The recent Tom Hardy vehicle, Legend, involves an interesting choice where its treatment of Frances Shea’s character is concerned. It seems that the filmmakers really needed a rape scene to be added to the film, because there can be no other possible explanation for its inclusion given that it appeared to jar with the narrative both before and after the point at which it was added, and so, slumped on the floor in her pantyhose, whilst under the influence of a Prozac-like substance to assist with her mental health problems, Frances Shea is raped by her husband, Reggie Kray. Now, we don’t actually see this happen, but we’re treated to familiar tropes that indicate that what is about to happen is a rape: the partially clothed Frances is dragged by her feet so that her legs are open whilst violent blows are issued to ensure compliance, as the camera pans away in order to save us from this terrible act – it’s such a commonplace act in mainstream movies that we don’t really need to see it.
We could give the filmmakers the benefit of doubt by considering that at this time in the UK, and a lot of other places, that rape within marriage was not indeed a crime, as it was exempted from being so with a special “marital rape exemption” order, and that the filmmakers are making some sort of political commentary on the use of rape in film – but I suspect that that would be too generous. Rather than making a valid comment on the perverseness of the Law at this time, the filmmakers merely seem to be following type, by playing along with the dominant rape culture that likes to see a bit of rape reference in its films. Funnily enough, for anyone wishing to explore the matter further, The Guardian has a piece that not only contradicts the filmmakers’ depiction of Frances’ rape by suggesting that Frances was never subjected to physical violence at the hands of Reggie, and that a major source of antipathy between the married couple was Reggie’s attempt at raping Frances’ brother, Frank. However, attempting to rape your wife’s brother really doesn’t sit well with current rape culture, and so, presumably, the filmmakers thought they’d just stick with what they know best.