ByHeather Snowden, writer at
Lover of bad puns, nostalgic feels and all things Winona. Email: [email protected] Tweet: @heathbetweetin
Heather Snowden

There's one predominant reason why 1972's Last Tango in Paris is remembered as one of the most controversial films in cinematic history, why it was banned in Chile, Portugal and parts of Canada, and why its director, Bernardo Bertolucci, was put on trial in Italy for "obscenity," served with a four-month suspended prison sentence and deprived of voting rights: It's because of the graphic scene in which a 48-year-old Marlon Brando anally rapes 19-year-old Maria Schneider using a stick of butter.

Since the film's release has been repeatedly and simultaneously accused and praised for masking "self-serving pornography as art," yet that phrase rings truer now than ever. A recently resurfaced video of an onstage interview from 2013 shows the Italian director admitting that Schneider had not given her consent for the scene. That the sexual assault wasn't in the script. That he and Marlon Brando had privately planned the attack the morning before shooting. That they'd done it to capture her real, authentic humiliation. And that he didn't regret the decision.

This is the video (warning: some may find its content distressing):

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As you can imagine, this admission was met with predictable and justifiable disgust; celebrities such as Jessica Chastain, Evan Rachel Wood and Chris Evans all flocked to Twitter to share their rage, sparking debate and increasing awareness. However, it was a point raised by Anna Kendrick that got to the heart of the matter: that this news should not come as a surprise:

Yep, back in 2007 Schneider had talked publicly about the rape and nobody listened. She shared to the Daily Mail:

"They only told me about it before we had to film the scene and I was so angry. I should have called my agent or had my lawyer come to the set because you can't force someone to do something that isn't in the script, but at the time, I didn't know that. Marlon said to me: 'Maria, don't worry, it's just a movie,' but during the scene, even though what Marlon was doing wasn't real, I was crying real tears. I felt humiliated and to be honest, I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci. After the scene, Marlon didn't console me or apologize. Thankfully, there was just one take.”

So, while Brando and Bertolucci received positive feedback (like Oscar nominations, for example) and critical acclaim, Schneider was left haunted, and consistently treated as a sexual object despite never filming another sex scene. She struggled with drugs, depression and suicide attempts; her career never truly took off, and she passed away quietly aged 58 in 2011. Two years after her death, Bertolucci confessed. And his confession is a bleak reminder of both the overwhelming power men hold within the entertainment industry and of our culture enabling rapists by disregarding the female voice.

As Mariana Fonseca of the Independent points out (and many of the article's comments depressingly validate), despite the World Heath Organization defining sexual assault as “any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion," people are still quick to state that because the butter scene did not involve actual penetration, it wasn't a real rape. In other words, since Marlon Brando didn't put his penis inside Schneider, opting instead to violently ram a stick of butter up her asshole without consent, her feeling "a little raped" wasn't valid. And yet we remain curious as to why sexual assault victims don't come forward.

Nothing will come of Bertolucci's confession, the same as nothing really happened to Woody Allen and Roman Polanksi, who continue to make films after they were accused (or in Polanski's case, convicted) of sexual assault. Or to Dr. Luke after Kesha accused him of "mental manipulation, emotional abuse, and sexual assault," or to Johnny Depp after Amber Heard filed for divorce following claims of domestic abuse. Instead, both women were belittled and vilified. Bertolucci will probably go on to direct another movie, just as Johnny Depp will go on to star in every multi-million dollar Fantastic Beasts movie, and those who perpetuate and ignore the problem will continue to do so — until we force them to confront it.

Have something to add? Sound off in the comments.

(Source: The Independent)


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