Ad Nut
Sep 8, 2022

These romantic film scenes are more problematic than you think

AD NUT'S PICK OF THE WEEK: In a new campaign by TBWA Sydney and Eleven, an organisation aims to educate audiences about consent on screen. Yes, even in Star Wars.

Question: What does Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, The Devil Wears Prada, Beetlejuice, and Bridgerton have in common? Answer: Scenes where its characters are forced into sexual acts without their consent. Take a look at these scenes below.

Who would’ve thought, you ask? Well, that’s exactly why not-for-profit organisation Consent Labs is on a mission to educate audiences about depictions of non-consensual acts on screen. Ad Nut is aware of the importance of films and TV in the shaping of culture—and in this case, on-screen sexual acts could directly affect how people perceive romance in real life.

Interestingly, a survey commissioned by Consent Labs found that three in five Australians are still unable to recognise consent when seen on screen and a quarter are unable to define it. But a majority of respondents agree that calling out non-consensual acts in TV shows and films would help educate viewers and believe classifying these scenes before the act should be a legal requirement moving forward.

Hence, a petition has been made to the Classifications Board to introduce a classification to call out ‘lack of consent’ in film and television. The same way violence and nudity are official on-screen classifications, Consent Labs argues that so should non-consensual acts. The organisations claims that the new classification aims to support Australians to make informed decisions about the content they’re consuming and ultimately educate them on the difference between consensual and non-consensual acts.

Ad Nut recognises that consent can sometimes be blurry especially when one is already engaged in a sexual act. Plus, consent is not always affirmative (see that Aziz Ansari incident which launched a million think pieces). But at the bare minimum, no means no. And in these popular films and TV shows below, many—including Ad Nut, admittedly—might have perceived these scenes to be purely romantic rather than non-consensual. Ad Nut has been enlightened by this campaign and has Consent Labs to thank for it.

"This isn’t about cancelling or censoring any content. This classification would inform viewers, like any other. It would also show audiences what lack of consent can look like on screen, and in real life."
Dr Joyce Yu, co-founder and executive director, Consent Labs

Ad Nut would like to add 1982’s Blade Runner to the list of popular films that features a problematic romantic scene. Despite it being one of Ad Nut’s favourite films, a scene where Deckard coerces—and frankly, emotionally manipulates—Rachael to verbally consent has always tickled Ad Nut the wrong way.

Ad Nut is of the opinion that films should certainly be able to depict sexual scenes of any kind—consensual or not—but the difference here is being able to recognise and analyse a non-consensual act for what it is rather than glorifying it as ‘romance’.

Ad Nut is a surprisingly literate woodland creature that for unknown reasons has an unhealthy obsession with advertising. Ad Nut gathers ads from all over Asia and the world for your viewing pleasure, because Ad Nut loves you. You can also check out Ad Nut's Advertising Hall of Fame, or read about Ad Nut's strange obsession with 'murderous beasts'.


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