Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Normalizing Violence: Have We Gone Too Far??

We're approaching "sweeps week," you know, that lovely week when television shows fight for ratings with extravagant tricks of plot twists, celebrity guest stars, girl-on-girl make-out scenes or musical numbers. Growing up, we've learned that this is to be expected and is "perfectly normal."

As a culture, we've accepted the message that sex/violence sells and may be have even encouraged it with our nation-wide viewing records. I would be a hypocrite if I were to say I've never been sucked into a Law and Order SVU marathon. Ice T and Mariska Hargitay aside, it has felt like these images have gotten worse and worse over the years.

Proving that I'm not an old lady, reinventing the perfection of "when I grew up," a new study by Parents Television Council/Women In Peril shows that we have, in fact, gone WAY too far. Over the past five years, there has been a 120% increase in the television depictions of violence against women and a 400% increase in the number of victimized teens!

While beatings were often the scenario of choice at 29%; stabbings, rape, torture and threats were not too far behind. The study also found that if the character did not consequentially die from the violence (19% of the time,) the graphic consequences were made visually explicit to the viewer (92%) rather than just implied or described (8%.)

Using these themes to lure an audience may be good for the network marketing director, but the effects of such extreme, normalized violence on a person and a culture goes far beyond the time in front of the tube.

Women In Peril describe short-term and long-term effects of viewed violence by saying that:
Short-term exposure increases the likelihood of physically and verbally aggressive behavior, aggressive thoughts, and aggressive emotions. Recent large-scale longitudinal studies provide converging evidence linking frequent exposure to violent media in childhood with aggression later in life, including physical assaults and spouse abuse. Because extremely violent criminal behaviors (e.g., forcible rape, aggravated assault, homicide) are rare, new longitudinal studies with larger samples are needed to estimate accurately how much habitual childhood exposure to media violence increases the risk for extreme violence.

Do you want our generation/the generation below us to become the next set of "data samples" needed for the extreme violence study? I sure don't!

Moral of the story:

Correlation is key: any country that on a whole actively watches young women victimized day-after-day is bound to be negatively effected. Please don't zone out to the tube, numb to what you are watching. Make your friends, family and networks aware that you will not stand for this trend to continue any more!

chart credit: Parents Television Council
photo credit: sternenrauschen on flickr.com

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