Apr 18 2009

Kate Winslet and The Reader: Is it Sexual Molestation When an Adult Woman has Sex with an Adolescent Boy?

In his review of the movie, The Reader, Daniel M.Kimmel says,

“The story is told in flashback by Michael (Ralph Fiennes), a German attorney. In the 1950s, at the age of 15, he is seduced by Hanna (Winslet), a streetcar conductor. Of course if this were an older man having sex with a 15-year-old girl, he would be considered a child molester. Keeping with our double standards, it is instead seen as the boy’s coming of age. Michael reads aloud to her and Hanna offers her body in return.”
I agree with Kimmel. While watching the film last night, I struggled to understand the story the director was trying to tell.
Maybe I would have to read the book to really understand the angst felt by the characters in the movie.
I just didn’t believe the characters in the movie. Yes, Kate Winslet is beautiful and a great actress.
Was she believable as Hanna? I don’t think so.
Like Kimmel says, it is very hard to believe that “Hanna would rather be imprisoned for committing war crimes at Auschwitz than admit she can’t read.”
Perhaps more importantly, the film’s portrayal of the sexual molestation of the 15 year old boy as a love affair is ridiculous.
Did Winslet have qualms about their relationship? One of the deleted scenes shows Winslet unable to join the boy in his parents bed to have sex.
This is the only moment in the movie where Winslet seems to have any reservations about the torrid way she exploits this young boy’s sexuality.
Of course, this deleted scene also has a 15 year old boy manipulating his sister to leave the house for the weekend and him preparing a wonderful dinner with plans for a romantic, sexual experience in his parent’s bed.
I don’t think so.
Whether or not the book actually grapples with the serious moral dilemmas more realistically or not, the movie fails in its refusal to either take a stand more clearly or explore the psycholgical and moral conflicts human beings would experience in that situation.
If I were to guess the moral beliefs of those involved in the writing and directing of the movie related to the abuse of minors by adults, I think they would say something like,
“Well, it depends…”

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