Rape Prevention Group and Television New Zealand Ltd - 1994-008
- I W Gallaway (Chair)
- R A Barraclough
- L M Dawson
- J R Morris
- Rape Prevention Group
ProgrammeGone with the Wind
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
Gone with the Wind starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable was screened by Television One
at 8.40pm on 9 October.
On behalf of the Rape Prevention Group in Christchurch, Ms Rhonda Findlay complained
to Television New Zealand Ltd about the sexually violent attitudes which the film
encouraged. In particular, she referred to the scene in which the husband (Rhett Butler)
carries his wife (Scarlett) upstairs in order (the audience presumes) to force sex upon her,
and the following scene which shows Scarlett awake happy and singing the next morning.
The Rape Prevention Group said that sequence of events breached the broadcasting
standards by glamorising violent and now illegal behaviour.
Pointing out that the famous sequence was made more that 50 years ago, TVNZ argued
that the film should be seen as a classic historical narrative. While the behaviour displayed
was not now acceptable, TVNZ said that context had to be taken into account and declined
to uphold the complaint. Dissatisfied with TVNZ's response, on the Group's behalf Ms
Findlay referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of
the Broadcasting Act 1989.
For the reasons given below, the Authority declined to uphold the complaint.
The members of the Authority have viewed the part of the programme complained about
and have read the correspondence (summarised in the Appendix). As is its practice, the
Authority has determined the complaint without a formal hearing.
Concern that television was partly responsible for sexually violent attitudes towards
women was the reason for a complaint to TVNZ about the broadcast of a scene in the film
Gone With the Wind. On behalf of the Christchurch Rape Prevention Group, Ms Rhonda
Findlay complained about the scene when Scarlett O'Hara awoke in the morning, happy
and singing, after apparently being raped by her husband, Rhett Butler, the night before.
Arguing that Scarlett's reaction glamorised unacceptably violent behaviour, Ms Findlay
maintained that it breached standard V11 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.
V11 Any realistic portrayal of anti-social behaviour, including violent and
serious crime and the abuse of liquor and drugs, must not be shown in a
way that glamorises the activities.
In declining to uphold the complaint, TVNZ did not argue that a strict interpretation of
the standard might have arrived at the contrary conclusion. Rather, it noted that the
scene was a famous one in one of the greatest movies ever made. Moreover, the film had
been made more than 50 years ago when relationships between men and women, both
within and outside of marriage, were "less developed" than they were currently.
Moreover, great works of art often contained judgments which were unlikely, now, to
gain universal approval. However:
Great works of art are recognised for what they are, and for the insight they
provide into the time to which they refer.
In conclusion, TVNZ considered that the film should be seen as a "classical historical
narrative" and any act of censorship would amount to "cultural vandalism".
The Authority understood the motivation for the complaint. As was recognised by the
recent change in the law which made the act illegal, marital rape has become
acknowledged as an unacceptable display of violence. As the complainant pointed out,
Scarlett's pleasurable reaction could be seen to contribute to the erroneous view that
women enjoy being raped.
However, the Authority did not accept that this acknowledgment meant that the
complaint should be upheld. First, the standard applies to a "realistic" portrayal of violent
behaviour and the Authority considered the scene complained about could not be so
described. Scarlett O'Hara, it believed, was at times presented as a caricature in a fantasy
and her performance, for example her lack of resistance to Rhett's actions, suggested that
she had not acted in a natural way.
Secondly, even if the portrayal was deemed realistic, the Authority noted the lengthy
introduction to the section of the standards relating to violence in the Codes of
Broadcasting Practice Television which contains the following statement:
Context is all important and includes such things as programme type, likely
audience, time of day and less tangible factors relating to prevailing community
attitudes and values.
While the Authority was not prepared to agree with TVNZ that the longevity of the work
in question in itself might be a sufficient reason not to apply the standards strictly, it was
prepared to examine the scene complained about in the context. In context, including the
tempestuous on-going relationship between the two central characters as well as Scarlett's
erratic behaviour, the Authority accepted that the scenes complained about – a very short
segment of a lengthy movie – had a place in the story's development.
