Quantcast
subscriber help

artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Does Hollywood contribute to violence against women?

Nicole Kidman testified before Congress earlier this week, in her capacity as a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Development Fund for Women, regarding the International Violence Against Women Act (more on the act here). From the Associated Press via Google News:

Nicole Kidman conceded Wednesday that Hollywood has probably contributed to violence against women by portraying them as weak sex objects.

The Oscar-winning actress said she is not interested in those kinds of demeaning roles, adding that the movie industry also has made an effort to contribute to solutions for ending the violence.

Kidman testified before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee that is considering legislation to address violence against women overseas through humanitarian relief efforts and grants to local organizations working on the problem.

Asked by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., if the movie industry has “played a bad role,” Kidman said “probably,” but quickly added that she herself doesn’t.

“I can’t be responsible for all of Hollywood but I can certainly be responsible for my own career,” she said.

The roundabout way the story is structured — and that’s almost the whole thing in blockquotes; I don’t usually grab an entire story, but part of the story is how little story there is here — and the minuscule level of content that consists of actual quotes from Kidman suggests that someone went cherry-picking in an attempt to find something juicy in her testimony. (What else did she discuss before Congress? Just try finding any coverage of that. Even C-SPAN doesn’t seem to have anything.) The Guardian does have some video of her testimony, but just about the only of interest is the fact that it highlights, in case you’re not already aware of this, that Rohrabacher is a man, and that his tone appears to be suggesting that Kidman has no right to be arguing against violence against women because she’s part of the problem.

Anyway, the question stands: Does Hollywood contribute to violence against women? If so, how? Does it also contribute to the solution?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/flick/public_html/wptest/wp-content/themes/FlickFilosopher/loop-single.php on line 106
  • JT

    Here’s her whole testimony, but I can’t find much details on the question and answer session beyond what you linked to already.

    I thought Dogville was a horribly misogynist film with the female character repeatedly raped, beaten, abused and chained only to be rescued by her father at the end. It’s sad that only after seeing ‘Antichrist’ are people realizing Von Trier’s views on women.

  • Pollas

    I don’t think Hollywood contributes to violence against women. That’s caused by personal beliefs, childhood experiences, culture, things like that. Human beings don’t need fiction to get them do the horrible things they do to each other. Violence against women has existed long before tv or movies ever came along.

  • Jester

    OK, MAJ… time to turn your own weapon back on you.

    Explain to me, in a short declarative sentence, why you didn’t expand this topic to include men.

    ie, “Does Hollywood contribute to violence against humans?”

    Because, if anything, Hollywood has done FAR more to glorify violence against men than it could ever dream of doing to glorify violence against women. A third of the movies in any given year are pretty much all about some guy beating the living crap out of some other guy for some vaguely determined reason of plot (and sometimes not even that). Or shooting him in the face. Or dropping him off a building. Or setting him on fire.

    I’m certainly not one of those freaks that immediately relates what happens in movies (or video games) to what happens in our schools. And I love an action movie as much as the next guy. But on the other hand, it would be stupid and short-sighted to say that the escalating violence in movies has no effect at all. A week or so back, a 15-year-old boy was set on fire by a gang of bullies for a vaguely determined reason of plot. That simply would not have happened when you and I were going to school. Would the bullies in question have even thought of it if the violence against men in movies weren’t escalating year after year?

    When we were in school, the most awful thing we had to worry about was being beaten up. Today, the kids have to worry about being beaten up. Or shot in the face. Or thrown off a building. Or set on fire.

    So, to answer your question, yes, of course Hollywood contributes to violence against humans. And that includes women.

    But this relates back to you because every time someone writes an article about “Does X do X to men?” or “Does X do X to women?”, you immediately jump all over the author wondering why the opposite gender wasn’t included in the question.

    But now you just did it. So… why?

  • doa766

    I guess she didn’t realize that while she was appearing naked on Eyes Wide Shut, Malice, Birthday Girl, Birth and more, or raped and abused on Dogville

    actually she might contribute to the negative image of women from Hollywood with statements like this

  • Accounting Ninja

    I would say that Hollywood’s portrayals of women are a symptom of our rape and violence apologist culture.
    Pretty much any expression of culture (movies, tv, art) will be symptomatic of the deeper sicknesses within.
    Is it getting better? Sure, one only has to watch some movies and tv from even the 80s** to realize that depictions of women have improved. But they still aren’t on par with men’s depictions. Nor are as many stories told about women.

