Violence Against Women on TV
This fall, three programs in particular are showing extreme levels of viiolence against women, according to a report published in the August 5, 2005 issue of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY magazine --- one of the many mainstream publications that I monitor on a regular basis as part of my ongoing research.
To quote directly from the EW report:
A woman thrashes in a cage, layers of duct tape blinding her, a rag gagging her, as her faceless captor's male hands grab her fingers to clip her bloodied nails. Another is chained up in her basement in a dog collar, courtesy of her husband. Still another lies paralyzed by venomous spider bites as a masked figure rapes her.
All three are victims of an increasingly violent and disturbing serial killer: TV's procedural drama. The white-hot genre reinvented by Law & Order and further popularized by CSI has birthed a trio of new fall shows --- CRIMINAL MINDS and CLOSE TO HOME on CBS and KILLER INSTINCT on FOX --- featuring plots that reach distressing levels of brutality against women. "I haven't seen pure gruesomeness like this on TV before," says Jeffery Sconce, an associate professor in Northwestern University's radio, TV, and film department, who viewed fall pilots for ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY.
LAW & ORDER and its various offshoots have had their share of grisly female deaths. But L&O's strict format --- which starts off with a corpse --- has spared viewers the kind of violence usually reserved for horror movies. CSI's flashbacks upped the gore a bit, but with nothing as graphic as fall's new breed of crime shows. What's behind the surge in female abuse? Much as we hate to bring up that whole Janet Jackson incident, Sconce thinks her little nipple infraction played a part.
"Since the American broadcasting system has more restrictions against sexuality, you can get away more with amplifying violence han you can with amplifying sexuality. It results in this weird sadistic element. Putting women in these sexual situations is a backdoor way of getting more flesh in."
Since more people are turning to premium cable services such as HBO, the broadcast networks feel the need to compete --- so they claim.
However, this matter is yet another symptom of the debauched society in which we currently find ourselves. I had noticed that on CSI, of which I have seen a few episodes, has been getting more gruesome with each passing season it remains on the broadcast schedule. This is one form of desensitization, which gradual steps are taken to increase the violence over the complete run of a series. It does not surprise me one bit that FOX is a part of this desensitization, as simply, this trend of manipulation and propaganda is much more noticible on FOX than on any other network.
The KILLER INSTINCT show features a man who uses poisonous spiders to torture his victims, while he rapes them as they slowly die.
The CLOSER TO HOME show features a man who keeps his wife in a dog collar and leash, because "when a dog misbehaves, you have to chain the bitch up." Notice that this coyly uses the term which describes a female dog, and transfers it to reflect a debased reference to a man's own wife. Pretty sickening, if you ask me.
The CRIMINAL MINDS show is the most graphic of the three. The caged woman is a victim of something called an "anger excitation rapist," who keeps his victims captive for days before attacking and finally killing them. Sounds like prime family viewing, if you ask me!
As the EW report points out, "They constantly need new twists to keep the viewers interested," said Lisa Cuklanz, an associate professor at Boston College and author of a book on this very subject --- RAPE ON PRIME TIME.
While gory violence women is nothing new, see for example, the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock film PSYCHO --- which is as famous for what it didn't show than for what it did show --- with that infamous shower scene which used Hershey's chocolate syrup as blood, simply because it had been filmed in black and white.
What also makes this new trend in television especially troubling is that these shows are targeted to and watched primarily by women, as CSI is so famous for it's two-thirds women viewers in the 18-to-49 year-old demographic.
Is THIS what women want to watch, or is something more sinister going on here? Could it be that these shows are implanting a subliminal distrust, and ultimately hatred, of men? As my own research has shown, take the sickest thing you can think of and multiply THAT by 100 --- you are much closer to the real intent behind programming like this.
Those involved with the show CRIMINAL MINDS made the following comments at the recent Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles, where these shows were previewed. "We never see any stabbings. We never see any stranglings," said television writer Jeff Davis at a July 20, 2005 press conference. "When I wrote that scene, everybody told me I was sick. But it's just a woman getting her nails clipped."
Perhaps the singlemost ironic comment on this issue come from Dick Wolf, the creator of LAW & ORDER:
"There's a big difference between playing on actual fears and doing something that's sexploitative. That's just bad storytelling."
I have to wonder if this is all being done to foment hatred and mistrust between the sexes. If this is the true motivation behind this violence against women trend in television programming --- then it is equally good news that overall --- television ratings are collapsing.
Perhaps this is WHY they are called television PROGRAMS? Because they do exactly that --- which is to program the beliefs of the viewers looking for a couple hours of mindless entertainment after a hard day's work?
The following source was used in the writing of this Kentroversy Paper:
Armstrong, Jennifer - Femmes Fatal, Entertainment Weekly, August 5, 2005, pgs. 8-9.