Saturday, November 14, 2009

Violence Against Women more common than previous years on Prime Time TV

The Parents Television Council released a recent report on the violent acts found on prime time TV that stated that violence against women on TV is up when compared to previous years.

Now, the Parents Television Council can at times seem alarmist, like the Gossip Girl Threesome Episode controversy they stoked in the past few weeks, which to many seemed overblown and alarmist (They say that it represents a consequence free act, but the episodes that follow it detail significant fallout for the characters involved who are all depicted to be of age at the time of consent). But that shouldn't invalidate their study on violence, at least in the form of raw data.

The Parents Television Council released its report Wednesday. It says it counted more than 400 violent acts against women in prime time on ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox shows in February and May this year. There were just under 200 during those months in 2004.

The council notes that acts against women are a small percentage of violence in prime time.

The report shows there were more than 3,900 violent acts not specifically aimed at women during those two months.

The study noted that depiction of violence overall has changed little over the years — up 2 percent from 2004. Depiction of violence against women, however, was up 120 percent.

It said 29 percent of the incidents were beatings, 18 percent credible threats of violence, 11 percent were shootings, 8 percent were rapes, 6 percent stabbings and 2 percent torture — but that in 92 percent of the incidents, graphic violence against women was depicted, not just implied.

The PTC said the following based on its data:
... the impact of violence on TV had a desensitizing effect, especially on youths and he urged TV networks and TV advertisers to act. He pointed to the rape incident in Richmond and to recent publicity about pro athletes being involved in beatings.

“I believe it is having a devastating effect,” he said.

PTC included cartoon violence in its examination, and the group rapped Fox for violence against women in "Family Guy" and "American Dad," accusing the network of “trivializing the gravity of the issue of violence against women.” Fox declined comment.

PTC said every network except ABC “demonstrated a dramatic increase in the number of storylines that included violence against women.”

It said the number was up 192 percent at NBC, 119 percent at CBS, 109 percent at Fox and 39 percent at ABC. CBS had the highest number of incident.

There is certainly a point to be made about the violence witnessed on television but the question I have to ask is, is there any way to measure the related consequences of this violence being presented? Like the Gossip Girl issue, can the PTC say that the violence presented is presented without context of portraying it negatively, portraying the consequences of that violence on both victim and perpetrator than other years?

Television does impact people's perception of behaviors, but it's also an elegant tool for showing stories in a way that can present the consequences of those actions (like how sleeping with your roommate and her boyfriend who is your best friend is likely to at the very least, complicate the #*@t out of your life). Simply railing against violence in general is just not constructive, drama is based on conflict, and the world has a lot of violence in it. Taking on the seriousness in which violence is treated in mass-media, THAT is an important issue to consider, and one that can be more handily addressed than banning violence altogether.

The Full PTC Report can be viewed here.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent observation, Caitlin. I personally wish television writers would present us with more empowered women who refuse to accept violence and apply their wits, cleverness and any and all resources at hand to avert it, avoid it or end it. We can all learn from or be inspired by this.

    It also saddens me that violence against women is still used as a cheap way to elicit a strong response from the audience, rather than an intrinsic element of the plot. I'm aware that television is a vast machine that needs to be fed, but as an industry of storytellers we simply have to demand better of ourselves.

    Jeff Gomez
    Starlight Runner