    **I was home sick a while back and caught a marathon of the cheesy 80s Tales From The Darkside. GEEZ, it was pretty sexist!! Like, eye-rollingly so. And it wasn’t even that long ago, relatively.

  • Accounting Ninja

    Jester, this is a specific discussion about violence against women being perpetuated by Hollywood. MAJ wasn’t even the one who started it, Nicole Kidman did…sort of.
    Not everything has to address men too. That’s a different conversation and not constructive to this one.

  • Somehow I doubt the guy who kicked one female acquaintance in the stomach while she was pregnant and left her for dead a few years ago did so because he watched Dogville too often.

    Nor does blaming Hollywood explain away all the violence against women that occurs outside of America. (One Mexican acquaintance of mine was raped because she smiled at the wrong person and another was beaten up and thrown down the stairs by her own father because she got pregnant outside of marriage.* And that’s just a few of the ones I know about.)

    That said, it can be said by most reasonable folks that Hollywood’s depiction of women doesn’t help.

    But where do you start?

    I found Wanted to be one of the most misogynist movies produced within the last few years. Yet MaryAnn loved it.

    MaryAnn, on the other hand, hated the recent Last House on the Left remake. Yet a female acquaintance of mine who was herself a would-be rape victim** not only liked the movie but also wanted to recommend it to teenage girls. (For that matter, she also liked the original and preferred it over the remake due to its inclusion of one particularly nasty scene of violent vengeance.***)

    As long as I have a mother, sister, a niece and various female acquaintances for whom I care for very much, I’d like to think I have the same vested interest in seeing an end to Hollywood misogyny as most people who post on this forum.

    But once again…where do you start?

    * No, I wasn’t the father of her child. And that’s not the point of the story, anyway.
    ** She managed to fight her way out of the situation and call the police.
    *** If you’ve seen the original, you know which scene I’m talking about.

  • Hank Graham

    I think this question is a Rorschach test of those of us answering.

    All the properly moderated studies are inconclusive or contradictory. All of them are quoted endlessly.

    So we all tend to answer from our own perspectives, bringing our own views and baggage along.

    In my view, films don’t create the violent impulses that are rampant in our world, merely reflect them, against both women and men.

    I will hazard that I don’t think Von Trier is misogynist. He’s a misanthrope.

  • I didn’t think Dogville was misogynistic. As Hank wrote, it seemed more cynical and misanthropic to me, showing that humans will inevitably try to take advantage and dehuumanize those who are different and/or powerless setting off a neverending cycle of inequality, abuse, distrust, and violent retribution. It wasn’t easy to watch, but it’s Von Trier’s best movie and Kidman’s best performance.

    However, while I understand that a large portion of popular culture and art does serve as a simple mirror reflecting (and passively reinforcing) the violence, bigotry, and misogyny present in the world, the best art goes a step further and does something more. It isn’t simply satisfied with the way things are; it casts a critical eye and offers possible alternatives.

    That’s one of the reasons so many intelligent (or at least observant) people are attracted to satire, sci-fi, and fantasy. Those are the genres that most often reveal the absurd and arbitrary nature of the traditional injustices that so many take for granted. I do feel as though Hollywood has lost some ground in the past decade when it comes to realistic potrayals of women in an effort to increase their revenues in foreign markets where feminism isn’t quite as developed (this might also be one reason most Hollywood scripts have lost their subtlety recently).

    But it feels silly to lump all of Hollywood together as a single entity. It’s like blaming “television” or “video games” or “the internet” for something. There are so many exceptions, it feels unfair. Fundamentally, though, Kidman is correct. On average, Hollywood movies contribute to violence against women. I think the main way it does this is, ironically, to avoid showing realistic violence against women from their perspective. Most scenes of violence against women are framed in voyeuristic fashion (or even worse, in a way which suggests that the viewer should identify with the attacker). The best way for Hollywood to contribute to the solution is to make movies with realistic female characters, and not shy away from showing scenes of violence when they occur. Then instead of cutting to the male main character and his story of vengeance or whatever, stick with the woman and show how she succeeds or fails in dealing with the consequences. Dogville is actually a good movie because it does this, allowing the viewer to gradually transition from being a voyeur to identifying with Kidman’s character.

