This one gets pretty heavy. Content warning here at the bottom of the page. Click here if you want it.
My original plan was to combine the final two chapters of Dramacon into one post, since they both cover the climax of the book. But in writing this post, it turns out there’s a lot to discuss, so I’ll just be sticking with the penultimate chapter here.
And what a climax it is.
Christie got a huge, much needed lift from meeting Lida Zeff, and it helped her enjoy the con a lot more. The night ends in a J-pop dance, which was also one of my favorite things to do at a con. Christie’s having so much, until Derek starts flirting with other girls in front of her again. She joins up with Matt’s friends instead, who she got to know over the course of the con.
Christie goes to speak with Matt, and this ends up happening:
I’ll admit it: I squealed when I read that the first time. And when I read it through again this time.
Yes, Christie is technically cheating, which is generally frowned upon. But because Derek has no redeeming qualities, I doubt anyone really cares. I certainly don’t. And while Matt has been rough around the edges, he at least tries to apologize and improve his behavior.
Derek catches them kissing, and back at the hotel he and Christie have an explosive fight. Christie stands up to him and doesn’t back down this time. Her courage isn’t rewarded, though. Drunk and infuriated, Derek attacks Christie and attempts to rape her.
Yeah, you read that right. Romantic comedy Dramacon, full of jokes and pop culture references, just had an attempted rape scene.
One of the reasons I was a little nervous to read Dramacon was because I really liked the series and I wanted to continue liking it. I’ve grown up a lot since I first read Dramacon, and my understanding of sexual assault has changed over the years.
I’ve written about other books that use sexual violence as a plot device in the past here. I’m still never sure how I feel about sexual assault in fiction in general. Personally, it’s not something I like to see in books and movies, but it’s something that unfortunately happens in real life. And art is supposed to reflect life, right? At the same time, it’s also supposed to be an escape from our everyday lives. Is there a middle ground between these two things? Does there need to be?
I’ve mentioned before that I personally feel that sexual assault in fiction needs to be handled carefully, and with purpose. If a character is assaulted, then it either needs to bring out something new in the character, add something to the plot, and not trivialize the survivor’s experience.
Christie does get away from Derek, but the scene is scary and tense. It doesn’t play into a common rape myth that rape is only perpetrated by strangers. In fact, most rape survivors know their assailant.
But Dramacon doesn’t do a great job dealing with the aftermath. There’s only one chapter after this, so we don’t see much of Christie’s long-term reaction. I always wondered if Derek and Christie go to the same school. Does she still have to see him every day, even after they broke up? Is she scared to change classes, knowing that she might see the man who hurt her in the hallways?
In the final book, two years after the events of the first, Christie sees Derek again. She’s stunned to see him and probably scared. To make the situation even worse, he’s with his pregnant fiancée.
Put yourself in Christie’s shoes for a minute. You’ve just seen your abusive ex with another woman. What do you say to your ex and their partner?
A couple years ago, I found myself with a chance to confront my emotionally abusive ex-boyfriend. And good God, I seized upon that chance. All the pain and anger inside me, all the damage inflicted on me came pouring out. I’d been a toy to him, but I made sure he knew how small and pathetic he was. If I had a chance to talk to his partner, I would sure as hell tried to warn them about who they were dating.
Christie doesn’t do any of that. She chat amiably with Derek’s fiancée and they even exchange emails. She just acts like nothing had happened. There’s no warning, just a joke about how Christie must have some stories about Derek when they were teenagers. This whole scene is so problematic for me.
Maybe this is to show that Christie’s matured, or forgiven Derek. It’s been two years, after all. But being assaulted doesn’t just go away in real life. Something like that can stay with you and follow you throughout your life, affecting your mental health, self-worth, and relationships for years to come.
Dramacon is a fun, light-hearted romantic comedy, so spending the rest of it watching Christie recover from trauma would be totally opposite from the tone of the series. Since it brings out nothing new in the character or story, this momentary dark shift is just unnecessary. We already knew Derek was a bad boyfriend. I don’t think that the story needed to go as dark as attempted rape for Christie to run away from him. If Chmakova wanted to show that Derek was violent, he could have hit Christie, or pulled her hair, like he does in the following chapter. Any sort of physical violence should have been enough to prompt Christie to run away from him, and trigger Matt to beat Derek to a pulp. All of this could have happened without creating a huge problem for readers like me, and the tone of the story as a whole.
National Sexual Assault Hotline (US): 1-800-656-4673
RAINN Resources for Sexual Assault Survivors and Their Loved Ones
Rape Crisis Network Europe
Content warning: Discussion of rape and sexual assault in fiction. No graphic descriptions or images.