Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Movie Review: Audrie & Daisy

Audrie & Daisy
Directed by: Bonni Cohen & Jon Shenk.
Watching Audrie & Daisy is one of the more depressing things you will do this year – and yet, it’s also something that I hope many people do. This is a documentary that concentrates on the rape cases involving two teenage girls – who lived at different ends of the country – both of whom got drunk, passed out and got assaulted by boys they thought were their friends. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they suffered after the events through a non-stop barrage of insults and harassment on social media – pictures and videos of their assaults were taken, and passed around for everyone to see. The abuse is so bad that both girls will eventually try to kill themselves – one of them will succeed.
Directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, Audrie & Daisy is about these two specific cases – but it’s also about the wider picture that allows these types of cases to happen. If you want an example of rape culture, there are few better examples of it than what happened in the case of Daisy Coleman – who was 14 when she and a friend went to an older boy’s place – where they were given enough alcohol to make them passout and then raped. When the boys drive Daisy home, she is so drunk they cannot get her to wakeup – so they simply leave her on the front lawn, despite the fact that it’s freezing outside. It’s there where her mother will find her the next day – her hair frozen to the ground. She is taken to the hospital – a rape kit is done, her blood alcohol level is taken (it almost at the point where alcohol poisoning will set in). The boy involved will end up getting off with a slap on the wrist – if that. Amazingly, the Sheriff who investigated the case willing gives an interview to the filmmakers – and comes across horrible – the living embodiment of rape culture. He praises the boys for “moving on” with their lives, he says that nothing that night rose to the level of rape because Daisy didn’t fight back – when asked if having sex with a girl who has passed out is considered rape, he defers “that’s a question for lawyers and legislators”. He says girls have as much responsibility for what happens as boys do – and when the filmmakers say “But in this case, it was the boys who committed the crime”, he chuckles and responds “Did they?”. It’s infuriating.
What happened to Audrie Pott is also tragic. She goes to a party, gets drunk and passes out – a group of boys who she thinks are her friends, strip her, draw all over her body with marker – writing horrible things on her – and a few of them “finger” her – although they’ll claim she liked that. When she wakes up the next day, she tries to figure out what happened to her – 8 days later, unable to take the abuse, she hangs herself. Two of the boys who assaulted Pott are in the documentary – they have been “animated” to protect their identities – giving these interviews with the filmmakers is part of their plea bargain in the civil case Pott’s parents brought against them. They are emotionless and uncomfortable as they talk about what they did – and what they learned from the case. They are also self-pitying – talking about the effect it has had on them. They, too, got off with little actual punishment – and will be able to go about their lives unharmed.
Audrie & Daisy is a sad, depressing movie – not just because of what happened to the two title girls – or many of the other girls who will eventually tell their very similar stories near the end of the movie. But because it shows, in undeniable detail, what rape culture in America looks like. I do wish the film concentrated a little more on the social media aspect of the abuse suffered by the girls after the attack – basically, they exist as montages where horrible things are written, and you wonder how anyone would think that these are appropriate things to say to a teenage girl. Like last year’s The Hunting Ground – about the epidemic of rape on college campuses, and how little is being done to stop them, Audrie & Daisy is a film that I hope young people – both boys and girls – will actually sit down and watch. Young people do stupid things all the time. The difference is that as a culture, we try our best to minimize the damage done to the boys who commit rape – and praise them when they somehow find the courage to move past the crime they have committed, while we demonize the girls who are the victims of horrific crimes, and blame them for what happened. That needs to change – but it won’t until more people actually recognize the problem. Make no mistake, Audrie & Daisy is a “message” documentary – yet it’s a very good one, not only because of its message

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