Violence against women: On a screen near you

News & Politics

This week's Entertainment Weekly has an article about a disturbing new trend in network television: graphic depictions of violence against women.

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 Jeffrey Sconce, an associate professor in Northwestern University's radio, TV, and film department, who viewed fall pilots for Entertainment Weekly.
EW says the trend may have been indirectly brought on by the Janet Jackson nipple incident:
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 than 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.''
I can't believe TV producers actually think this is the kind of stuff women (or men, for that matter) want to watch. But they'll keep putting it on if enough people watch it. The solution? Complain. If you see gratuitous violence against women on your TV show, write an email to the producers and tell them you hate it. And change the channel: Nothing gets across to a TV exec like lower ratings.

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