Hollywood is rife with sexual abuse, and apparently, so are all the movie scripts.
Katie Hagen, a writer at the website The Black List, which is best known for its yearly list of best unproduced screenplays, a distinction based on a survey of Hollywood hot shots has done an analysis of the 45,000 unproduced films registered to the site. She released her findings in a report on the amount of sexual violence in all those specs.
Scripts on The Black List can be tagged with preloaded options that include “rape” and “sexual violence.” With that data, Hagen wants to draw attention to the need to track that kind of content, writing that she was shocked to discover that the MPAA does not record the amount of sexual violence that appears in produced films:
In fact, there’s no specific category for sexual violence when ratings are assigned to films — “rape” becomes classified as “sexual and violent content,” but a specific notation is not made for films that feature sexual violence. (It should be noted that rape does have a special code within the television ratings system, RP, and many cable shows note sexual violence in their pre-credits warning.)
Of the scripts they host, 2,400 were tagged with something “associated with rape.” That’s about 5.3%, which doesn’t sound too high; it was also more common in feature length scripts than episodic ones. But of those scripts, 72.3% were penned by men. Other notable aspects of the analysis showed that though roughly half the scripts featured female protagonists, only 29% passed the Bechdel Test.
Hagen interviewed the reading base at The Black list, who shared their anecdotal observations of the scripts they’ve gone through that featured sexual violence. Hagen herself mentions that she is still disturbed by the worst script she ever read, which featured eight rape scenes in total. But there are lots of quotes from readers that highlight what many have observed: there’s too much rape onscreen for no good reason.
“An alarming number of scripts use rape (specifically) as a sole defining characteristic or motivator for the female characters. I can only think of one or two examples where the female character was multi-dimensional and rape occurred as a major plot line (and in all of these instances, the writer seemed to me, based on name only, to be female-identified).”
You can and should read more Hagen’s exhaustive piece here.