When has a rapist been a sympathetic character?

It’s reasonably easy to create a list of theives, murderers, drug dealers and psychopaths who nonetheless are supposed to be a character the audience can relate to, and even like. I can’t think of a rapist that has got this treatment. Any examples?

Vic from A Boy And His Dog.

Kevin Bacon plays a child molestor in “The Woodsman.” He comes off as sympathetic, but the movie doesn’t gloss over his crimes either. That’s all I can think of for now, of things I’ve actually seen.

From googling, I found an article about a rapist character who was sympathetic on some soap.

ETA: Do you consider Alex in “A Clockwork Orange” to be sympathetic?



Rapists who become sympathetic leading men are a definite Soap Opera meme.

I’m not sure how closely this fits your criteria, but The Woodsman has Kevin Bacon playing a convicted child molester trying to start his life over. I haven’t seen the whole thing, but he’s portrayed as a tragic and sympathetic figure.


Howard Roark.

Todd Solondz’s film Happiness. Dylan Baker plays a psychologist who drugs and molests his son’s young friend. An odd, but interesting, little film.

And it’s been a while since I watched it, but IIRC, it’s strongly implied that Rhett Butler rapes Scarlett in Gone With the Wind. I assume that happens in the book as well, but I’ve never read it.

Hey, only one minute after me–that is nothing to sneeze at! :slight_smile:

Along the same lines as"Gone with the Wind," what about “A Streetcar Named Desire”? Then again, I suppose that’s only if you consider Stanley to be sympathetic. I guess most might consider him purely antagonistic.

Thomas Covenant, from Stephen Donaldson’s books.

Gully Foyle (ultimately), from The Stars My Destinatioin.

Captain Renault from Casablanca.

Jake Masters in Cry Uncle! is the clear winner, since the victim was dead when he started, and he still comes off as a good guy.

This is a competition?

Here’s a little gender equity: the mother in Spanking The Monkey.

Could lead to a debate on how broadly we should define the term rape.

Renault took advantage of women who found themselves in desparate situations. He was in a position of power which allowed him to offer aid and favors, he made it clear that such aid would only be offered if he got what he wanted first. Ultimately, though the woman’s choice in the matter was compromised by her desparate situation, the woman still always had a choice. Renault never forced himself on anyone. The woman would not be punished for saying no, but she would only be rewarded if she said yes.

I’m not prepared to count Renault as a rapist.

I think Tennessee Williams would gasp if he heard Stanley Kowalski described as a sympathetic character.

Sean Penn’s character in Dead Man Walking had the rape/murder combo pack going for him. he was definitely portrayed as sympathetic.

How about Humbert Humbert from Nabokov’s Lolita?

From science fiction, there’s Moneta in “Fall of Hyperion” - she rapes Col. Kassad.

In Bujold’s Vorkosigan books, Bothari is a tragic figure as a rapist. He’s insane, and driven to do terrible things by worse men. It’s not hard to have some sympathy for him, as he is what he is because of what others have done to him.

Again, how broadly are we defining rape?
That movie was about a creepy sick relationship. Being the mom, she had a certain amount of psychological influence but ultimately there was consent. Her leg was in a cast- he easily could have removed himself from the situation, and could have made sure the situation didn’t repeat.
And, been a while since I’ve seen the movie so I can’t say for sure- was she really a sympathetic character?

Rand’s comment on Roark- “If that was rape, it was by engraved invitation.”

GWTW- Rhett’s rape of Scarlett was during their marriage, which unfortunately,
wasn’t viewed at as terribly askanse (sp?) at that time. Hell, I remember people
debating as recently as the 1970s whether or not a husband could be considered to have raped his wife.

Of course, one could make an argument that Scarlett also invited it- at least in the movie.

I was spellchecking (turns out I didn’t need to) and getting the IMDb link. :mad: :stuck_out_tongue:

It looks like quite of few of these examples ride the line between sympathetic and pitiable (as in viewed with pity, not pittable).

See Soul on Ice

Damn, that was going to be my first pick.

How about a rapist and a murderer: Captain “Aarfy” Aardvark from Catch-22. Nobody would arrest Aarfy for raping a maid and throwing her out the window. “Not good old Aarfy.”

Then there’s James Bond. See Goldfinger, Thunderball, Live And Let Die (fraudulent persuasion)…he does seem to have tapered off in the last few decades.