Anyone else still watching NBC’s Grimm? I’m only one episode behind on the current season, but I’m seriously thinking of giving it up entirely. What was once an interesting foray into the dark origins of fairy tales has become a tangle of dysfunctional relationships and plot lines so ridiculous that Rosalee just spent a whole episode voicing my own frustrations with “how/why is this happening?”
More upsetting than the devolving story line, though, is how they writers have been handling the question of rape. Even if you’re not watching Grimm, this discussion matters because the way our entertainment presents issues like sexual violence both reflects and influences prevailing culture.
Love In The Time Of Cookies
It all started way back in season one with the character Adalind. She’s a Hexenbeist (basically a witch). She’s a main antagonist in this first season, and uses her powers to force Hank to see her as a romantic option. He’s basically roofied via magical chocolate chip cookie, but it wasn’t addressed in the show as rape and I doubt the writers even thought of it that way.
This brings us to the first disturbing idea that Grimm keeps coming back to, perpetuating the myth that adult men can’t be victims of rape. Hank wasn’t a victim — he was just a guy who accidentally had sex with someone he didn’t want to. No big deal (never mind that she drugged him and nearly killed him). We wouldn’t overlook this if the characters’ genders were reversed, so why the double-standard?
English and Welsh law didn’t recognize male rape as a crime until 1994. The United States was even farther behind — the FBI’s definition of rape didn’t include male victims until early 2012. I suppose it’s not surprising, then, that the statistics I could find related to male rape were UK-based. Crime reports for 2014 in England & Wales record 3,580 sexual assaults against men. Survivors UK (a male-only support group) estimates that only 2-3% of assaults are actually reported (compared to 10-12% for women). And yet society doesn’t treat it as a problem — Survivors UK had their funding cut completely last year, and most rape hotlines won’t even talk to men. No wonder Hank didn’t want to claim his coerced relationship with Adalind was rape.
It’s Okay If She’s A Witch
Adalind’s actions with Hank are played-off as unwanted sexual aggression rather than an attack, but apparently it’s enough to justify writing her comeuppance as an assault scene. Since the blood of a Grimm can strip a Hexenbeist of her powers, Nick attacks her, pins her to the ground, climbs on top of her, and kisses her so she’ll bite his lip. There’s really no way not to interpret this imagery as sexual. Charity has written an excellent article titled “A Grimm Look at Writers’ Impact on Rape Culture” that addresses this scene in-depth, as well as the after-math that continues comparing Adalind to a rape victim.
The disturbing part about this scene isn’t so much that it’s played as a sexual assault, but rather that no one has a problem with that. This perpetuates the myth that sexually aggressive women are asking for (or even deserve) sexual assault. Nick is the good guy, the hero, and that didn’t change for most viewers after he attacked Adalind. But other people’s bad actions shouldn’t justify “good” people committing unconscionable acts.
Baby Makes It Better
Skip ahead to the end of season three. Adalind has her Hexenbeist powers back, and she hatches a plan to take Nick’s powers away. Much like ingesting a Grimm’s blood can take away Hexenbeist powers, sleeping with a Hexenbeist takes away a Grimm’s abilities to detect Wessen. Adalind uses magic to disguise herself as Nick’s love interest, Juliette, and he sleeps with her. While Adalind doesn’t violently assault him, here’s no denying Nick was coerced into having sex with someone he would have turned down if given a choice. Doesn’t that make it rape?
Now in season 5, Nick is living with Adalind and the child she conceived as a result of her impersonating Juliette. Can you imagine this in reverse? No one asks a woman to move in with a man she wouldn’t have consented to have sex with just because the resulting child needs a father. If someone did write that situation, you can bet there’d be other characters in the show discouraging her from living with her rapist. In Nick and Adalind’s case, however, the farthest any character will go is describing it as “weird.” The writers don’t see their past relationship as rape (see first myth) and, if the number of Nick/Adalind shippers online is any indication, neither do most fans.
I was going to have a “myth” listed for each section, but it doesn’t really work here — no one actually thinks you should move-in with your rapist if there’s a child! It’s insane. And yet, I saw someone online arguing that Nick and Adalind’s relationship is a relatable and realistic portrayal of modern adults in a co-parenting situation after an unexpected pregnancy. I suppose this is what happens when you live in a culture that’s adopted an anything goes (except abstinence) attitude toward sex. The more taboos we tear down, the easier it is to skirt around the ones that remain.
5 thoughts on “Grimm’s Laissez-faire Attitude Toward Sexual Coercion”
I wish the writers would actually finish up their plot lines. The meandering around, the introduction of the new Black Claw stuff, etc, is rather dull for me — I’d rather resolve the Royals plot / see a resolution with Diana / find out what the deal is with the keys. It’s a slipshod show — entertainment but ultimately shallow.
It has dealt with rape A LOT. More than just with Adalind — in the Coyote episode, with the frog-eating goat that impregnated and held women hostage, etc. Rape is used all the time on this show, and never properly dealt with. It’s unfortunate.
Technically, Adalind roofied Hank, she took advantage of Renard when he was ‘under the influence’ of her Juliette spell, and she tricked Nick into bed. She’s raped three of the four leading male characters on the show. 😛
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I do not believe that Adalind raped Captain Renard. However if it would be considered rape I feel that we could define what he did to Adalind as rape and emotional and mental abuse. Adalind trusted him and loved him and he used her and manipulated her into doing his bidding.
Regardless there is alot of spell casting and being under the influence (Rosalee in the forest with Munroe) that could be considered sexual assault and as you said rape. There are only 3 characters so far that have been left untouched which is Munroe,Hank and Wu. Juliette and Renard were both under powerful spells. Which had Renard not kissed her (sexual assault) she would not have woken up.
It’s fairly prevalent in this show. I do have a problem understanding why so many people will talk about Adalind’s rape scenes and yet no one seems to care that Nick sexually assaulted her. They even go so far as to say they don’t see that scene in that way or he was trying to save Hank.
It would be nice to have an actual grown up and intelligent conversation about it ,but unfortunately that is not to be.
I’m not sure why you don’t think we can have a grown-up conversation about this here — no one else has suggest that yet. However, I have seen comments on other posts where the discussing deteriorated rapidly, so perhaps that’s what you were referring to?
I already mentioned one of your main points in my article — my whole second section dealt with the scene where Nick attacks Adalind so she’ll ingest his blood as an assault (that’s the scene you were referring to, right?). This is also a main point in the article I linked to. So no, we’re no ignoring that. I, too, find it disturbing that so few people talked about it and that Nick doesn’t lose any of his “good guy” status after that scene.
And though I didn’t cover it in this post, I don’t like how Renard treated Adalind either. At least he was being played as more of a “bad guy” at that point in the series, so the audience wasn’t supposed to approve of his actions (I don’t mean this as an excuse for Renard’s abusiveness, but rather that the writers handled it better).
I just came across this post (it oddly popped up for me in Pinterest!) and I just want to thank you for writing this, even if I’m 2 years late. I actually *quit* watching Grimm because of the Nick/Adalind situation. As a rule, I don’t watch shows that romanticize and promote sexual assault. The thing is, I *loved* this show and I actually felt…I don’t know… abused? Victimized? By this. 3 years after I turned this show off, I am still nauseated thinking about it.
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I’m surprised it showed up on Pinterest now. I was really upset with the show, too. I’d liked it so much at first but, as you mentioned, watching it after everything that happened with Nick and Adalind just made me feel sick.