When a New York women’s magazine editor named Ani FaNelli, played by Mila Kunis in the film Luckiest Girl Alive, is asked for a covering for a story about rape survivors being forced to pay for their rape kits, she recommends “When your rape costs more than your rent.” Her editor Lolo Vincent answers with a sly smirk, “Now that will get us on the Today Show.”
The flashy, attention-grabbing title of Luckiest Girl Alive serves as an example of how the mainstream media frequently exploits the Me Too movement for gain, influence, and shock value at the expense of potentially upsetting information. The dilemma then becomes, how can we handle sexual assault in high school and college settings responsibly and politely without making it seem cool?
The most violent assault scene in Luckiest Girl Alive features a young girl who is brutally gang-raped. It is quite disturbing to witness the approximately five-minute-long scenario. The film lacks a trigger or content warning while being labeled R for “violent scenes, rape, and sexual stuff.” Many television programs and motion pictures draw ire for their excessively explicit depictions of assault. Because of how it depicted sexual assault, the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why generated a lot of debate. Viewers of Luckiest Girl Alive have urged Netflix to add warnings to the movie because they fear that it can cause PTSD.
Since the emergence of the Me Too movement, films detailing instances of sexual assault and its aftereffects have had tremendous success in Hollywood. In A Promising Young Woman, feminine wrath following tragedy is delicately portrayed. When the main character is requested to participate in a documentary, Luckiest Girl Alive similarly examines the “victim narrative” to show the long-lasting impact of sexual assault on victims. The film earned mixed to good reviews after debuting at the top of the Netflix charts.
The film centers on Ani, a renowned New York City journalist who is engaged to her affluent, trust fund heir lover. Ani seemed to have it all. But as she struggles to deal with the pain of a prior adolescent sexual assault, her life begins to slowly come apart. Based on Jessica Knoll’s 2015 novel, which went on to become one of the best-selling fiction debuts of that year, Luckiest Girl Alive. In 2016, Knoll wrote an article outlining how her sexual assault served as the inspiration for the novel’s events.
The Netflix film does a fantastic job of examining how sexual assault survivors are affected for the rest of their life. Even though Ani is still plagued by the memories of her attack, she is often reminded of how “fortunate” she is. The Luckiest Girl Alive shows how society frequently minimizes the hardship that survivors go through thereafter. Where do we proceed from here now that we have examined and revealed Ani’s trauma through this physically vivid rape scene? Hollywood’s depictions of vivid situations that may be exceedingly upsetting pose the question of how it might aid trauma survivors in overcoming their trauma. In high school and college environments, sexual assault is still quite common. While 13% of students on college campuses suffer some kind of attack, 1 in 9 girls under the age of 18 will.
The majority of attacks get unreported, or the attackers get away with it. Expulsion occurs in less than one-third of incidents of sexual assault on college campuses. This fact highlights one of the film’s major themes: the propensity to doubt survivors. Viewers may observe in Ani’s case that although her fiance and mother accept her, they are unaware of the full psychological effects of sexual assault. This plague of ignorance in our culture makes survivors seem bad and encourages victim blaming. The development of Hollywood movies using Me-Too as an inspiration raises the question of whether or not sexual assault victims will be helped or harmed by these terrible depictions.
Maybe the explanation lies in the fact that these films were not created to comfort the victim but rather to draw public attention to the societal issue. For those who have experienced sexual assault, Luckiest Girl Alive is neither novel nor revolutionary, but it may be instructive for others who are unaware of the prevalence and effects of this crime. In general, these films are useful and should be produced to keep the conversation surrounding the Me Too movement alive. However, to protect survivors, they have to include trigger warnings for excessively gruesome sequences.