Q: Do you ever have any trepidations about approaching controversial material like abortion in "Revolutionary Road" or statutory rape?Check the statute books before acting on Kate's legal advice.
Winslet: I'm so sorry, "statutory rape"? I've got to tell you, I'm so offended by that. No, I really am. I genuinely am. To me, that is absolutely not this story at all. That boy knows exactly what he's doing. For a start, Hanna Schmitz thinks that he's seventeen, not fifteen, you know? She's not doing anything wrong.
They enter that relationship on absolutely equal footing. Statutory rape – really please, don't use that phrase. I do genuinely find it offensive actually. This is a beautiful and very genuine love story and that is always how I saw it.... She wasn't cruel to him. She didn't force him into anything at all.Don't all statutory rapists say this sort of thing? It's more of an argument for abolishing the crime of statutory rape. Do you think 36-year-old women should be free to seduce 15-year-old boys?
There's nothing I believe to be remotely inappropriate or salacious about that relationship.Defamer adds this:
Salacious? Well, we've never seen a teenager's ball hair lit so romantically in a film, but then, we haven't yet caught up on our Criterion editions of the Bel Ami catalog.I'm just going to assume I know what those last 3 words refer to. I'm afraid to Google them!
(By the way, the actor playing the role was only 17 when most of the scenes were filmed. They did some last minute filming of the naked parts "literally days" after he turned 18.)
Winslet should have talked about how complex the story is and how difficult it was for her to understand how the character could believe what she was doing was simply beautiful and loving when there was so much else that she should have seen. Winslet is there to promote the movie and to promote herself as an actress, so why would she simplify the moral context of the movie?
One answer is that she is genuinely afraid that the movie will be ruined if people get the impression that to see the movie is to see teen pornography. If what the character does in the movie is a crime, and if the scenes involve graphic nudity, then it seems criminal or at least morally wrong to go to see it.
ADDED: Eugene Volokh links here and says:
Ann Althouse discussed Kate Winslet's rejection of the term "statutory rape" for the relationship in The Reader (Winslet's new movie) between a woman in her mid-30s and a 15-year-old boy. As best I can tell, Althouse does take the view that the behavior is indeed properly labeled "statutory rape," both legally and morally.No, I say for legal advice, check the relevant statute. It depends on the statute applicable at the time and not, as Winslet seems to think, whether it was a loving, consensual relationship. But the interviewer was really using the term "statutory rape" to just mean sex with a person who is too young, and that was what Winslet seemed obtusely unreflective about.
I'm critical of Winslet for being simple-minded, probably to promote the movie -- so people won't think it would be wrong to view the movie (since we know to steer clear of child pornography). A great actress, like Winslet, ought to want to explore the moral complexities of her character's situation. It doesn't much matter whether her character is committing a crime. Characters in movies often commit crimes, but the actors should know when they are playing characters who are engaging in behavior that many people consider to be morally wrong and that is often criminalized because it is considered wrong. If her idea is I thought I was playing a lovely person that's just dumb.
I will say that my intuition is that 15-year-old boys are unlikely to suffer lasting emotional harm from affairs with 30-something-year-old women, any more than from any first sexual relationship, whether at 15 or 16, and whether with a 35-year-old or another 15-year-old.It wouldn't be much of a movie if the relationship didn't have a profound impact. I think the story is about how deeply it hurt him. Do you have a teenage son? How would you feel if a 36-year-old woman seduced him? How would you feel if she not only gave him his first sexual experience, but captured his romantic imagination for years, keeping him from developing in relation to girls his age?
Now, Winslet herself at the age of 15 began a relationship with a 28-year-old man, and this relationship continued for 5 years, so you can see that she has some motivation to idealize this sort of thing. Do you have a teenage daughter? Picture a 28-year-old man seducing your 15-year-old daughter. Although, Winslet's parents accepted the relationship, I think most Americans hate this sort of thing.
Where to draw the lines of criminal law is a distinct, but not entirely separate, matter. But, again, this is a work of art, and what matters most is the artist's understanding of the human mind.
IN THE COMMENTS: Linus wrote:
... I find it a little strange that so many men (including Professor Volokh, whom I admire) think that it's unlikely the boy would be damaged, simply because when they were 15, they had fantasies about scoring with an older woman. Man, when I was 15, I was an idiot. I thought I wanted a whole bunch of stuff that, I know now, would've scarred me for life if it would've actually happened.
I mean, when you are asking the question "is this a good idea?", is it really persuasive to answer with "well, my 15-year-old self would approve"?