High Plains Drifter is a violent, compulsive, acerbic, even sadistic movie. It is certainly the most nihilistic film that Clint ever directed, one that doesn't really hold out hope for redemption and the human spirit in the way that the similarly violent The Gauntlet does. Even Sudden Impact and, more ambiguously, Unforgiven, hold out hope for humanity in a way that Drifter does not. The rape scene and Eastwood's "villainous hero" square with the film's unabashed nihilism.

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« Reply #13 on: December 16, 2002, 08:07:56 PM »

Originally posted by D'Ambrosia, 10-30-2001 12:47 PM

The Devil, an Avenging Angel, Duncans brother or just supernatural, it doesn’t matter which is the case. Callie is simply paying the consequences of her part in the killing.
I’ve always been under the impression that somehow she sold Duncan out that fateful night he was whipped to death all on the account of Stacy Bridges. She was at one time “his girl”, so maybe, and I emphases maybe, put Duncan in a compromising position setting up his unfortunate demise.

It’s not as if she didn’t try it with the Stranger.

And one one last note, a lot of people acted like that back then. It is a harsh dose of reality. Terrible things happen to innocent people, or in Callies case not so innocent. I’m not saying that rape is a proper punishment for murder, in fact it is horrible crime.

Is murder a proper punishment for rape, well, Harry Callahan seems to think so.

If my scenario above holds some validity, and if it were Duncans brother, or something else doing the raping, that’s not different than Jennifer Spencers getting revenge on the ones that raped her…

”You still here?”
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« Reply #14 on: December 16, 2002, 08:09:41 PM »

Originally posted by GMAT, 10-30-2001 01:02 PM

AKA, High Plains Drifter is not a movie about conventional morality, so trying to read it too closely in those terms may prove unproductive. It's a nihilistic film all the way around - it's about revenge. Similarly, in Sudden Impact, Jennifer Spencer opts for revenge - she's not trying to fight immorality with morality. The violent acts that haunt the protagonists of these two films have pushed them beyond redemption and to a point of revenge. In The Outlaw Josey Wales, conversely, the protagonist opts for redemption over revenge. Eastwood is a versatile filmmaker who can explore different perspectives on similar themes - such as how the individual deals with scarring, haunting, victimizing violence.
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« Reply #15 on: December 16, 2002, 08:11:33 PM »

Originally posted by Daisy, 10-30-2001 02:23 PM

I agree with most of what you say GMAT.
However - since it was me that said the rape scene is played for laughs and you refute this let me re-state my case.

1 The rape itself is not funny.

2 However, the aftermath is entirely trivialised by the "what took her so long to get mad?" bath shooting scene.

3 That, and the "feet are bigger than your mouth" bit before - contextualise the rape in an unpleasantly and inappropriately light-hearted vein.

That is what I meant.

I think this is also what Clint meant about shooting it differently if he were to do it over. Not that he would wimp out of doing the rape - but that the treatment would be less off-hand.

Regards Daisy
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« Reply #16 on: December 16, 2002, 08:13:07 PM »

Originally posted by HighPlainsDrifter, 10-30-2001 07:39 PM

Is it possible to for a writer to just write a story for the sake of the story? Maybe we should all stop trying to read into it so much and just enjoy (or hate) the movie for what it is--a story. I'm not saying anybody on this web board is wrong. All of the arguments here have been presented in an intelligent and courteous manner. Keep an open mind, and don't forget that maybe, just maybe, Clint wanted to act out a great screenplay--and he did.
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« Reply #17 on: December 16, 2002, 08:14:53 PM »

Originally posted by Baggieb, 10-30-2001 07:39 PM

My contribution will probably be rather shallow, since it has been a while since I popped it in..
I'm not so sure that the callous remark about her taking so long to get mad was not so much light hearted, but rather a form of contempt. I think that each of the townspeople were dealt with according to their egos, or their self-conceptions. The Drifter demolishes those, stripping away their veneers to reveal their lives of hypocrasy.

Callie probably wasn't the town virgin, and I wondered, since the whole town would have known that, was her anger at being treated according to her soul, rather than her facade?

The hotel owner was stripped of the things that mattered most to him, his source of income when the Drifter emptied the hotel for his own use, his wife in adultry, and his hotel to total destruction.

The preacher had to have pointed out to him what he should have done for those evicted. He was more concerned in preaching to the Drifter than taking care of his flock.

The only one who came out better, as has been already mentioned, was Mordecai, who had no part in the terrible event that started the Drifter's wrath.

Rape produces extremely emotional responses. Perhaps the emotional response hoped for was to not make us too favorable toward the Drifter. He sought vengenance, but was no shining light.
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« Reply #18 on: December 16, 2002, 08:16:56 PM »

Originally posted by Daisy, 10-31-2001 12:43 AM

Quote
I'm not so sure that the callous remark about her taking so long to get mad was not so much light hearted, but rather a form of contempt.


Er... Baggy, ever heard of humour being used to show contempt? You should have...   ;)

HPD Oh grow up. Texts - whether visual, literary or whatever - are there to be discussed! If you think directors of Clint's calibre just make movies blindly from a script they happen to pick up, then you are rather naive.

HPD is one of Clint's most personal films and it is highly complex, that doesn't mean it is not invested with meaning - all texts have meaning intended or not. And just because it's difficult to understand doesn't mean we shouldn't try. Quite the opposite.

Daisy
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« Reply #19 on: December 16, 2002, 08:20:32 PM »

Originally posted by GMAT, 10-31-2001 11:17 AM

The off-handed humor with which the rape is received may just serve to reflect the immorality of this supposedly "God-fearing" town. The citizens treat the rape light-heartedly - is that not social commentary? As I said, High Plains Drifter is an acerbic film.
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