    So uh, short answer, I agree with Kidman’s statement, although I don’t consider many of the films on her resume to be shining examples of feminist ideals.

  • Jester

    @AccountingNinja: MAJ picks the topics that she wants to have discussed on this site, so saying “Nicole Kidman started it” is a straw man argument. There were a half-dozen different topics where “women” and “movies” and “politics” crossed this week, and this one isn’t even the most interesting. That honor goes to “When Did B Movie Starlets Become Medical Experts?” on Salon (http://open.salon.com/blog/amytuteurmd/2009/10/21/when_did_b_movie_starlets_become_medical_experts), written as it is by an MD.

    In addition, I gave a constructive answer to the question along with my reasoning, so I’ve constructively contributed to the discussion.

    But the question of gender bias I raised remains, unless you somehow feel that the topic of violence against women in movies exists outside the topic of violence against men in movies. As I’ve already said, I certainly don’t.

  • bitchen frizzy

    IMO, the most that can be said is that Hollywood desensitizes people to violence, and perhaps gives violent people ideas. “Contributes” is a pretty strong word, and much depends on what is meant by it.

    I suppose that if most of the message of Dogville goes over the head of a viewer, he might see nothing more than a literal depiction of a woman being abused and degraded, and be titillated or disgusted as the case may be. That doesn’t mean Kidman is a hypocrite for accepting the role, unless she’s to be held responsible for misinterpretations by those who take the movie and her character too literally.

  • bitchen frizzy

    “I love humanity. It’s people I can’t stand.” — Linus, from Peanuts

    I don’t think von Trier is a misanthrope, so much as he has little respect or patience for the small-minded and the deliberately obtuse.

    His movies are intended to provoke those who don’t get his point, and by their ugly reaction, they prove *his* point.

  • Accounting Ninja

    Whenever, in the vast and magical land of internets, a discussion is brought forth about violence or rape of *women*, someone inevitably says “But *men* get raped/are victims of violence too!”

    Does rape/violence happen to men? Of course. But this *particular* discussion is about women. Perhaps MAJ will have a topic about how the alpha-dog action stereotype, for example, does a disservice to real men or promotes male on male violence. I don’t know. But if it happens, I wouldn’t say “women are raped and beaten in this country x times more than men! So there.” Because that’s not what that particular discussion is about right now.

  • Paul

    I am in Amanohyo’s camp on this one. A guy predisposed to violence might see a movie and copy the movie to channel his predisposion, but the movie itself does not cause such violent behavior.

    Having said that, I wouldn’t let a child watch a movie that had messages I didn’t like, because their personality is still forming. I don’t think a child from a loving family would become violent from watching GI Joe cartoons, for example, but exposing our kids to approved violence might create an enabling culture for those who are violent.

    I’ve read some articles talking about the ups and downs of violence in America, and they point out that those swings coincide with population shifts in age. Men are most violent in the twenties, and as the Baby Boomers passed through their twenties, violence rose. When they moved on into middle age, violence started falling again. But politicans and intellectuals had rushed around making hay about it, scoring points against each other.

    Now, if you want clear demostrations of culture = violence, we can point to Europe. Norway is a country that is 3% Muslim, but 65% of the women in shelters for battered women are Muslim. Rape statistics in France bare close relationships to the % of Muslims in the area. So if we want to point fingers at well proven links between culture and violence, I’m not putting movies too high on my list.

    On the other hand, when Denmark was occupied by the Nazis, for a year they had no police force because the Nazis locked up everyone who had a gun, but were too busy with the war to police the country themselves. There was a dramatic upswing in theft and vandalism, but no increase in rape or murder. It’s a tangent, but I always find that story interesting.

    As for the violence against men thing, I remember at some point I started feeling sorry for the Storm Troopers. I mean, some guy signs up for guard duty and his life is boring and mundane until the hero and villain run through and leave him dead on the side lines. And the hero runs around blasting people, but then has to arrest the villain because villain at this point is a person instead of a cutboard cutout with a target painted on his chest. It’s not just the Enterprise who has redshirts; the Klingons do, too.

