Not Without my Daughter's Hymen

I’m not big on movies. Really, really not big on movies. Saying that I’m not a movie buff is sort of like saying Stalin wasn’t really a people person. An understatement. On anybody’s list of Great Cinema, I’ve probably seen one out of maybe 10 or 15, and even then I was simultaneously playing very competitive game of Scrabble, Twittering, and trying to assemble a bookshelf from Ikea, in the dark.

But, Internet, this economy is not just going to reach around and stimulate itself, so this weekend I ponied up and bought a ticket to Taken, the Jack Baueresque action flick featuring everybody’s secret boyfriend Liam Neeson.

The plot is pretty straightforward: Retired superspy (Neeson) is trying to build a relationship with his 17-year-old daughter, much to the chagrin of her ice queen mother and mom’s wealthy new husband. Daughter goes to Paris, daughter is abducted by sex traffickers, Dad flies to Paris and uses his mad spy skills to save the day. Daughter is saved, mom is grateful, scores of bad guys die in grisly and intensely satisfying ways (and if you think any of that constitutes a spoiler, well, you see even fewer movies than I do).

Fine. Good. It’s an action movie. BUT, oddly, Taken left me with a lingering sense of discomfort, and I think I know why. The producers of the film went to near-exhaustive lengths to first inform and then remind us again and again that Kimmy, the daughter, was a virgin. From her wardrobe of jumpers, jean jackets and sneakers more suited to a 7-year-old than a high school senior to Kimmy’s squealing glee at receiving, yes, a pony for her birthday to the repeated references to her ‘first time’ in future tense, the message is agonizingly clear: Virgin. Virgin, virgin, virgin.

What Taken implies is that this young woman’s assault, kidnapping, trafficking and ultimately systematic sexual abuse would have somehow been less awful, and her plight less sympathetic, had she been sexually active in the first place. Case in point, about halfway through the movie, Neeson is in a grimy makeshift brothel, searching for his daughter. Instead, he finds Amanda, Kimmy’s much more overtly sexual friend who brought her to Paris in the first place. Amanda is handcuffed to a bedpost, beaten and dead. Without pausing even a beat, Neeson and the film move on. Amanda was a slut; she got hers. Point taken.

 

The writers go so far as to make clear that even in the time between her abduction and when Dad swoops in to save the day, Kimmy isn’t raped; i.e., her purity isn’t compromised. It’s honestly not clear whether Dad is on a mission to save his beloved daughter or on a Sharia-esque crusade to salvage her honor. Ultimately Kimmy is snatched (heh) in the nick of time, just before she’s deflowered by the lecherous (and, naturally, Arab) Sheik and swept back to the safety of Beverly Hills, honor intact.

Now, of course I’m not saying Kimmy isn’t a sympathetic character or that any father worth his salt wouldn’t go to the absolute ends of the earth to prevent his daughter from being raped. But I do disagree with, and was more than a little upset by, Taken’s assertion that only “good girls” deserve to be saved.

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