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 Post subject: TV Trends: Is television going in the right direction?
PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2005 8:32 am 
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Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2005 12:36 pm
Posts: 4702
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Location: Chicago, IL
Hello Kittens. A couple of things have come together recently and I wanted to evaluate them in an open forum.

Now. Some of this stuff might be skirting the rules a bit, I beg the Moderator’s indulgence; my purpose mostly is to compare an contrast what is said here to what we have said already in the FAQ and the Cliché thread.

Another issue that brings this up (and now I beg the new Kitten’s forgiveness) but WE FUCKING TOLD YOU ALL SO!!! A lot of what is now being said and discussed (here, and in other places) are things we had said two-three years ago.

And finally, the last issue comes from my wife. We watched “Nip/Tuck” last night, even though we had previously decided not to. We were only reinforced in our decision. It’s not that the show is bad, or the writing has slipped, it is just the unrelenting pain and torture. I have like 100 news channels, why do I need to see this stuff in “entertainment”?

Ok. Now on to the point.

The latest trend in television has been an increased amount of violence, especially violence towards women.

I present to you a new article from the Chicago Tribune. ... tfront-hed
TV terror
Media professor takes his television seriously, and a grisly new trend disturbs him

By Patrice M. Jones
Tribune staff reporter
Published October 18, 2005

The look of sheer terror in the woman's eyes is enough to make even the strongest stomach clench.

When she realizes she has been kidnapped and can't get out of her captor's car, her eyes futilely dart to the left and to the right. She shouts and whack -- a hard slap comes slamming across her face.

The end seems near. Yet the writers of the new CBS drama "Criminal Minds" take the slow torture of the attractive, young female victim as something to be drawn out ever so slowly.

Later, the same woman is in a cage. Her eyes are wrapped in endless duct tape. Her mouth is gagged. She is whimpering and chained like a dog. Her captor -- of all things -- clips her bloodied fingernails to get her ready for the kill.

Enough already.

But this show is just one of many in the networks' new-show lineup serving a mind-numbing variety of scenarios in which women are raped, chained, butchered and brutalized for your nightly entertainment.

"Sadistic is the only word to use for some of these shows," said Jeffrey Sconce, an associate professor of radio, television and film at Northwestern University.

"Many shows this season ... had gruesome shots of women being brutalized and terrorized in very graphic and extended ways," Sconce said.

The display of such sadistic behavior against women is enough to raise the eyebrows of even Sconce, an expert on media and popular culture who has viewed just about the best and the worst the small screen has to offer. He has become a go-to guy when it comes to dissecting America's fascination with all things television.

Sconce takes television seriously.

That is to say as much as one can when you are subjected to a new show such as Fox's "Killer Instinct," which features in its opening scene the homicide of a woman paralyzed by venomous spiders, then raped while she is immobilized and powerless to do anything.

The killer, who turns out to be a university professor, amputates the finger of another victim. That finger --one might ask why -- is found in the mouth of yet another victim.

Sconce says, of course, you don't have to look deep into history to see that women are "disproportionately the number of crime victims in movies and television."

"They are always terrorized and chased by sadists and psychos," Sconce said.

Just take the movie "Psycho." Janet Leigh let out that terrifying wide-mouthed scream back in 1960. But since then the woman who is caught alone in the shower or runs away in high heels, slips and falls, screams and then falls again, only to be pounced on by the killer, has become a television and film mainstay.

Sconce argues that the big difference in today's series such as "Criminal Minds" and "Killer Instinct," and to a lesser extent, CBS' "Close to Home" (in which a woman's husband puts a dog collar on her as punishment), is the desire to push the envelope as much as possible to grab the attention of distracted viewers.

Pushing the envelope

Sconce says we should view the current display of unusual brutality against women as nothing less than an act of desperation.

Call it the "CSI" effect, but ever since that rocket ship of a program hit the airwaves, weird crimes, forensics and gore have been the calling cards of many shows. And because the Federal Communications Commission is cracking down on sexual content in programs, the next best thing is upping the violence.

"I understand the networks' position," Sconce said. "Their audience has been eroding for the last 20 years, and they are losing a high-end demographic to shows that affluent viewers watch, such as "Deadwood" on HBO and "The Shield" on FX."

"The networks have gotten into trouble when trying to show nudity, so the other avenue to get viewers is to increase the violence."

Still, to keep it all in perspective, Sconce says despite some television networks' current aim at the baser elements in viewers, some television dramas -- in many ways -- "are much more artistic and vibrant now than the cinema."

"You see people taking storytelling more seriously," Sconce said. "Shows like `Lost' and `24' have complex narratives you couldn't think about doing in film."

Now television is getting its share of serious scholarship on university campuses such as Northwestern. And Sconce, 43, has been one contributor to that scholarship with his research on topics as diverse as the phenomenon of reality television to the touchstone trend of the use of irony in television comedies in the '90s.

Sconce, who spent his formative years in Dallas, says he loved watching television as a kid but it took a few years before he would commit to studying a field that had been considered the ugly stepchild among academics.

He started out as an undergraduate at the University of Texas at Austin studying English literature but decided as a graduate student "the world did not need another dissertation on James Joyce or Emily Bronte."

Instead, he focused his dissertation on the history of media technology, fascinated by the pie-in-the-sky beliefs and sometimes-delusional ideas that descend on people when they talk about new technologies.

"The study resonated because I was writing at a time when people were making amazing predictions about new technologies, such as computers -- saying they could save us from everything," Sconce said.

"People were talking about virtual reality, and some were saying one day we will download our consciousness and live forever in computers. And it struck me as just a load of crap. I wondered why we tell ourselves these fantastic stories, and I found it has been happening since the telegraph."

Dissertation became book

The dissertation became Sconce's highly praised book, "Haunted Media: Electronic Presence from Telegraphy to Television," which focused on the historical fantasies, delusions and superstitious beliefs about the electronic media.

After earning his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1995, Sconce also taught at the University of Southern California. He is married to Lynn Spigel, who is department chair and also a professor in Northwestern's department of radio, television and film.

"TV had always been the forbidden bad fruit in academia," Sconce said.

"For a long time, no one ever wanted to admit that television was anything but this horrible, horrible contagion in society."

"For a long time, we only asked questions such as, `Does TV make kids stupid? Does TV make kids violent?' So the field was understudied."

"But ignoring TV is like trying to ignore a 2-ton elephant."


As you can see, there are many points that we have already discussed here.

Sure, there are some good, even really great dramas on TV. Many better that the movies (the supposed superior art form). But what does it matter when it caters to the lowest common denomenator.

We have talked here at great length about the violence against women in popular media. It seems that now, when things are getting worse, that other people are paying attention.

Or even worse than the violence, there is the psuedo-empoyerment issue. Where a woman is empoyered, only to meet up with a more powerful man that puts her back in her place, or finding ways to de-power her (insert your own Freudian imagery here).

I think that was one (of several) reasons we had an issue with one show in particular. The creators confused "empowerment" with "Power ups" and yet still found ways to brutally attack, murder, rape or degrade their female characters. And yet they acted so confused when the fans pointed this out (or hid behind some lame ass excuse).

Kittens. Your thoughts and comments (before I run into pages and pages of this).


Web Warlock,
Visit my Willow and Tara page!
Tara: "My whole life has been 'Tara, don't use your magic.' 'Tara, hide your powers.' 'Tara you will scare someone.' But you tried to hurt and then kill Willow. So maybe it is time I showed everyone just how powerful I am."
- The Dragon and the Phoenix, Episode 7: The Road to Hell

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