  • MaryAnn

    Jester wrote:

    MAJ picks the topics that she wants to have discussed on this site, so saying “Nicole Kidman started it” is a straw man argument.

    No, it isn’t. And that is the reason… though, actually, that idiot Rohrabacher started it. And the question was asked in the context of a Congressional hearing specifically about violence directed toward women.

    There were a half-dozen different topics where “women” and “movies” and “politics” crossed this week, and this one isn’t even the most interesting. That honor goes to “When Did B Movie Starlets Become Medical Experts?” on Salon (http://open.salon.com/blog/amytuteurmd/2009/10/21/when_did_b_movie_starlets_become_medical_experts), written as it is by an MD.

    I wasn’t aware of this article, Jester. Thanks for pointing it out. I’ll use it next week for a QOTD. Though will you complain that I’m being sexist if I repeat that headline as my question, and don’t amend it to read “When Did B Movie Starlets and Male Models Become Medical Experts?”? :->

    Still, come on: I’ve frequently complained about how men are treated on film, too. But at Ninja’s suggestion, I’ll also use this as a QOTD next week:

    Perhaps MAJ will have a topic about how the alpha-dog action stereotype, for example, does a disservice to real men or promotes male on male violence. I don’t know.

    But, really?:

    But this relates back to you because every time someone writes an article about “Does X do X to men?” or “Does X do X to women?”, you immediately jump all over the author wondering why the opposite gender wasn’t included in the question.

    *Every time*? Perhaps you could point out a few…

    Also, surely you understand that there are many profound differences between violence directed at people — men and women — regardless of gender (say, on a battlefield, or in a terrorist bombing, or in a bank robbery) and violence specifically aimed at women *because they’re women,* such as rape, domestic violence, cultural oppression (stoning adulterous women but not their male partners, etc), and such? Or do you honestly not see that there are differences?

    For now, can we stay on the topic actually posted? And, related to that:

    Is any depiction of violence against women automatically promoting such violence? I do think *Antichrist* is misogynist (I’ll post a review soon), but I don’t think *Dogville* is, though it is *about* misogyny. Surely, it’s the context and the tone that is important (just as some anti-war movies can be very violent).

    Also, I guess I should say that merely because I pose a question like this one doesn’t mean I necessary agree with it. You shouldn’t assume that my answer to this particular question is “yes” (or that it’s “no,” either).

  • As for the violence against men thing, I remember at some point I started feeling sorry for the Storm Troopers. I mean, some guy signs up for guard duty and his life is boring and mundane until the hero and villain run through and leave him dead on the side lines. And the hero runs around blasting people, but then has to arrest the villain because villain at this point is a person instead of a cutboard cutout with a target painted on his chest. It’s not just the Enterprise who has redshirts; the Klingons do, too.

    I suspect Terry Pratchett’s Guards, Guards summed up that situation in the best possible way.

    If not, well, it’s well worth reading, anyway.

  • For now, can we stay on the topic actually posted?

    Oops!

    My bad, MaryAnn…

  • Jester

    @MAJ: You’re right. “Every time” was an exaggeration. But it’s coming up more and more often in your writing, particularly on awfj.org. I was thinking specifically about this:

    http://awfj.org/2009/10/11/awfj-women-on-film-october-9-2009/

    and this:

    http://awfj.org/2009/08/21/awfj-women-on-film-the-week-in-women-august-21-2009-maryann-johanson/

    and this:

    http://awfj.org/2009/09/19/awfj-women-on-film-the-week-in-women-september-18-2008-maryann-johanson/

    , plus a couple of your recent reviews where you’ve snarked a bit about “change the gender of this movie from women doing X to men doing X and it suddenly makes no sense. So why do we need a movie about it when women do it?” though annoyingly, I can’t remember the specific reviews right now. I read pretty much every review you post, because you’re always pointing me at flicks I’d otherwise miss. ;-)

    Anyway, just something I’ve noticed in your writing lately. Maybe I’m just off base.

    With re: the Salon piece, glad you liked the pointer. The article is interesting and very snarky. But even more interesting than the article are the comments. It’s fascinating how many people immediately jump to the defense of their favorite celebs… disagreeing in the process with a very smart lady who knows exactly what she’s talking about. Those damned smart people again, putting on airs…

  • MaryAnn

    But Jester, my Week in Women column is specifically all about how women are portrayed differently on film and in the media about film! Are you suggesting that women are *not* treated differently?

