The final moments of last night's Private Practice episode, "Did You Hear What Happened to Charlotte King?" included what is likely the most realistic depiction of rape in media history. It was harrowing to watch, and must have been just as grueling to write, produce and perform.
Was the resulting show strong enough to bear the weight of the subject matter? Let's discuss the hour and the lessons therein about sexual violence:
We have to give huge congratulations and credit to Shonda Rhimes and KaDee Strickland for using their great power with great responsibility. The combined forces of Shonda's needle-sharp writing and KaDee's snarling, wounded wild-animal performance made for a captivating hour of television. Those who watched won't soon forget the look in Charlotte King's eyes as she explained the realities of rape to Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh) or as she recalled her waking nightmare on the floor of the office. (How did you feel after those final scenes as you turned off the TV and got ready for bed in your own house?)
This episode has been called part of a rape-on-TV trend, and we did notice that all three recent TV rapes—Gemma (Katey Sagal) on Sons of Anarchy, Naomi (AnnaLynne McCord) on 90210 and Charlotte on Private Practice—share some similarities. Notably, we find ourselves wondering why all three are stories about strong, no-nonsense ladies who generally dominate their environments, and why, in all three cases, the rapes went unreported?
Is that just a more dramatic story to tell, or is there something in our culture that doubts women who suffer rape and then speak out boldly—but trusts in women who keep their silence? Do victims ever really go vigilante on their rapists as an alternative to using the system for help (eventually unleashing a platoon of vengeful family members capable of murder, à la Queen Gemma), or are survivors (be they women, men or children) who keep such an acidic secret more likely to corrode slowly from the inside, eventually becoming self-doubting shells of themselves?
Finally: Has your view of Nicholas Brendon changed? Do you now think of him as the evil crazy guy who raped Charlotte King instead of as the funny guy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer who mastered the Snoopy dance? What did you think of his performance?