UNIT ONE: An older woman is found murdered in her home and Unit One is called in.
INSPECTOR REX: A zoo worker finds a murdered woman in the grounds of the park surrounding the famous Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna.
WIRE IN THE BLOOD: Dr Tony Hill is faced with a series of puzzles when a killer rapes and strangles young female victims in Bradfield but chooses to re-dress them as young women he has previously killed in Europe.
There’s some uplifting viewing here, eh? Most of what’s screening involves women being raped, tied up, abused, slapped around, used as bait in drug deals, or murdered by their husbands/fathers/brothers/boyfriends/random derros. There seems to be a particular obsession with murdered prostitutes. Sometimes it’s abducted girls who need to be ‘saved’ by a crack crime-fighting team led by a man (or at a pinch, a gruff, lonely single woman with alcohol abuse problems).
I realise that it’s not just the whores and virgins of this world being bumped off for the slavering masses. You can read into the TV guide what you want. At Sea Patrol they’re murdering tourists for entertainment. In CSI: Miami it’s some woman’s son, Murder Squad a disabled bloke, Stargate the time/space continuum and over at America’s Next Top Model it’s the English language.
But the fact remains that the overwhelming amount of drama on teevee is propelled by the mistreatment of a woman.
This genre started with the wonderful 1998 flick Silence of the Lambs. (I love the tagline: “Clarice Starling, FBI. Brilliant. Vulnerable. Alone.”) It was an absolute standout when it premiered, and won about five Oscars. There was some horrifying stuff in this flick, much of it about murdered women. But that’s not the point of Silence of the Lambs, nor was it why people turned out to see it with such enthusiasm. With elaborate plotting it brought in elements of forensic science, psychology, biology and more. It introduced Clarice, one of the great female film heroes, and Hannibal, one of the most ghastly villains.
But Silence of the Lambs spawned about a million tepid imitations; crime shows that portray horror for horror’s sake. Women are murdered, the case pursued, solved and neatly tied up in 42 minutes. We don’t find out much about the killer or the victim, and much of the plot exists to further the character development of the cast of feeble stereotypes.
CGI is now mandatory (where there’s a sucking, rushing noise, the camera appears to burrow through someone’s eye, shoot up the optic nerve and settle upon some microbes on the brain, to ominous oozing sounds), and every season at least one of the women on the team is kidnapped or threatened by a psychopath. They will be saved by the male lead, who more often than not, has a head and neck like a railway girder rising out of a collar. (Although sometime they feck with that by putting a FEMALE LEAD in to save the day, what will they think of next) There’ll be a heartbeat over the soundtrack, at least one meticulous description of how a little girl was abducted and killed, and if you’re lucky there will be a shot of a naked, mutilated body in the morgue.
All visual, visceral stuff, designed to appeal quickly to the senses with sudden flashes, aural shocks and gory details. And at the expense of some hapless female. I don’t know what you call it, but it’s not what I fancy viewing when I need to unwind.
You’ll notice there’s no such preoccupation with violence within our one community station Channel 31. Every time I catch that madcap Words of Peace guy, he’s noticeably free of gore. Josie Perelli on Chartbusting 80s hasn’t yet been garrotted by her ex-husband. Stella’s wheelchair on No Limits doesn’t shoot flames (although I suspect she’d like it if it did). And the Planet Nerd guys keep themselves amused with Linux references, Joss Whedon and obscure quantum physics jokes in preference to decapitation, sexual abuse and torture.
Could there be a link between commercial entertainment and depictions of violence against women? Could people have become so inured to what entertainment has become, that we have forgotten that violence against women isn’t in fact entertaining?
Bek wondered recently why Hollywood hates women so much. And I’m wondering why the entertainment industry as a whole does.