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Double Standards, Double Vision

March 3, 2009 – 12:32 am

I was flipping through the TV channels on my basic cable package tonight when I stumbled upon one of the many crime dramas that have been cloned and disseminated across the various networks. It was towards the beginning of the program, and a detective had just arrived on the scene. A woman was lying topless in the middle of the street, with a man’s tie draped over one breast and the other breast completely severed. That’s right – severed as in missing. All that was left was a grotesque, bloody gash in her chest. The camera showed this not once but twice, the second time lingering as the detective leaned over the body of the woman and discussed it in detail with the coroner.

I find it absurd beyond belief that the FCC allows this type of visual image to be presented so casually in a program yet has an absolute fit when Janet Jackson briefly flashes a nipple during the Super Bowl. The fact that an incredibly violent act against a woman is treated so casually as to be background dressing for a standard cop show yet a millisecond of nudity results in hefty fines, apologies and a major decency crisis is incredible.

What kind of a message does this send to viewers? What kind of an attitude does this indicate with respect to the treatment of women? It is hard to imagine a world where advertisers line up to book time on a highly rated drama that features sexually mutilated corpses yet run for cover at the slightest suggestion of unintended nudity or sexuality. Yet this is the reality that is television, where even hardcore violence has filtered down to become yet another consumable to be processed by our couch-bound brains.

It may sound as though I am arguing against myself – railing both for and against censorship in order to tailor the content of what is broadcast to suit my personal tastes. That is not my intention. My aim is to ask you to ask yourself, what exactly do you, personally, find entertaining about absorbing such brutal and violent images? What do programs that feature these motifs bring to your life? And finally, what effect do you think being bombarded with ultra-violence has had on your perceptions of the world around you?

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