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Film / The Accused

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A 1988 drama film written by Tom Topor and directed by Jonathan Kaplan, starring Jodie Foster and Kelly McGillis, and based on the real-life gang rape of Cheryl Araujo that occurred at Big Dan's Bar in New Bedford, Massachusetts, on March 6, 1983, The Accused was one of the first Hollywood films to deal with rape in a direct manner.

Foster won the Best Actress Academy Award for her role.


  • Big "NO!": Sarah screams this all throughout her gang rape.
  • Blackmail: The other men threaten to tell everyone that the third attacker is gay if he doesn't rape Sarah.
  • Blaming the Victim: A major source of drama is that many people believe Sarah deserved to be gang-raped in a crowded bar, both because of her past involving drugs and because shortly prior to the rape, she was wearing revealing clothes, had been drinking and danced provocatively with one of her rapists (she also had a boyfriend at the time). Sarah's lawyer Kathryn is initially reluctant to pursue stronger convictions against the rapists or let Sarah testify, partly because her past and behavior may cause the jury to blame her or otherwise see her as unsympathetic. Kathryn later regrets this and the narrative itself takes the view that Sarah was blameless for the horrific violence inflicted on her.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Subverted. Sarah's dog Sadi gets into a barking fit the moment Kathryn walks into the door—even though she's the DA assigned to the case, and one of the heroines.
  • Evil Gloating: One of the guys who cheered for Sarah's rape ran into her and started doing this after recognizing her at her expense.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Sarah cuts off her hair shortly after the rape in an Important Haircut, but the hair serves to help differentiate the two timelines.
  • Fan Disservice: Jodie Foster wears a low-cut top and does a sexy dance... then gets brutally gang-raped.
  • Flash Back: The rape scene is shown this way, visualizing what the college boy witness tells the court at the second trial.
  • Freak Out: Sarah after running into one of the guys who cheered the rapists on; he verbally abuses her ("Wanna play pinball?") just to gloat how he wasn't punished for inciting her rape. She reacts by driving her car into his truck several times.
  • Good Victims, Bad Victims: Explored. Sarah is not seen as a good victim due to her flirty nature and pot smoking. Kathryn also warns her that she's likely to be asked if she's ever left the house without underwear, if she was ever turned on when a man hit her and "how many abortions you've had".
  • Grunting Orgasm: All three of Sarah's attackers achieve this while raping her.
  • Happily Ever Before: While the rapists are convicted and unlikely to get paroled, in real life the bystanders were acquitted. And Cheryl Araujo was forced out of town due to victim blaming, having to move to Miami to find anonymity. She died only three years later at the age of 25, in a car accident where she was supposedly drunk - and had been suffering from alcoholism due to the trauma of the incident.
  • Jerkass:
    • Sarah's boyfriend, especially because of his utter lack of empathy for her trauma, including asking her when she'll "get over this" after she dismisses his advances, saying that "this is getting boring". Also, one of their spats is what led Sarah to attend at the bar where she would be eventually raped.
    • Exaggerated with the guy with the scorpion tattoo who cheered the rapists on, then gloated after running into and recognizing Sarah on how he got away with this.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: At the end of the film, especially after one of the rape cheerers earlier did some Evil Gloating towards Sarah for getting away with it, the rapists and their cheering accomplices are finally charged and Sarah finally gets justice.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Non lovemaking example. Sarah is forced down against a pinball machine during the gang rape.
  • Morton's Fork: When Sarah's third attacker refuses to rape Sarah, his buddies threaten to tell everyone he is a homosexual unless he does. He reluctantly joins in the gang rape.
  • Nobody Calls Me "Chicken"!: A dark example. The third attacker only joins in the gang rape when his buddies threaten to tell everyone he is a homosexual if he doesn't. He proves otherwise by raping Sarah immediately afterwards.
  • "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: The argument made by the man with the scorpion tattoo who cheered on the rape. Of course, the fact that Sarah didn't enjoy it is just one of the issues at hand here....
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: When the third attacker hesitates, his buddies hurl homophobic insults, saying he is "a fag" unless he rapes Sarah.
  • Rape as Drama: It was the first Hollywood film to properly deal with rape as the main theme. After being gang-raped at a bar and having other patrons not only fail to help but cheer her rapists on, Sarah is left traumatized and demands justice. Her lawyer Kathryn fights to get convictions for her.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: It was one of the first major Hollywood films to treat rape as the awful and disgusting crime it is; both the rapists and the onlookers who failed to intervene and/or cheered the rapists on are portrayed as equally unsympathetic and culpable, while Sarah is portrayed as flawed yet completely sympathetic when it comes to the rape.
  • Race Lift: Arajuo and her attackers were all Portuguese-American in Real Life, not so in the film.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The script was loosely based on the gang rape of Cheryl Ann Araujo, which occurred in 1983 in New Bedford, Massachusetts, with the trial of her attackers becoming one of the first trials to be televised live, stirring controversy over the ethics of televising trials, and of having Araujo's identity made public (and making her graphic testimony a centerpiece of the news coverage).
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: When a waitress in the bar sees Sarah's gang rape (and one of the men cheering sees the waitress and boasts "you're next!"), she promptly puts down a tray of glasses, grabs her coat and exits the bar.
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: Sarah repeatedly converses with Kathryn over what the latter's astrology symbol is. It's indicated she's trying to reach out to someone after the incident.
  • Skewed Priorities: The emergency service operator seemed more concerned with getting the spectator's name than listening to him explain what the problem was. While attempting to get a caller's name is a reasonable action, if it becomes clear they aren't going to divulge it, it seems as if an emergency operator should move on and focus on the reason behind the call, especially when the call is recorded and made on a traceable phone.
  • Slut-Shaming: Sarah is blamed for her rape due to her clothing and flirty behavior.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Turns out Sarah's boyfriend and her fight with him led to that fateful tragedy at the bar.
  • Villain Ball: Two of the rapists remain at the bar to be identified by Sarah—long enough for her to have been medically examined and to converse with Kathryn Murphy over what happened.