Earlier this month The Drudge Report ran an erroneous story claiming that Leonardo DiCaprio gets raped by a bear in the new movie The Revenant. DiCaprio’s character is viciously attacked by a grizzly protecting her cubs, but he is not sexually assaulted in any way, shape, or form.
But it turns out there is an actual rape scene in the film — one in which a woman is the victim. (Warning: Spoilers ahead.)
Alejandro González Iñárritu’s film, which opens in limited release Christmas Day, features DiCaprio playing fur-trapper Hugh Glass. Glass is mauled by a bear. While the rest of his crew trudges ahead to find safety, Glass, barely able to move, is entrusted to the care of the evil John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Fitzgerald kills Glass’ son and buries Hugh alive in a shallow grave. Despite his broken body and emotional sorrow, Glass trudges ahead, seeking to return to his men and enact his revenge on Fitzgerald.
On his journey, he encounters a group of French trappers and witnesses one of them raping a Native-American woman named Powaqa (Melaw Nakehk’o). She struggles, and the camera shows her gritted teeth as the man thrusts. Glass comes up behind the attacker and holds a gun to his head. Powaqa escapes and sets about enacting her own bloody revenge.
The scene is not completely gratuitous. There is context. Powaqa’s father searches for her throughout the film, and Glass’ aid does have a payoff, which we won’t spoil here. But because so few women are featured in the film, the brutality of the scene stands out, even compared with the several gruesome injuries that Glass suffers.
Certain film writers have essentially declared that watching and appreciating The Revenant is a test of manliness. In his review for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers begins: “Note to movie pussies: The Revenant is not for you.” And blogger Jeff Wells wrote on Twitter: “‘The Revenant’ is an unflinchingly brutal, you-are-there, raw-element immersion like something you’ve never seen. Forget women seeing this.” (How about we just forget about you and your misogyny instead?)
The truth is, this woman did not necessarily enjoy The Revenant (for reasons unrelated to its grisly nature), but I was able to watch like anyone else. The rape scene — the real one — was the only one that truly shocked and disturbed me. It’s the one that lingers. I was expecting to see DiCaprio’s body nearly ripped to shreds. I wasn’t expecting to see a horrifying act of violence against a nearly silent woman.
But what’s really troubling is that even now that more and more people have seen the film, no one seems to care about this plot point. I guess the message is, what’s one more scene of a woman being raped when there are click-baity headlines to be made about Leonardo DiCaprio and a bear?