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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.


  • Bastard Boyfriend: Sarah's boyfriend is one.
  • 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.
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  • 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 and 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".
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Sarah's boyfriend could count, as his argument with Sarah led to her going to the bar where she would be raped.
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  • 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 Bastard Boyfriend could count as one, 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 and 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.
  • "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....
  • Rape as Drama: It was the first Hollywood film to properly deal with rape as the main theme.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Also the first major Hollywood film to treat rape for exactly what it is and that is an awful and disgusting crime.
  • 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.
  • 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.