Archive for November, 2010


Violence against women- Films

It was reported that in 2010, Actress Jessica Alba left a screening of her new film, The Killer Inside Me, in disgust while viewing a scene where her character is badly beaten. In the film, her character takes sexual pleasure out of being beaten. What message does this send to viewers?

But violence is not only seen in rated R films, it is seen in Disney Films such as Beauty and the Beast. In this children’s film, a girl is captured by an angry ghastly beast who violently throws her father out. She is told she may never leave, and the Beast constantly tells her what she can  and cant do. In the end, Beauty see’s “the good” in the Beast, she sticks it out and falls in love with him. It is no wonder that women everywhere put up with domestic abuse, attempting to “find the good”  inside their husbands, we have such a great example set for us from childhood! (sarcasm). Below is a clip demonstrating his violent temper.

 

Violence against women unfortunately presents its self across genres of film. With domestic violence and violence against women becoming all too common, it is the normalization of this violence that allows it to continue. Part of this violence that is occurring is rape of women. Lets look into how rape becomes normalized in popular culture.

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After dehumanizing women by using only part of them in advertising, another trend has come along that promotes violence against women, the glamorization of sexualized violence in advertising. Take these for example:

an ad depicting the execution of a female to sell skateboards

a dead female stuffed into the trunk of a car used to sell shoes

a dirty, dead sexualized female form used to sell jeans

a man violently grasping a woman’s face to sell sunglasses.

Is it any wonder the amount of domestic abuse that occurs in the United States? Women are not only turned into objects, they are turned into objects in which violence upon them is not only acceptable, it is seemingly normal. Normal as it is everywhere, it is used to sell products. But it is not only advertising that promotes violence, it is promoted across genres of popular culture. We will next look into violence in  films and music to further portray how violence against women has become normalized in our culture.

As we have previously learned in studying the tactics of creating acceptance of our war against terrorism, the victims must first be dehumanized for the masses to think that the killings are justified. The same tactic, whether intentional or not is being used in advertising to dehumanize females, creating a more accepting attitude towards violence against women. A huge tactic used in ads in order to dehumanize is using part of a woman’s body to sell a product. A woman is then not fully a woman, only part of that woman was important enough to sell the product.

Here, a set of legs (legs our culture find sexy) is used to sell perfume.

A woman’s butt used to sell Jeans.

Breasts used to sell a racing event.

The sad truth is that these ads are far from unique. Female body parts are used to sell just about anything in a sexualized manner. This sectioning of the female body creates the viewer to look at them as a “thing”, not a human being, dehumanizing females. Next, we will look at ads that normalize violence against women.

It should be no surprise when I say that women are objectified and treated as ignorant, sexual beings in horror films.

Carmen Electra’s character in the first installment of Scary Movie,  a film that parodies stereotypes of the horror drama, is a perfect example of the stereotypical female in a horror film. Below you will find a 4 min clip of her scene in the film. This scene includes her being extremely sexualized: first with her appearance in Penthouse magazine (“I wanna see what your insides look like” “Turn to page __”), then in the killer confusing her boyfriend for another man she has slept with (there are so many it was hard to pick out which one was the boyfriend), then later running seductively in her bra and panties through sprinklers before getting stabbed in the chest, revealing her breast implant.

She is also portrayed as extremely helpless and stupid, for example when she chooses the banana instead of a grenade, gun, or knife to protect herself from the killer and then runs through the house instead of out the front door, running the direction of the “death” sign instead of the “safety” sign. She also looks as if she has a very hard time running, further displaying her helplessness. Her only glimpse of hope is through her father, a man, in the end of the clip. But he, of course, is distracted because of the sexual acts of another female, further displaying sexualized nature of women in this genre.

In the original film being parodied, Scream, Drew Barrymore’s character is called by a stranger the same way Carmen Electra’s was. She is asked to play a game and to answer questions about horror movies. When she answers a question wrong, her boyfriend is killed. During an earlier scene, Drew is seen playing with several large knives in the kitchen, yet, at first, she grabs a small letter opener to protect herself. She also seems to not want to run, she waits for the killer to find her.

This is not the only film in which women are portrayed as dumb, weak, sexual beings in the horror genre. Take the iconic shower scene from the thriller “Psycho”. The female character is first scene attempting to balance a checkbook. Becoming frustrated, she tears up the pages she was working on and throws them in the toilet, then deciding to  take a shower. In the shower she is sexualized, looking overly pleased by the water coming down on her. The killer comes in, and kills the defenseless, weak, naked woman.

There is also King Kong, a film that also portrays women as nearly nude, sexualized, weak and defenseless, in need of a man to help them.

Recently, there has been an emergence of female characters taking on the role of the killer in horror films. 2009’s Jennifer’s Body, is a perfect example. In this awkward time we are living in, Women have yet to decide what an empowered woman represents. This film displays this awkwardness, giving us a female narrator displaying the story through her memories. This narration is given has flawed and biased, and the female character telling us the story is insecure and needy towards the character she is telling the story about, Jennifer. Jennifer’s character has been constructed by men, and what they find attractive. Thus, we learn that the narrator is the “real” woman- the one we are striving to construct, and Jennifer is the woman men want us to  be. Jennifer’s body carries a demon that lures boys in with her looks, then kills them. In the end, our narrator kills Jennifer, becoming the “hero” of the picture. While the directors meant to show us what the “woman” could be, a hero, they instead display the narrator as having man-like traits, further portraying that men are the ones with agency and power, and that women must act like men if they wish to gain a portion of this as well.