Some showrunners are tired of rape portrayed on TV simply for shock value

TV shows use a lot of plot devices to push a narrative forward – a hunt for a mysterious object, an inner battle of good vs. evil, or a red herring to distract the reader from an important part of the action. While these devices tend to work well, some showrunners are tired of rape being used as a way to spark character development. Popular TV shows like Game of Thrones have featured rape scenes that were supposed to help certain characters evolve (for better or worse), and rape continues to be used in shows across all genres.

Executive producer Jeremy Slater spoke to Variety’s Maureen Ryan about the issues he faced with finding writers who didn’t want to use rape as a plot point. He said anytime he came across a script which used rape solely for shock value, he would automatically throw it away. Two women writers also spoke up and said that many male showrunners want to use sexual assault as their automatic default for a female character with a traumatic backstory.

However, there are a few men in the industry who are taking a stand against rape scenes and deciding to keep them out of their shows. Producer Bryan Fuller included lots of violence in Hannibal, but refused to allow explicit rape scenes in the series. And, Rectify creator Ray McKinnon also expressed his displeasure at extreme violence of all kinds – including rape and murder – and referred to it as a “pornography” of sorts.

Rape is a serious offense that shouldn’t be completely swept under the rug. Shows like Orange is the New Black and Scandal have approached sexual assault in a way that has focused heavily on how it impacts the survivors. It’s not just a way to make a show seem edgy or “mature” – it is a harrowing experience which has affected people from across the gender spectrum.

There is an endless supply of narrative tools to develop characters and story lines that don’t include rape. Women, like all other people, can be emotionally damaged by many other experiences – death of a loved one, financial strife, or even the aftermath of a natural disaster. So, why not go with one of those devices instead of using rape as the horrible event that alters her life? Even if the woman is a rape survivor, that doesn’t mean it has to be expressed on screen.

Throwing in a little rape for sensationalism is lazy and highly offensive to viewers, so scaling back on unnecessary rape scenes is a smart move for showrunners. Hopefully more showrunners will get on board with this movement and think twice before they put a rape scene into a show.