When an article detailing how rape survivors are forced to pay for their rape kits needs a coverline, Ani FaNelli, a New York women’s magazine editor, portrayed by Mila Kunis in Luckiest Girl Alive suggests “When your rape costs more than your rent.”

“Now that will get us on the Today Show,” her editor Lolo Vincent responds with a quick smile.  

This flashy, attention grabbing cover line in Luckiest Girl Alive highlights how mainstream media often uses the Me Too movement for profit, clout, and the shock factor, at the expense of potentially triggering content.  The question becomes how do we responsibly and tastefully discuss sexual assault in high school and college settings, without glamorizing it? 

Luckiest Girl Alive depicts an extremely graphic assault scene in which a young girl is brutually gang raped. The scene lasts nearly five minutes and is, frankly, horrifying to watch. The movie is rated R for “violent content, rape and sexual material” but forgoes a trigger or contnet warning. 

Sexual assault remains extremely prevelent in high school and college settings. 1 in 9 girls under the age of 18 will experience assault while 13% of students experience some form of assault on college campuses.

Many television shows and movies face criticism for overly graphic portrayals of assault. The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why faced significant controversy for its depiction of sexual assault. Luckiest Girl Alive viewers have demanded that Netflix add warnings to the film, citing that it could trigger PTSD. 

Movies documenting stories of sexual assault and its reprucussions have been big hits in Hollywood since the rise of the Me Too movement. A Promising Young Woman is a nuanced portrayal of female rage in the aftermath of trauma.

Mila Kunis as Ani in Luckiest Girl Alive [Photo: Sabrina Lantos/Netflix]

Luckiest Girl Alive similarly explores the lasting effects of sexual assault on victims, examining the “victim narrative” when the main character is asked to partake in a documentary. The movie premiered at the number one spot on Netflix and has since received mixed to positive reviews.  

The movie follows Ani, a successful journalist in New York City  soon to be married to her wealthy, trust fund heir boyfriend. On the surface, Ani has it all. However, her world slowly unravels when she is forced to deal with lingering trauma from a teenage sexual assault she has experinced in the past. 

Luckiest Girl Alive is based on Jessica Knoll’s 2015 novel that went on to become one of the best selling fiction debuts of that year. In 2016, Knoll published an essay detailing how the events of the novel were based on her own experience of sexual assault.  

The Netflix movie does an excelent job of exploring how sexual assault impacts survivors throughout the rest their lives. Ani is repeatedly reminded of how “lucky” she is, despite being haunted by the events of her assault. The Luckiest Girl Alive demonstrates how society tends to downplay the trauma that survivors experience in the aftermath. 

But now that we have explored and uncovered Ani’s trauma through this paticurally graphic rape scene where do we go from here? How can Hollywood help survivors face their trauma when they are depicting graphic scenes that could be extremely triggering? 

Sexual assault remains extremely prevelent in high school and college settings. 1 in 9 girls under the age of 18 will experience assault while 13% of students experience some form of assault on college campuses.

Ani is repeatedly reminded of how “lucky” she is, despite being haunted by the events of her assault.

Most of the assaults go unreported or the perpetrators remain unpunished. Fewer than one-third of campus sexual assault cases result in expulsion. This statistic underlines a key theme of the movie: the tendency to not believe survivors. In the case of Ani, viewers see how even when she is believed by her fiance and mother, they don’t understand the full psychological consequences of sexual trauma. This lack of understanding in our society is an epidemic that discredits survivors and enables victim blaming. The rise of Me-Too inspired Hollywood films begs the question: are these shocking portrayals helping or hurting victims of sexual violence? 

Perhaps the answer is that these movies are not made for the purpose of consoling the victim but for the purpose of focussing media attention on the social issue.

Luckiest Girl Alive is nothing new or groundbreaking for victims of sexual assault but might be informative for someone with no knowledge on statistics and implications of sexual violence. These movies are generally productive and should continue to be made in order to keep the discussion around the Me Too movement alive. They should, however, come with trigger warnings for the extremely graphic scenes in order to keep survivors safe. 

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