    If you really think it’s inappropriate for me to do what I’m doing at TWIW, then I suggest you ignore that column. Because until Hollywood’s and the media’s attitudes toward women changes, that column is never going to run out of examples about how women and men are treated differently!

    And what, specifically, is *wrong* with highlighting these differences, when they’re unfair? What’s the alternative? To just sit back and take it?

  • Jester

    @MAJ: You just asked me to point out examples where, when someone writes something that is male-focused or female-focused, you jumped all over the author for that focus. I did that. ;-)

    I didn’t say that what you write at TWIW is wrong; obviously I don’t think that, or I wouldn’t read the pieces, as I’ve obviously been doing. What I found interesting, and questioned you on, was the fact that you created a QOTD that mirrors the articles that you’ve found annoying or offensive… when other people write them.

    In *this* particular case, what is *wrong* is to highlight the angle of violence toward women on film without at least mentioning the angle of violence toward men on film. And I obviously do understand the difference between violence directed at people rather than violence directed at women.

    Let’s do battlefield scenes first.

    When Meg Ryan’s character is shot in “Courage Under Fire”, I didn’t see her as a woman and I didn’t see Lou Diamond Philips’s character victimizing her as such. I saw her as a soldier. The scene would have and should have played out identically had it been a man in Ryan’s role.

    On the flipside, I invite you to consider the scene in “Saving Private Ryan” when Private Mellish is killed, in a brutal, almost rape-like scene, by the German with the knife (a scene that is even more horrible if you understand the German dialogue). Now imagine a woman in either of those roles, if you dare.

    And when the same German meets his comeuppance under Corporal Upham’s gun? Again, I invite you to try to place a woman in either role.

    Getting off battlefield scenes and toward violence specifically directed at men…

    It’s impossible for me to think about this topic without thinking of “A History of Violence”. In particular, consider the scene half-way through the movie where Jack Stall finally confronts the bullies at his school. Try to tell me that anything remotely like that kind of violence exists for women. And yet scenes like that — usually reversed — play out daily in high schools across this fine nation. Your review of that film, incidentally, was glowing.

    I’m ranting a bit, so I’m going to stop there. ;-) I’m sure you could point out a half-dozen movies where the situations above are reversed.

    So, taking this back to your original question: does Hollywood contribute toward violence against women? Yes. Does Hollywood contribute toward violence against men? Yep, them too, shockingly enough.

    If you couldn’t ask “Does Hollywood contribute toward violence against humans?”, you should have asked “HOW MUCH does Hollywood contribute toward violence toward women?” That question, I probably would have had less issue with.

  • amanohyo

    My wife just mentioned something obvious (in retrospect) that I didn’t even consider. She thinks that the main way Hollywood contributes to violence against women is by glorifying violent men. Even if their violence is not specifically directed against women, men who settle their differences of opinion with insults and violence are usually idolized rather than condemned (because they use violence and verbal abuse “for good,” unlike the “bad guys”). As always, there are plenty of exceptions, but I think it’s a good point, and I’m kind of ashamed that I didn’t think of it myself.

    I’d go a step further and say that not just Hollywood, but American society as a whole glorifies violent men (other countries do so as well I’m sure…hello Saudi Arabia). I guess that opens up the old familiar biological determinism bag of worms (humans are naturally violent animals, men are naturally more aggressive, etc.) , and I don’t think a country with the most powerful military in the world can really avoid glorifying “good” violence to a certain extent. So, I’m not sure if we can realistically expect heroes/heroines to stop resorting to violence as often. I’m not a violent person, but I can’t deny that I find (non-gratuitous) violence almost always exciting in a primal sense, often entertaining, and on rare occasions even beautiful. I guess part of a possible solution would be to have more violent heroines? They have plenty of those in Japan, and it remains one of the most sexist developed countries in the world, so that might not accomplish much on its own.

  • Jester

    @MAJ: P.S. And no, I won’t be offended if you bring up the Salon piece with or without the male representation. Jim Carrey is, if anything, even more adamant about his sweeping knowledge of immunology than Jenny McCarthy is. ;-)

  • amanohyo

    I guess if I want to stay consistent with my previous argument, the fact that American society glorifies violent men doesn’t let Hollywood producers/writers off the hook for doing the same.

