Past the Popcorn provides South King Media with exclusive reviews of Theatrical and Home Video entertainment. We aim to dig just a little deeper than the surface of what we watch.

I overheard a conversation the other day in which someone said, “There is never a justification to include a rape in any film.” The point was that “entertainment” should have its limits.

I immediately thought of The Accused, for which Jodie Foster won an Oscar 30 years ago. That the #METOO movement did not immediately ensue, and that Hollywood continued to shelter predators like Harvey Weinstein, is almost as shocking as the movie.

The Accused is not entertainment, per se, and it could not be filmed without featuring a rape, because the film is about rape–and rapists, and victims of rape. Based on a true story (which actually occurred in my home town of Seattle), the film is direct in asking two very essential questions about rape: Does a victim ever “deserve” rape? And how guilty are you if you have the power to stop a rape, and don’t?

Foster does not portray Sarah Tobias as innocent. She is what many would call “skanky,” a pretty but insecure woman who gets attention in provocative ways. She hangs out in dive bars populated by leering, undersexed men, shows a lot of skin, and dances suggestively. It’s a game that far too many men and women play, but we also all understand why the game is played.

One night, though, the game goes way, way too far. Sarah’s friend bails on her and a sexually-aggressive acquaintance rapes her on a pinball machine in the bar’s back room. Two others also take their turn while twenty or so other men watch, cheer, and egg the rapists on.

The film not only tells the story of the rape, but of the trial–and the long, arduous path to the trial. Kelly McGillis, herself a victim of rape, plays Sarah’s attorney, who has a difficult time convincing Sarah that she did not “deserve what she got.” Such is the insidious nature of our predatory sexual culture: not only do victims fail to see themselves as such, they also are loath to come forward and endure the humiliation of re-living the crime and the public scorn they endure as truth-tellers.

No: this is not entertainment. But it is a bold, telling cinematic litmus test. If you can actually stomach watching this (much more difficult at home than it was in the theater, where it’s much harder to get up and walk out), it will tell you an awful lot about where your own heart stands on the subject of sexual assault.

The Accused is included with your Hulu subscription, and on Tubi.  It’s also available to stream for a small charge at the usual outlets.

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