Rewriting Biblical history as a chick flick, though, is more of an insult than a feminist coup. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is exactly what Lifetime has done.
The basic plot of The Red Tent is this: Dinah meets Shalem (who's called Shechem in the Bible), a Hivvite and a prince. As in all true love stories, they become deeply devoted to each other during an bout of shy glances exchanged from several yards apart in a crowded marketplace. After knowing each other for 24 hours, they make sweet love, aided by a score of sweeping orchestral music. They decide to get married, but since Shalem didn't ask Dinah's father, Jacob, for permission before having sex with Dinah, he has to make a deal: Get circumcised, Jacob says, and have all the men in your city circumcised, or you cannot marry my daughter. In a show of what's supposed to be truly romantic sacrifice, Shalem agrees.
Pause there for a moment. In the book of Genesis, all of this actually happens, with one key difference: Shechem rapes Dinah. "And Shechem the son of Hamor, the Hivvite, the prince of the land, saw [Dinah], and he took her, lay with her, and violated her," the text says.
It's impossible to know whether this means Dinah was forced to have sex against her will, or whether she was "violated" in the sense of not having her father's blessing. It is silly to ask this question, because it misses the point: In no sense did Dinah have control over her sexuality. She couldn't "give consent," because consent wasn't considered hers to give; her body, and her betrothal, were objects to be haggled over for a bride price. Even in the alter-world scenario of The Red Tent, Jacob and his sons debate with Shalem and his father, Hamor, about the cost of marrying Dinah; how romantic, we're supposed to think, that Shalem is willing to give his flesh to own Dinah as his wife.
As the Hivvite men are recovering from being circumcised, two of Dinah's brothers, Simeon and Levi, go to the city and murder all of them. Specifically, as it's phrased in the book of Genesis, "they came upon the city with confidence, and they slew every male."
In the Biblical version of this story, Simeon and Levi are defending their sister's honor, so to speak: "Shall he make our sister look like a harlot?" they say to Jacob in response to his rage at their actions. In the Red Tent version, this is portrayed as a machismo rampage, revenge for the audacity of having sex with their sister. "We decided to give them a second cut, a little higher and deeper than the first," one brother sneers.
In this retelling, Dinah is given a voice—one she's never afforded in the Bible, a book in which Dinah gets no lines. She criticizes Jacob for his hypocrisy in not condemning Simeon and Levi.
"What would you have me do?" Jacob asks her. "They're my sons."
"And I am only a daughter, which means I am nothing more than a piece of property," she replies.