“Goodbye Earl”

The best thing about having a DVR is that I no longer have to watch all of those commercials for ‘Hannibal’ or ‘The Following’ or whatever horror movie is on its way to a theater near me.

I am increasingly angered that we are being subjected to such violence and gore, but I am particularly incensed that violence is tolerated at increasingly grotesque levels in the media, particularly against women, while swearing and nudity continue to be taboo.

For instance, this past weekend the Junos were on CTV, a broadcast network.   There was a viewer discretion warning during every commercial break prior to returning to the Juno broadcast. Every commercial break.  Last night,  a beaten and bloodied woman was tied to a rack and then dismembered ALIVE during the first few moments of a ‘Hawaii Five-O’ episode and there was no warning. None.

Last summer, I went to see ‘The Hunger Games.’  That movie was rated PG-13.  Prior to the start of the movie, a trailer for a horrifying thriller ran, which scared the living daylights out of me (although it doesn’t take a lot to scare me).  Why must such terrifying trailers be run before a movie aimed at CHILDREN?

Last year, the film ‘Bully,’ a documentary about bullying, was initially rated R.  The film’s director fought, and eventually successfully appealed, the classification since he wanted the movie to be able to be viewed in schools.  It was eventually rated PG-13.

‘Blue Valentine’ received an NC-17 rating, the strongest rating, due to one oral sex scene, even though there was no violence in the movie.  The film’s production company successfully appealed the rating and the movie was subsequently rated R.

What’s the moral of these stories: bad words and boobs are bad, while violence is AWESOME.

Remember Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction?  People freaked out over the prime time showing of a nipple.  A NIPPLE.  Come on – 50% of the world’s people each have a pair.  Yet we don’t have a problem showing all kinds of violence against women of increasingly disgusting proportion just so we can watch our favourite actors use technology that no police department has to  solve crimes and have the odd romantic entanglement.

It’s just so hypocritical.  Jon Stewart, as always, says it best. (and of course you can’t watch the video in Canada because our networks can’t seem to make previous seasons available, and we’re much more worried about copyright laws than the proliferation of violence throughout the media).

Not only do I have a problem with the constant violence on TV.  I have a problem with who that violence is directed towards.  A lot of the time, violence on TV is directed at women.  But simple violence isn’t enough; usually the women has to be degraded, beaten, bloodied, maimed, raped, dismembered, etc.

WHY??

I mean, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council recognizes that violence against women is such a problem in reality that it has its own code regarding it:

7.1 Broadcasters shall not telecast programming which sanctions, promotes or glamorizes any aspect of violence against women.

7.2 Broadcasters shall ensure that women are not depicted as victims of violence unless the violence is integral to the story being told. Broadcasters shall be particularly sensitive not to perpetuate the link between women in a sexual context and women as victims of violence.

These are pretty broad provisions, and I’d think the second is violated on an almost nightly basis.

I agree that there is a major difference between what is referred to as ‘torture porn’ (e.g. the ‘Saw’ franchise) and the usual violence (I hate to use this phrase, but unfortunately it’s true) depicted against women in NCIS, CSI, etc.  And yes, violence against women on shows like ‘Law & Order: SVU’ can be “compelling” and educational.  But the fact is that violence against women on TV has skyrocketed.

In 2009, the Parents Television Council, a hardcore conservative organization that I would not normally take seriously, released an important report which found that:

  1. Incidents of violence against women and teenage girls are increasing on television at rates that far exceed the overall increases in violence on television.  Violence, irrespective of gender, on television increased only 2% from 2004 to 2009, while incidents of violence against women increased 120% during that same period.
  • The most frequent type of violence against women on television was beating (29%), followed by credible threats of violence (18%), shooting (11%), rape (8%), stabbing (6%), and torture (2%).  Violence against women resulted in death 19% of the time.
  • Violence towards women or the graphic consequences of violence tends overwhelmingly to be depicted (92%) rather than implied (5%) or described (3%).
  1. Every network but ABC demonstrated a significant increase in the number of storylines that included violence against women between 2004 and 2009.
  1. Although female victims were primarily of adult age, collectively, there was a 400% increase in the depiction of teen girls as victims across all networks from 2004 to 2009.
  1. Fox stood out for using violence against women as a punch line in its comedies — in particular Family Guy and American Dad — trivializing the gravity of the issue of violence against women.
  1. From 2004 to 2009 there was an 81% increase in incidences of intimate partner violence on television.

I can only imagine what the statistics would show since that report was released; no doubt they’d have increased again significantly.  What happened to character-driven shows?  ‘Mad Men’ seems to be the only show currently airing that’s both critically-acclaimed and rarely displays violence.

There’s something so profoundly wrong with us when we’re far more worried about our kids seeing someone else’s naked body, which I think has resulted in so much of the body shaming and body issues that we all have today, than we are with the prevalent violence we see after 7 pm.  Then again, what type of entertainment do we expect from a country whose Senators are much more concerned with using every possible tool they have to prevent increasingly-rare terrorist strikes than with implementing urgently needed gun control legislation?

It’s amazing that 15 years ago, there was so much hubbub about this Dixie Chicks’ song and its violent message.  Ironic, eh?

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