The Piano: the Justification of Sexual Predators

I recently saw The Piano, and I was outraged. In case you’ve never seen it or you just can’t remember it, here’s a bullet list of the plotline.
  • A mute pianist (Ada) is sold off to marry a man she has never met

  • She and her daughter are shipped off to 19th century New Zealand

  • Ada’s piano is traded by her husband to a forester named Baines in exchange for land

  • Baines allows Ada to play the piano in exchange for sexual favors

  • Ada falls in love with her sexual predator

  • The husband thinks Ada is hysterical and crazy

  • The husband tries to rape Ada (twice) and chops off a finger (meanwhile Ada strangely and randomly feels up her rapist husband)

  • Ada tries to drown herself but then changes her mind

  • Ada and her sexual predator live happily ever after

Everything is wrong with this movie. First off, there’s the husband who’s all like “Hey, why does my wife hate me? Could it be that she’s been married to a man she has never met? That on her first day in New Zealand, she and her young daughter were met by no one and were forced to face the elements on the beach overnight? Or maybe it was because I traded her piano off to some dude (while she is obviously a passionate pianist) without consulting her? Or could it be because I’m never around and haven’t bothered trying to get to know her? Nah. No way. It’s obviously because she’s soft in the head. You know mutes. They’re obviously crazy since they can’t speak. Plus, she’s a woman. That explains everything.” But I guess I shouldn’t expect much from a guy who is willing to marry a woman he’s never met. And who tries to rape her because he’s jealous. And then cuts off her finger because, by God, how dare she love someone else! But the worst part of this movie was that the behavior of a sexual predator was justified and romanticized.

Ada lived for playing the piano. One day, Baines saw her playing the piano, and her playing sexually and “romantically” excited him. Since her husband didn’t have room for a piano, Baines purposed a trade with the husband – Baines would receive the piano and lessons from Ada (a means to isolate and extort her), and the husband would receive land from Baines. Meanwhile, Baines made his own private deal with Ada. He made it very clear to her that he didn’t actually want to learn how to play the piano, but that he wanted to watch her play and be allowed to do anything he wanted with her body, and in exchange, once she had fulfilled enough sexual favors, he would return her piano. Ada reluctantly agreed to his conditions.

Throughout the sessions, Baines groomed Ada in a typical predator fashion – he had her take off her clothes while playing, she had to hitch up her skirt, she laid down with him while fully clothed, etc.  Throughout this, Ada never showed any sign that she was enjoying Baines’ attention (because, duh, why would she?), yet once she was given back her piano, and she was free from any obligation to Baines, she went back to him because she was in looovveeee with him. Out of nowhere. There had been absolutely no signs that she had any other feeling besides contempt for the man. And in-between the return of the piano and Ada declaring her undying love, Baines acted like he was the one who was being victimized. For heaven sakes, all he wanted was for her to love him! He did all of this (his sexual exploitation of her) to make her fall in love with him! How dare she not enjoy his unwanted attentions!

This entire movie was just one big trip to crazyville and a huge insult to those who have been molested and raped. It’s one matter to depict what it’s like to be a victim of a sexual predator or to depict how women were treated in the 19th century, but it’s an entirely different matter to try to make the victimization of a woman into an epic romance. The movie completely bypassed the fact that Ada has been repeatedly victimized by both Baines and her husband, and masked Baines actions in the veil of a poor broken man (who’s married by the way) that just wanted a woman to love him. And look! There were no hard feelings! Everything was alright because his victim fell in love with him! Never mind that she had Stockholm Syndrome because that was the only way in Hell she would have been “in love with him.” There was nothing redeemable about this movie. It was just creepy and slimy and wrong.

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