Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sexual Violence Against Women As Entertainment

In recent years there has been an explosion of "gritty" media which has been praised by many who enjoy the flourishing of television as a medium for great storytelling and the rise of the antihero. But there are undercurrents of these tv shows and movies that becoming not just more violent, but more sexually violent specifically. It's not just in TV or movies either. Video games and comic books have also started to go in the same direction. You see countless depictions of women being violently sexually tortured and abused at the worst, but there is also an inherent undercurrent of misogyny in the way all the male characters treat women in these shows. Countless scenes at strip clubs or of men with prostitutes or other women given no names, who are just there to get naked for the scene.

The way these male characters treat and talk about the female characters is also pretty disturbing. Many of them act terribly toward women, and yet somehow the viewer is supposed to side with them and see the woman as the nagging bitch. The trend in media is for the female characters to be there only as an extension of the male role, or as naked decoration. Many shows specifically put the female characters in scenes where they are sexually degraded, often just for the kick of it. There usually is no particular reason in the plot to include such sexual violence, but they put it in anyway.

One high profile example of this sort of casual violence against women is in the highly successful TV show Game of Thrones, where the writers felt the need to actually add more violence and rape of women into the show than was in the books, and almost all the female characters in the show have either been raped or murdered. This is not to say the books aren't dripping with misogyny, but where Martin got it right was that the female characters specifically acknowledge and rebel against the misogyny of the society they are in. There was a subtlety in the books that is terribly lacking in the television adaption. The writers on the TV show decided that more violence against women, and more brothel scenes and scenes where the female characters had to get naked was necessary, and the fans of the show ate it up.

The most recent example of the trend toward normalization of sexualized violence in media would be the controversy over the NWA biopic, "Straight Outta Compton", where the writers decided to have the character of Ice Cube put his palm on the head of a topless woman and shove her out the door of a hotel room and into the hallway, and that is supposed to be funny.Her humiliation is supposed to be funny. It wasn't necessary to have a scene like that in the movie, as it never actually occurred, and it certainly wasn't necessary for it to be for the purpose of comedy. What we don't see is a frank discussion of how Dre ended up in jail for his brutal assault of a woman.

This is the result of having men dominate the discourse in the media, and exemplifies the way free internet porn and porn culture has bled into the mainstream. We think it's perfectly normal for a TV show to have a scene where a man is beating, raping, or abusing a woman to "advance the plot", or conversation where a man will call a woman a whore and push her aside. It's perfectly fine to have countless nameless women in movies and TV shows and video games who are there to get fucked and die.

What we need is an honest conversation about what these images say about our culture, and how we can better include female voices in media of all kinds, to try and provide an alternative narrative, one where we see women as human beings, and not as objects to be tossed about. The passive, abused, raped, murdered,  nameless female has to go. We need more Mad Max, more Agent Carter, and less Game of Thrones.

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