The future of TV is changing – no longer do we wait nightly for our shows to come on. With time-shifting, PVR-ing, and the Internet, we’re able to catch shows anytime we want to. And YouTube channel and producer WIGS has jumped on that bandwagon. Their series are completely online, accessible at any time. And that’s good for me, as a busy freelancer, writer, nanny and full-time social media specialist – I don’t always have time to watch shows when they air.
As my friends will attest, I follow Troian Bellisario‘s work very closely, because I admire the heck out of the lady. She’s an amazing actress, able to take any role and turn it into her own. I originally discovered her on Pretty Little Liars, but I reviewed her recent indie movie, Consent, last month. This month, I’m reviewing her fast-growing-in-popularity series, Lauren.
I’m going to stop here and warn that some of the content I talk about may be triggering to those who have been sexually abused. Proceed at your own risk.
Lauren is, simply put, about empowerment. It centres on a young sergeant in the US Army who has been raped. She reports it to her superior, and is faced with an institutional rape culture that’s terrifying. I’m not an American, nor am I at all familiar with the Army, but statistics show that 1 in 3 people who serve will be sexually abused by their fellow soldiers in some way. I’m already aware that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, regarding being gay in the military, was recently repealed, but I was not aware that the rape culture in the Army was so very prevalent. This web series attempts to bring to light the difficulty and shame that surrounds reporting rape in the military.
Sgt. Lauren Weil (played by Troian) is an extremely strong, admirable character. She knows that what happened to her isn’t right, and she knows that the way she’s being treated (which is to keep quiet and let it all blow over) is, to put it in her words, “bullshit”. She’s a young mother, a strong patriot, and ready to stand against the enemy out in the field. What she can’t understand, and what the audience struggles to understand with her, is why an institution like the military expects her to lay down her life, yet can’t protect her in her hour of need.
I’m a sexual abuse survivor. There’s a lot of shame that surrounds even admitting that what happened to you isn’t right. There’s a lot of strength involved telling someone and asking for help and justice. Everyone is at a different stage in their recovery after something like this happens. I felt for Lauren because she’s trying to make things right. She insists to her superior, played by Jennifer Beals, another amazing actress, that she is doing right despite the fact that everyone is encouraging her not to make waves. The sheer amount of guts it takes to tell someone and insist on something being done is something that many survivors don’t gain until later in their recovery. There’s a lot of disbelief and injustice that happens when that step is taken.
Lauren exposes what rape culture is like in the Army, but also what it’s like in everyday society. There are thousands of cases of rape and sexual abuse that go unreported daily. There are girls killing themselves because they’ve been “named and shamed”, though they’re the victims. There are perpetrators that go free, knowing what they did, and being able to live their lives as normal, perhaps even abusing again. Men and women experience rape and sexual abuse. Men and women are silenced daily by “they shouldn’t have been wearing that,” or “why were they out that late?” And in Sgt. Lauren’s case, it’s not where she was at the time – she was going to the bathroom, for God’s sake. It’s what her colleagues did to her in the middle of the night, while she was serving her country. And she’s being denied justice.
The series itself is short at the moment – there are only three episodes, though Season 2 begins tonight. But each 9-11 minute episode is powerful. It’s empowering to someone like me, who has experienced the quiet and dark shame of having to be silent about what happened and being disbelieved when I did tell some people. In short, it’s a series that will be hard to watch, but really can’t be missed. And it’s enlightening to the culture we live in. Rape is never okay. Victim-blaming is never okay. And we need to stop.
You can watch Lauren on the WIGS channel tonight, May 3, as it returns with more episodes for Season 2. I guarantee, you will be both educated and compelled by what you see.
As well, Troian Bellisario (@SleepintheGardn) is hosting a Q&A today on Twitter, at 12 PM PST/3 PM EST. Use the hashtag #ididright to ask her questions about the series!
- Jennifer Beals Takes on Sexual Assault in the Military in New Web Series (people.com)
- The Social and Physical Rape of India’s Women and Girls (projecteve.com)