Exhibit A: Raymell Mourice “Ray” Rice. NFL running back for the Baltimore Ravens since 2008. He was a 2012 Super Bowl Champion and has a number of other accolades: three-times to the NFL Pro Bowl all-star game, AFC Champion and the NFL Play of the Year award in 2012. He’s also the 200-pound pro football player who delivered a knockout punch to his fiancée, Janay Palmer, while they were riding in an elevator in Atlantic City this past February.
Exhibit B: Two new TV shows, Legends (TNT) and The Mysteries of Laura (NBC). There are many other examples I could pick, but these stuck out, perhaps because I’ve always liked Ali Larter and Debra Messing, who star in them. The problem I have is the way in which both shows sexualized their female stars.
Casual violence against women. Women as eye-candy sex objects. No connection?
I’ve ranted a lot about the seeming disconnect between our supposed stances against violence and our stunningly hypocritical love of violence in almost every aspect of life. Today I want to rant more specifically about the disconnect between our two social views of women and the role they play in society.
We are downright schizophrenic when it comes to women. On the one hand we work to promote equality in the workplace and we worry about violence against women. On the other hand, the Miss America Pageant not only still exists, but still has a swimsuit competition.
The mind boggles.
It comes, perhaps, from being downright schizophrenic when it comes to sex. We love the stuff — can’t get enough of it (pornography is a five-billion dollar business, and that’s just the legal side of it). But while we love our splattered blood and cut-open corpses in prime time, nudity (let alone sex) is reserved for cable shows (where it’s obligatory whether it makes any sense of not).
The problem seems to be that really doing something about the problem requires acknowledging our own participation. It requires that we do something, that we change our approach to life.
The problem isn’t over there somewhere. The problem is right here. In our laps.
Fixing it requires more than Twitter tweets or Facebook wall scribblings or wearing pretty colored ribbons. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that those things have almost no effect whatsoever. They might make one feel like they’ve “done something,” but that feeling is false, a feel-good illusion.
There are certainly groups who work hard to clean up the aftereffects of our objectification of women. And there are groups who work hard promoting equality or who work hard to somehow, somehow, somehow, reduce the violence against women.
But when a pro football player delivers a knockout punch to the jaw of his fiancée, when new TV shows immediately place their substantial female stars gratuitously in skimpy clothing (or worse, in sexualized situations), one has to wonder how much progress has actually been made.
And one really has to wonder when the NFL manages to handle the situation in every worst way possible. They not only broke every rule about handling domestic violence, but treated the matter far too lightly and may even have attempted a cover up to protect a “valuable” player.
I don’t really want to talk about Ray Rice. There’s plenty of news out there if you want to know more (assuming you’ve been living in a cave and haven’t seen the gut-sickening surveillance video dozens of times by now).
I am, however, disturbed that the NFL coverup is distracting from the underlying issue. At first there was a strong conversation going about domestic violence, but the putative NFL coverup is taking over the spotlight. (And the whole thing is slowly sliding away as the country gets bored and moves on to its next thrill.)
Instead, let me talk about the seeds that bring forth such foul fruit.
The new TNT summer show, Legends, stars Sean Bean and Ali Larter, two actors I rather like (except that poor Bean always seems to get his head cut off or something). The show turns out to be more of the usual mindless foolishness — sound and fury of no account. Bean is a master undercover operative for the FBI, and Larter is his superior — his boss.
Of course, it can’t be that simple on TV. Turns out they had some sort of fling in the past and so now there’s an edge to their relationship (ah, good old workplace sex — makes everything so much more “interesting”).
And how quickly they get Larter into stripper gear giving Bean a lap dance (because Bad Guys typically meet in strip clubs, you know), supposedly in order to deliver crucial information he needed to know immediately. What would they have done had Bean’s boss been a guy? (Oh, right, found something much more sensible.)
Or consider NBC’s new fall show, The Mysteries of Laura, a police comedy-drama filled with clichéd and hackneyed fluff. (It’s so weirdly out of date that it reminded me somewhat of the old Sledge Hammer! TV show — if not Police Squad! — but without the light-heartedness or charm of either.)
I realized the show was idiotic in the first few minutes, when homicide detective, Laura Diamond, shoots a hostage-holding bad guy. In the ear. Which (oddly) does not result in the bad guy shooting his hostage or anyone else. No, this perp — who’d just killed two people in a Bodega robbery — conveniently falls to the ground screaming.
Which allows divorced mother of two, Det. Diamond, to do the old “mom wiping child’s face with hankie” bit on the blood-splattered face of the shocked hostage (the show’s schtick involves how she uses her mothering instincts to solve crimes).
What I wanted to know is what happened to the bullet she fired in a crowded park. What I wondered was why firing a weapon in a crowded public place seemed to involve no review whatsoever by police superiors or IAB.
Oh, it’s a comedy (involving firing guns at people in public parks), so I guess reality got checked at the door. Excuse me all to hell for looking for a modicum of sense in a TV show.
What put the show on my Shit List was how they managed — in the very first episode — to put star Debra Messing first in a skimpy bathing suit and then, in a later scene, in her underwear. (For what it’s worth, I’m not the only one who hated the show! Critics and Twitter slammed it good and hard. Bravo for taste and sense!!)
These are hardly isolated incidents. These are, in fact, standard operating procedure. We pay lip service to the idea that women are equal to men, but in reality — more often than not — we see them as objects of beauty and sex.
And we wonder why rape and spousal abuse is a problem.