Guest Post: Misfits and rape culture

Longtime commenter JenniferRuth on rape culture in a new E4 superhero show

On Thursday evening the pilot episode of Misfits was broadcast on E4. It seems that E4 has decided to jump on board the current superhero revival and make it’s own programme about kids with superpowers. Being a comics book and superhero fan for most of my life I was intrigued enough to watch.

The show is a world away from Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Mutants. It’s about five young offenders who gain superpowers whilst completing their community service. But I don’t really want to talk about the plot (which although seems like it was written in the E4 canteen was rather entertaining) – I want to talk about the superpowers the characters obtain and why I was so angry once the programme finished.

Of the three male characters one can turn invisible, one can turn back time and the last has not yet had his power revealed. Of the two female characters one has a psychic ability and the other…well, she’s developed the power to make men so attracted to her they try to rape her when she touches them. No, really. The character, Alisha, is someone who is not afraid to use her sexuality to try and get her own way. By giving her power to make any many attracted to her to the point of rape is obviously the writer’s attempt to juxtapose a “consequence” to her actions. She’s a tease! Look what men are like if you tease them! They can’t stop themselves! She’s getting the superpower she “deserves”.

More than that, I have read many female superheroes becoming depowered or killed or raped…but I have never seen a female superhero be given a power from the start that actually DISEMPOWERS her. Everyone else gets something cool – Alisha gets to be an example to all sexual women in the UK. And here also lies the myth of female empowerment via sexuality…patriarchy always tells us how we have “power” over men due to our sexuality, but punishes women viciously if they try to use it (think about the word slut, think about Katie Price, think about how people bring up previous partners of the victim in rape cases…). Alisha is basically the avatar for this misogyny.

This is one of the most blatant examples of rape culture I have ever seen. A woman punished for using her sexuality. A woman who can be raped without consequence because it isn’t the man’s fault as her powers literally “make them” rape her. A male-gaze fantasy who was “asking for it” and was given powers to fit! A woman who has the worst damn superpower I have seen in my 15 years of reading comic books (and I have read some damned sexist stuff!).

By watching the trailer for the next episode it does indeed seem that Misfits will include an attempted-rape or rape scene with Alisha. This is a programme that I really could have enjoyed, but instead I felt a bit sick after watching it.

You can watch the first episode of Misfits on 4OD