If you’ve seen a historical film in the past 10 years or so, then you have definitely seen a lot of Keira Knightley and heard a lot of her accent. Atonement. Anna Karenina. Pride & Prejudice. The Duchess. Etc. There’s one explanation for that.
In an interview with Variety, Knightley said she’s all but forsaken acting in modern films because women characters are frequently depicted as rape victims. “I don’t really do films set in the modern day because the female characters nearly always get raped,” Knightley says. “I always find something distasteful in the way women are portrayed, whereas I’ve always found very inspiring characters offered to me in historical pieces. There’s been some improvement. I’m suddenly being sent scripts with present-day women who aren’t raped in the first five pages and aren’t simply there to be the loving girlfriend or wife.”
It seems to me that rape depictions on screen are prominent across eras, particularly in slavery films, for obvious reasons. Also, women were generally treated badly back then. So that’s interesting logic, but Knightley says she’s been fortunate enough to avoid such material.
The movement toward openly conversing about assault means that interviewers—more often men—are routinely asking actresses to talk about personal incidents of harassment or assault. This is going to be a potentially traumatic and ongoing trend for us all. When asked about the “harassment scandal” in Hollywood, Knightley stresses that the issue isn’t restricted to famous people. She says, “I’m fortunate that I’ve never been sexually abused professionally or harassed on a film set, but in my personal life, when I’ve been in bars, I can count four times when I’ve been what I’d say was assaulted in a minor way.”
She adds, “I think everyone has battled their fair share of monsters. It’s not just actresses. It’s teachers; it’s lawyers. I’m not talking about rape, but I’m talking about the people who had been grabbed in pubs or their breasts had been fondled by somebody they didn’t know or they’d had someone shove a hand up their skirt. For too long, you really did go, ‘Oh, this is just normal.’ It’s terrifying that was our response.”