Case of the Massey Bodice Ripping

A short film that illuminates the overwhelmingly poor use of rape as a plot device in film and TV since, well … since forever.

Inspired partly by one of Toronto’s most infamous crimes, the Massey murder of 1915, this historical satire re-imagines the notorious Massey family on their country estate in 1932 the night after matriarch Helen Massey’s daughter Lara has been raped.

Creative team

Writers: Dana Fradkin, Karen Knox
Director: Karen Knox
Producers: Emily Andrews, Jen Pogue, Michael Schram

Filmmaker’s statement

The idea of creating this film was born of a conversation I had with my writing partner Dana Fradkin while discussing society’s treatment of murder vs. rape. Media freely satirizes both murder and violence, but not rape. Even saying the word full volume in a coffee shop is difficult to do.

Why is this? Does our inability to explore the subject matter except from a limited artistic milieu contribute to the perpetuation of rehashed tropes and bad stereotypes propping up rape culture? These are questions we look to address through Case of the Massey Bodice Ripping. By working closely with the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre and speaking with survivors, we’ve created a film that is insightful, sensitive and, above all else, a paradigm shift in our thinking with regards to how we tell stories of sexual assault.

I am a firm believer in the ability of satire to change the world. I fully acknowledge the difficult nature of watching media detailing accounts of rape. It is one of the most horrific acts of human violence and, unlike murder, leaves us with a survivor, a human being who can speak to the experience, the trauma and its effects.

It then seems perhaps counter-intuitive to try to create a film on the subject that includes elements of comedy. The satire in Case of the Massey Bodice Ripping is more a commentary on our often too passive acceptance of rape culture. Truth though satire is piercingly clear in that it allows us to be self-critical without turning us off with a too-violent or vitriolic reprimand.

After years of watching prime-time drama consistently churn out trope-ridden media regarding female sexual violence, I wanted to create a script that highlighted the overuse and misuse of survivor’s stories. Case of the Massey Bodice Ripping is a period satire dealing with the rape of a young women that:

1. Doesn’t romanticize/sexualize rape;
2. Does not credit rape as a ‘backstory’ for female revenge;
3. Doesn’t use rape to further the development of a male character;
4. Does not use rape to turn a female character into a superhero;
5. Is told from the survivor’s perspective;
6. Does not use rape as an excuse for a woman to be ‘broken’; and
7. Is a comedy and highlights the absurdity/ubiquity of sexual assault in period pieces, especially in the particularly grim rape factories of prime-time dramas.

About Karen Knox

Karen Knox

Karen is a Toronto-based filmmaker whose production company is best known for the series Barbelle.

As a director, Karen’s film The Case of the Massey Bodice Ripping has been screened at the Canadian Film Festival, as well as the Grand Budapest Festival (named best short film) and the Venice Short Film Festival where it also won best short film.

Karen continues to develop a body of work that subverts traditional narratives through the female gaze. She has worked as a writer and actor for companies including  CBC, Shaftesbury, Ithentic, Universal Music, Ubisoft, Mad Ruk, Amazon and Bell Fibe TV. She is interested in telling stories you haven’t heard before.

Karen likes subversion, bold aesthetics and good jokes.

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