“Until It Happens to You” by Lady Gaga was recorded for the movie The Hunting Ground, which explores rape culture on college campuses nationwide. The film exposes how school administrations attempt to sweep rape allegations under the rug through red tape and victim blaming.
Lady Gaga showcases the song, true to its original context, in a music video portraying three different scenarios of sexual assault on a campus. Though the editing of this video is somewhat conventional for the fantastical songstress, the fact that she actually depicts the assault makes this video unique. Instead of the trope of a cut scene as an attack is about to happen, “Until It Happens to You” does not allow its viewers the escape of a dark screen. And they’re right: It’s fucking hard to watch.
Even with the inclusion of the assaults, the video is definitely a romantic take on the healing process of victims. We have a hint of the corny when these young women are pulled out of their depression by friends in time for the ending scene. However, there is still acknowledgement of the lingering struggles of the victims including depression, self-hate, and loss of interest in former passions. These nods towards the lasting effects of assault save “Until It Happens to You” from afterschool special territory.
In the final scene the victims march triumphantly through the halls of their dorm, hand in hand with their friends towards, an assumed, brighter future and we are left with a faceless silhouette as our parting image. This blurred visage reminds us of the unnamed victims who make up the one in five college age women who are assaulted each year.
The ending credit reminds us that rape and sexual assault will continue to happen without societal change which gives new meaning to the title until it happens to you. Making the name not just about understanding the experience of sexual assault but understanding the fear carried by all women knowing how likely it is we will be assaulted in our lifetime.
Nobody wants to be forced to mistrust the world, but as women that is what we are taught to do to protect ourselves. So instead of enjoying our first foray into the world on our own we’re watching our drinks, checking our six, and covering up. “Until it Happens to You” and The Hunting Ground shift the conversation from blame to solidarity. We dig it, and we think you will too.