On Fictionalized Rape And Painted Breasts


Recently the decision by a Fox television affiliate to blur out the breasts in a Pablo Picasso painting shown on air was greeted by derision from from many on the left who saw it as an example of rank conservative prudishness.

Reporting on the record-setting, $179m auction of Picasso’s Women of Algiers (Version O), New York’s Fox 5, blurred the breasts of three women in the painting, despite the stylized and distinctly unrealistic portrayal of those women mostly through blocky shapes.

The network did not censor a pair of buttocks. …

New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz tweeted: “how sexually sick are conservatives [and] Fox News?”

Culture critic Aruna D’Souza sarcastically quipped: “Glad [Fox] is protecting its audience from Picasso’s smutty mind. Wouldn’t want to scare the children.”

Art history blog Alberti’s Window tweeted: “Glad I didn’t pay $179 million for a Picasso painting that was ‘retouched’ by a Fox News employee.”

Blurring out the breasts does seem pretty silly. About as silly as John Ashcroft covering the breasts on the Spirit of Justice statute at the Department of Justice back in 2002.

But I wonder if a Democrat Senator guilty of something similar will get a similar reaction from the anti-prudes. The Senator in question is Claire McCaskill who now says she’s done with the hit HBO series Game of Thrones thanks to a rape scene in the latest episode.

Washington (CNN) – HBO’s “Game of Thrones” lost a viewer Tuesday morning: Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill.

The Democrat, an avid tweeter, cited a particularly “gratuitous rape scene” that ended the most recent episode Sunday night as her reason for signing off.

“Ok, I’m done Game of Thrones.Water Garden, stupid.Gratuitous rape scene disgusting and unacceptable.It was a rocky ride that just ended,” McCaskill tweeted Tuesday morning.

Apparently a feminist website has decided to stop promoting the show as a result of the scene as well.

My wife and I watched that scene when it aired live, and I remember remarking at the time that the scene was certainly unsettling, but calling it gratuitous seems unfair. I won’t share any plot points here lest I spoil the story for those of you who haven’t watched the episode yet, but suffice it to say that the rape scene was very much an important plot point illustrating the debasement of one two of the most important characters (someone else was made to watch).

It did not seem to me that the scene was included merely to titillate or shock. It was meant to illustrate some very real things about the characters. That one is reaching for new heights of evil, and the other is in serious jeopardy.

Isn’t that what great art is supposed to be about? Provoking the audience? In this instance making them care and feel things about the characters?

Don’t get me wrong, HBO is certainly capable of being gratuitous – this “it’s not porn, it’s HBO” skit is spot on – but the rape scene in question wasn’t an example of it. It was plot-driven, and important to the story.

In the real world horrible things happen to people, including rape. Really good stories – and Game of Thrones is a really good story – are usually grounded in what is real. For all the sorcery and dragons in the show, the characters themselves portray traits we see in real people. Including – perhaps especially – the evil ones.

If McCaskill has a low opinion of Game of Thrones, then so be it. We all have our tastes. But if we’re going to start skewering people for being prudes, we ought to include McCaskill, but we won’t because McCaskill is a woman and the subject matter is rape and feminists get a lot more room to be prudes than do people upset by cubist depictions of boobies.