To start with, let us (once again) assert on how sex requires to be a consensual act. We can never force our whims on anyone, no matter what the circumstances. Anatomy of a Scandal, the recent thriller drama show on Netflix, revolves around an MP named James Whitehouse who is accused of raping his aide Olivia Lytton.
Power plays a vital role in helping the guilty shrug off the burden of their crime and James Whitehouse being a renowned politician who shares a close relationship with the Prime Minister is shown to wield his power to escape the consequences of his actions. He wears the mask of innocence who would never apply brute force upon a woman to fulfill his lust but the further episodes of the series unfurls a different side of James Whitehouse, a licentious libertine who doesn’t hesitate to tell lie in order to maintain his reputation. The series, safe to say, reminds us incessantly (and uncomfortably) of Brett Michael Kavanaugh.
Also read: A Feminist Reading Of ‘Pink’
The issue of consent is raised up vehemently by James’ prosecutor Kate Woodcroft in the trial scenes bearing echoes of Aniruddha Roy Chaudhary’s Pink. While the survivor Olivia Lytton narrates her part of the story we find that she urged James many times to stop by telling “not here”. Kate Woodcroft uses repeatedly to emphasise that “not here” means no reminding us of Deepak Sehgal’s statement, “No means no” from Pink.
James and Olivia were engaged in a five month affair as a result of which they had indulged in sexual intercourse multiple times in public places including their office, but that doesn’t entitle James to have sex with Olivia when she is unwilling yet we see James coercing Olivia by using language such as, “Don’t be such a prick tease” and eventually raping her.
Anatomy of a Scandal oscillates between flashbacks of James’ university days when he was the member of a libertine club and his present days of scandal where he wears the facade of a victim (when he is the one accused) underneath which lurks behind the dark deeds of his past, which is a ready proof of his toxic masculinity.
We learn that Kate Woodcroft has actually feigned her identity and her real name is Holly Berry, the tutorial partner of Sophie, James’ wife, at the University of Oxford. James had assaulted Holly one night back then. Devastated by this assault, she reinvented herself in order to indirectly sue James, by being his prosecutor in a case that revolves around the sexual assault of his employee, the same assault of which she was a victim.
Eventually, we see James getting away with his crime backed up his influential friends like the Prime Minister himself which is indeed disheartening for any woman to witness. However what gives us solace is the transformation of Sophie, who decides to leave James even when he is proven innocent in the eyes of law as the epiphanies of her husband’s past and present deeds when divulged to her, made her realise that he is, in fact, guilty of sexual assault and rape.
Anatomy of a Scandal presents to us the brutal reality of this world where women like Olivia Lytton and Holly Berry don’t always get the justice they deserve and power further makes men like James Whitehouse immune and to get away with anything they do.
The whole scandal in the series Anatomy of a Scandal results because of an act of forced, non-consensual sex by politician James, inflicted on his aide Olivia Lytton. Even though initially the politician and his counsel convinces the jury of his innocence. A question asked to women across the world, when they raise complaints of sexual assault and rape, is that if they were sexually involved with the accused anyway, why should one instance be construed as rape. Not only are questions raised about the morality of the women (the survivors) during trials, they are further vilified as gold-diggers or those out to tarnish the images of men. If we are still wondering why aren’t more women coming forward with complaints of assault against their perpetrators, then this is why: almost every time, the trial is more excruciating for the complainant because of the character assassination involved.
In the end, we witness Sophie reuniting with her classmate Holly aka Kate and becoming the harbinger of justice by unveiling the unscrupulous acts of her husband so that he is subjected to his deserved punishment. Anatomy of a Scandal succinctly unpacks the importance of consent and is a sharp commentary on status quo, considering how many complainants are vilified for raising the cause in the first place by the court of law and public both.
A practitioner of literature who prefers fictional world of cinema over pragmatic world. Words are her antidote on gloomy days and being a bong she possess an inherent affinity towards football, food and music. She breathes and creates art for her existence. You can find her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
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