Post- Magazine

gray area [A&C]

on feeling futile

TW: sexual assault 

In the movie Bottoms (2023), main characters PJ and Josie start a fight club so that the girls in their high school can learn to protect themselves. More accurately, they start the club in hopes that their crushes, Brittany and Isabel, will join and fall in love with them. However, a mere plot summary doesn’t do justice to the absurdity of Bottoms, a movie that ends with the girls violently slaughtering their high school’s rival football team but, like, in a fun and camp way. 


I love Bottoms—it’s raunchy, moving, and so viscerally 2023 that I know I’ll be watching it when I’m old one day, preferably in a rocking chair. My daydreams about old ladyhood aside, the main reason I love the film is one scene in particular. 

The scene takes place during a meeting where PJ is trying to build some community. PJ—being the awkward, tone-deaf, suspendered mess she is—thinks asking everyone if they’ve been raped is an appropriate way to build sisterhood:


Okay, so who’s been raped? Raise your hand. 

No one raises their hand. 



Gray area stuff counts too. 

Everyone raises their hand. 

When I saw this scene, I felt truly represented—like the screenwriters had planned it just for me. While I’m not saying that PJ is the undisputed voice of our generation (we’d be doomed if she was), for me, this scene hits harder than the punches thrown in an all-girls fight club. 

On Halloweekend, I dressed up as Amy Dunne from Gone Girl (2014), a female villain who is unapologetically, unabashedly evil, a choice which, just like Bottoms, felt remarkably 2023. As I shivered in a white dress on Wriston, pouring a gallon of fake blood I ordered online over my head, I felt feminine in a way that rejected respectability. Not feminine in the way I feel feminine when people don’t take me seriously or when I get catcalled on Thayer—it was femininity in the freezing cold, on my own terms. 

In keeping with the delightfully 2023 quality of the moment, I filmed a TikTok doing the “cool girl” monologue. As I played the video on my cracked phone screen, I felt sexy—I loved the way the fake blood clung to my shoulders and felt there was something deeply erotic about how scary I looked. My friends complimented me and said I was sooooooo cool girl. As we headed out for the night, friends yelling to not forget IDs and taking last-minute photos, I felt deeply, incandescently myself. 

That night, I got, as PJ from Bottoms would put it, gray area-ed. I woke up with fake blood on my wall, some scrapes on my body, and a feeling that something was deeply off as I pieced together what had happened. Because I helped a friend try to get justice for their assault during high school, I immediately decided that seeking help would be futile. So I got out of bed and did my best to move on, focusing extra hard on classes to dull the scratching feeling I got in my head whenever I thought of Halloweekend. I barely told anyone about it, as if keeping it to myself would make it less real. But then, as I was clearing my plate in the Ratty, I saw the gray area-er. 

I felt like I was in the deep end of a pool, my legs reaching for the bottom only to kick and find nothing there. It was like my body forgot it was a body—I stopped breathing, I couldn’t hear the sound of the people around me, and it became hard to see, almost as if I was holding Saran wrap over my head. I put a finger to my cheek, realized it was wet, went to class, and tried to forget about it.

That scene from Bottoms feels representative of my experience because I struggle to call it rape or assault, even when my entire body reacts to just a brief glimpse of this person. What would it take for me to upgrade it from gray area to assault? Would I need to spontaneously combust in order to be like, oh, maybe this is serious? When I told friends about it and they told me I was assaulted, I felt like they were talking about something that had happened to someone else. But that is what happened, isn’t it? 

Many of my friends at Brown have had similar experiences. They joke about people trying to finger them on the dance floor without asking, about guys getting too close at parties, about hookups they wanted to end but just went through with. Their retellings always end with a dismissal of the moment as weird—not consensual but not assault. Just like the girls in Bottoms, many of us would raise our hands for the gray area, but not the r-word or the a-word. 

In my experience, rape culture is as much a part of Brown as Bruno the bear, and every rapist here will likely go on to become a doctor, a professor, a lawyer, or something like that. That’s what bothers me most: My gray area-er’s life will go on as normal when he eventually graduates from here. He probably can’t name three fun facts about me; meanwhile, I’m writing this piece in Wayland, in the dorm I will always partially think of as where it happened. 

In Bottoms, rape culture pervades every locker, textbook, and hallway of the girls’ high school. That’s why I love the movie’s absurdity—murdering an evil football team feels almost sane in comparison to our normalized rape culture. And even if PJ asking “Okay, so who’s been raped?” is a bit abrupt, maybe there’s something to sitting in a circle of people who have been through something similar and knowing you’re not alone. 

I recently saw him by Gourmet-to-Go, that absurd little grocery store deep in the bowels of the campus center. He didn’t recognize me, even though we made eye contact. Again, the feeling of my body not being a body overwhelmed me. He was leaving the campus center, and I found myself following him out of it. He headed toward Page-Rob, so I went in and sat on one of the benches by the front. Through the sliding glass doors, I watched him talk to a friend outside. They chatted animatedly, him gesturing wildly. 

If I was sitting in that circle in Bottoms when PJ says, “Gray area stuff counts too,” I would have raised my hand because of him. The fact that he can see me, make eye contact with me, then go about his day disappoints me. I almost wished I could go up to him and shake him by the shoulders and scream, “My name is Indigo! I’m fucking delightful!” 

But we don’t live in the absurd Bottoms universe where I’d do something like that. So instead, I leave Page-Rob and go to class. At that point, what else is there to do? Maybe that’s the point of movies like Bottoms—we can watch someone else do the things we secretly wish we could but never get to. 

Indigo Mudbhary

Indigo Mudbhary is a University news senior staff writer covering student government. In her free time, she enjoys running around Providence and finding new routes.

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