  • bree

    My two cents: the brain is a complex mechanism and the fact is, we just DON’T KNOW how violence depicted ‘on screen’ (film/TV/gaming) effects/conditions/desensitizes the viewer and to what degree if any it correlates to real life attitudes or actions.

    One thing is certain: society in general is more violent than ever. Is screen violence a contributing factor or a merely a reflection? Cause and effect, chicken and the egg. It would be a fascinating experiment to completely remove all screen violence – including contact sports – from view for 100 years and then observe the cultural impact.

  • JoshB

    One thing is certain: society in general is more violent than ever.

    Are you talking about human society (the Crusades, WWII, Rwanda), or American society (the Civil War, Manifest Destiny)?

  • Blank Frank

    My blanket opinion for “how much of a role do the media take in encouraging violence” is: I don’t necessarily believe that they’re directly responsible for anything amongst most people, as most people don’t go reenacting every violent event they see on a screen or read in a book…

    However, I do feel that they play a role of setting the tone on the topic. In most cases, they simply reinforce our mores; to go all Brechtian, we tend to watch these media with our hearts and not our minds, so that we can feel good for having the values we do, because the story pats us on the back for it. Good guy wins because he stands for what we believe in, bad guy loses because he defies it.

    In some cases, seeing the same topics handled the same way over the years might shape our feelings towards the topic, especially if it’s a subject we’re not receiving a lot of input on. I often wonder how much of the “battle of the sexes” and the assumption that men and women can never understand one another is built on accepting what we see as the roles and habits of men and women in movies and TV as fact (because it’s easier to watch a sit/rom-com than it is to have a serious, in-depth discussion)…versus opinions formed after actual experiences with the other sex. But I don’t think one movie alone does it, so much as receiving the same message time and again and not questioning it.

    In short: TV and movies make a good barometer and enforcer of values, but not necessarily a creator thereof. I don’t think Hollywood’s causing violence against women, it’s just not playing any part in fixing it.

  • Kenny

    Society is blatantly NOT more violent now than ever. There is simply no evidence to back that up. What we have is greater coverage and reporting of violence in society than ever before… but I am extremely unlikely to be stopped and robbed as I drive my car down a country lane. It is extremely unlikely that a plane will fly over my town on a bombing run.

    My country is not under the constant threat of invasion, something my ancestors had to deal with for practically the entire span of our recorded history (I live in Scotland by the way)

    In what way is society more violent now? Are there more rapes? Muggings? Assaults? Can you honestly say you believe they are more common now than they were a hundred years ago?

    Now to stay on topic, apologies MAJ, I think it’s unlikely that Hollywood has much to do with inciting violence against women. It often depicts women in the most deplorably unrealistic fashion (as it often does with men) but any research I have ever read about abusers or rapists suggests that their family backgrounds have by far the largest impact on any future abusive behaviour.
    Kids whose father’s abused them or their mothers often go on to become abusers themselves. I don’t for one second believe that little boys in stable homes grow up to abuse women because they saw some negative stereotypes in the movies.

    While we’re at it though, the most horrific crimes against women have very often been religiously inspired. (If inspired could ever be the right word for it.)

  • Paul

    I wouldn’t be going too far out on a limb and say that alcohol plays a bigger role in violence against women than movies; it is a part of 40% of date rape, and alcohol flows at those college parties despite all the underage kids.

    I read a book by a woman who had spent her college life absorbing all the men are violent ideas, and then in her 30s realized that she herself did not personally know any violent men. So she did research and found the best indicators for a potentially violent man were:

    1: a violent father
    2: an athletic coach who taught to win at all costs
    3: a low IQ (leading to frustration at an inability to cope with problems)
    4: a chemical imbalance in the brain

    Movies were not on the list, because, let’s face it, we all watch violent movies, even if only because we’re dragged there by friends.

  • bree

    I was referring to basic violent crime (murders, rapes, assaults) inflicted by one citizen on another, not casualties of war, terrorism, etc., obviously.

    In most countries with reliable reporting capabilities, violent crime statistics have steadily risen over the last half-century. Some of this is undoubtedly due to higher levels of reporting and improved methods for gathering statistics, but that would in all probability not account for the substantial increases in violent crime, especially such crimes as basic assault and murder, where the ‘shame’ factor of rape reporting can not be claimed to seriously skew the numbers.