The continuing undoubted influence of the film was considered and, specifically, whether
the actions of the two leading characters could be seen as models for behaviour today.
While accepting that it was not possible to eliminate entirely any current influence, the
Authority decided that more modern social influences would have more effect than these
scenes from a classic film made in the 1930s about the American Civil War in the 1860s.
For the reasons set forth above, the Authority declines to uphold the
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
21 February 1994
Rape Prevention Group's Complaint to Television New Zealand Limited
In a letter dated 1 November 1993, Ms Rhonda Findlay of the Christchurch Rape
Prevention Group complained to Television New Zealand Ltd about the film Gone with the
Wind screened on Television One at 8.40pm on Saturday 9 October.
Expressing concern about the sexually violent attitudes towards women encouraged by
some television programmes, Ms Findlay referred to a scene in the film in which the
husband grabs his wife, takes her upstairs and, as confirmed by the later dialogue, rapes
her. Next morning, however, the wife awakes happy and it is implied that she secretly
wanted to be raped.
The morning scene, Ms Findlay wrote, breached the provision in the Violence Code of
Broadcasting Behaviour which prohibits glamorising violent and serious crime. It did not
show that such behaviour was unacceptable or the consequences which could occur. She
Marital rape has been illegal in New Zealand since 1986, and the seriousness of
such matter should not be trivialised, romanticised, or portrayed as a positive
action but rather the degrading, outrageous crime that it is.
TVNZ's Response to the Formal Complaint
TVNZ advised the Rape Prevention Group of its Complaints Committee's decision in a letter
dated 10 November 1993 and reported that the complaint had been considered under the
Referring to the famous scene of one of America's great movies, TVNZ pointed out that the
film had been made more than 50 years ago when attitudes towards relationships were
different from those which now prevailed. It pointed out that the attitudes displayed in
many great works of art were recognised as providing an insight into the time which they
TVNZ described Gone with the Wind as great film-making which should be seen as a
classic historical narrative. While the behaviour displayed was now unacceptable, taking
the context of the film into account, TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint.
Rape Prevention Group's Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards
Dissatisfied with TVNZ's response, in a letter dated 6 December 1993 Ms Findlay on the
Group's behalf referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under
s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
Pointing out the complaint focussed primarily on Scarlett's attitude in the morning - not
so much on Rhett's behaviour the night before - Ms Findlay argued that as it glamorised
anti-social behaviour, it breached the nominated standard in the Violence Code. She
acknowledged that the scene was famous but that did not excuse a breach of the standard,
Indeed one would question why this scene is so famous. It serves to highlight how
many people view the whole scene as romantic and are being deceived about the
devastating facts of reality.
She argued that the fact that the film was made 50 years ago or that attitudes had
changed were irrelevant as marital rape had always been considered by women to be a
Sexual violence has never been viewed by victims as glamorous as "Gone with the
Wind" would have us believe.
Acknowledging that the film was an Oscar-winning one, Ms Findlay maintained that it
was not in the same category as Shakespeare's works. She returned to her concern about
the relationship style portrayed in the film and stressed that scenes which depicted sexual
violence as normal encouraged an attitude which was conducive to sexual violence.
In conclusion she wrote:
As "Gone with Wind" clearly breaches code VII we would ask the Broadcasting
Standards Authority to uphold the complaint. For many years now, women and
other concerned people have complained to groups such as ours about this
particular morning scene. We feel that if television can openly breach codes
without clear restraint there is little value in having codes, and no channel
through which the public can express its views and make positive changes for the
good of society.
TVNZ's Response to the Authority
As is its practice, the Authority sought the broadcaster's response to the complaint. Its
letter is dated 9 December 1993 and TVNZ, in its reply dated 16 December, urged the
Authority, first, to consider the scene in context as Scarlett O'Hara's complex character was
unfolded, and secondly, to take the film's quality into account.
Rape Prevention Group's Final Comment to the Authority
When asked to comment on TVNZ's response, in a letter dated 6 January 1994 Ms Findlay
repeated the Group's concern that what might appear to be harmless was not harmless in
a society where the rate of sexual offending was increasing.