    One of the most telling sources are emergency rooms, which routinely gather statistics regarding admittance of victims of violent crime. Some emergency rooms in countries such as the UK and US report rises in admittance of victims of assault by as much as 30% over 5 years.

    (Unfortunately I was at work when I found a great comprehensive link but I can’t seem to find the same source now, I’ll post it later if I have any luck)

  • Kenny

    I’d repeat my earlier point about reporting crime. Back in the day, the poor would go to a woman who was good with a needle, or perhaps to a doctor with a few rooms in the back of the local shop. The days of ambulances carting the injured to large central hospitals that record data on causes of injury are extremely recent.

    You’re saying *some* emergency rooms in the UK and the US are reporting a rise of 30%? What does some mean? Does it correlate with social changes in the local areas of those specific hospitals? What about the emergency rooms that have reported a fall of 30% over the same period?

  • Tim1974

    I agree that there are many problems that females face that need to be improved in films. However, I feel it is important to mention that males are facing problems as well. They are being exploited and are also the recipients of violence including discussion of and scenes of sexual mutilation. I believe that the only way a solution can be obtained is if both genders work together to accomplish it.

  • The sight of a naked penis on the silver screen can inspire Tim1974 to give us endless rants about how horrible it is to have to see a naked man in a movie but the anecdotes mentioned above elicit no reaction greater than “well, men get hurt, too.”

    Interesting…

  • thank you, kenny, for pointing out that our perception of society being “more violent” is based on being bombarded with 24/7 news coverage and the newsrooms feeling it necessary to ramp up the emotion of each crime reported in order to maintain ratings or capture attention.

    my father was a police officer in NYC for 22 years, and he always says that there are no “more” kidnappings or child abuse or violent crimes — he just hear about it more. additionally, as society opened up more to the reporting of such crimes, we hear about them more. but per capita it is not statistically true that there are more rapes, child abuse, or other violent crimes than in our dim, distant past.

  • ah, all of which was my way of saying that while i don’t think that Hollywood necessarily contributes directly to violence against women (or others)it does contribute to a society that *accepts* violent acts more. all art reflects the society we live in, whether it’s what the artist hopes society will be, or what the artist perceives it to actually be. i don’t think a person who is not prone to violence by nature will be inspired to commit acts of violence by seeing a Hollywood movie; but a person with an already aggressive attitude towards others might have that attitude reinforced.

  • Accounting Ninja

    Also, that 30% could just mean that more people are seeking treatment for violence than before, but not necessarily that violence itself is more prevalent.

    Not saying what I think one way or another, just exercising my usual skepticism of statistics.

  • Paul

    Of course, if watching TV doesn’t influence behavior, it must be interesting justifying all those commercials.

  • bree

    I doubt the practice of going to the hospital for treatment of injuries is some new phenomenon that has suddenly taken off in the last 5 years.

  • bitchen frizzy

    –“I doubt the practice of going to the hospital for treatment of injuries is some new phenomenon that has suddenly taken off in the last 5 years.”

    It isn’t a new phenomenon. It has taken off, however. Two reasons why emergency room visits are surging. First, the uninsured and undocumented often can’t get timely treatment for any condition any other way but to go to the emergency room. Second, more people than ever before rush themselves or their children to the emergency room for every sniffle and stubbed toe.

    A long time ago, emergency rooms were for people turning blue or with bones sticking out. Now, they’re blowing up with people who have relatively minor problems.

  • bree

    Whatever, that has nothing to do with my earlier comment, which was that emergency rooms on the coalface of treating serious injuries have recorded a marked increase in the treatment of injuries from violent crime.

    Are the victims of violent crime such as gun violence and serious assaults requiring immediate medical attention suddenly being taken to emergency rooms just in the last 5 years? Were ambulances gathering dust just 6 years ago? I don’t think so. I don’t get the combative attitude toward the possibility that violent crime is more common today than 50 years ago. The proliferation of guns and gun violence alone is testament to this trend.

  • bree

    US crime stats, 1960-2008:

    http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/uscrime.htm

    The 1990’s were the worst, but if people insist the overall rise in crime rates is an illusion simply due to better reporting practices, I guess that’s your prerogative, but there certainly is a case to be made that society in the US is more violent now than in 1960.

  • MaryAnn

    I don’t get the combative attitude toward the possibility that violent crime is more common today than 50 years ago. The proliferation of guns and gun violence alone is testament to this trend.

    But the raw numbers don’t tell the whole story. How much of the rise is murders is down to violence related to illegal drugs? If we were to legalize all recreational drugs today, would the reason for much of that violence (ie, dealers and gangs fighting over turf, etc) disappear? Or maybe not. But the raw figures don’t tell the whole story.

    Of course, if watching TV doesn’t influence behavior, it must be interesting justifying all those commercials.

    Actually, there’s quite a bit of debate now over the effectiveness of advertising on TV!

  • amanohyo

    I thought the recent debate on the effectiveness of advertising arose simply because people with DVRs don’t watch the ads anymore. Isn’t it a well established fact that ads work if you watch them, especially ads directed at children (and the young-at-brain)? I’m fairly open minded, but can it be true that the entire foundation of the marketing industry is a sham? As intelligent adults, we all like to think that marketing only works on those who aren’t as wily and media savy as we are, but visual ads must work to some degree on everyone who sees them. Many a time I’ve caught myself thinking about buying a product or service only to stop and think, “I don’t really need this right now, why do I have this sudden urge?” Marketing, my friend, marketing…and maybe hunger, and a little boredom, but mostly marketing.

    You can’t tell me that a childhood spent watching violent men in movies has absolutely no effect. Sure, it doesn’t mean that they’ll become a rapist or even a violent adult, but at the very least in reinforces certain ideas that they have about what it means to be masculine, and conceptions of masculinity are more plastic than many people realize. Imagine how masculine the bling, shoe, hair, clothes, and cell phone-obsessed male teenagers/twenty-somethings of today would seem just twenty years ago. They seem like modern dandies to me, and yet they’re considered extremely macho by today’s standards.

  • Jester

    @bree: Pay much more attention to the rates per 100,000 people than the raw numbers. And as MAJ correctly states, even those don’t tell anything close to the whole story.

    The number of women who report the crime of rape is extremely low… as low as 15% of cases, in the lowest estimates. And that’s *today*. I defy you to tell me the reporting percentage was higher in 1960. If anything, it was a small fraction of that 15%.

    As for the other statistics, when I saw the website you referenced, my eyes immediately flashed to the line for 1968 in the per-capita chart. That’s a much fairer comparison to today than 1960. You had many of the same circumstances that year as today: a wave of social change and upheaval, wide unemployment, rampant protests. And sure enough, most of the per-capita numbers are lower for 2008 than 1968, or are very close to equal.

    The two that are higher are aggravated assault and rape… and that’s what we’re talking about, isn’t it?

    I don’t think there’s any question we have a more violent society today than in 1968. And as amanohyo correctly states, you can’t watch what we watch for decades without it having SOME effect on society. Do school bullies set another child on fire without a cool Hollywood hero type showing them how?

  • Accounting Ninja

    @bree, I wasn’t disagreeing or agreeing with you. Merely stating that stats alone never convince me. Stats can be influenced by a large number of things. Maybe they aren’t telling the whole story.

    For example, perhaps due to outreach programs and a shift in cultural attitude, more victims of domestic violence are seeking emergency treatment where they may not have before. Maybe this contributes to a “spike” in ER visits for DV victims. Someone may see that and think DV itself is on the rise, when it is probably not. Likewise child predators: many of my family are convinced that there are more nowadays. But there aren’t; people are just talking about them more and prosecuting them, as opposed to ignoring the problem and not talking about it.

    Also, bitchen frizzy hit on a great point: the uninsured. The economy has cost many their jobs, along with their health insurance. Now, people who would have had coverage 5 years ago are seeking treatment at emergency facilities, because they can’t legally deny treatment due to inability to pay.

    Through my feeble Goggle-fu, I can also produce stats that say that violent crime was at its lowest levels in 2005: Bureau of Justice Stats. From 1998 to 2007, violent crime fell 17.7%. (Yes, I realize the irony of a stat-skeptic like me quoting stats.)

    There’s no “combative attitude” here. Merely healthy debate. :/

Pin It on Pinterest