Violence in the Media – Why I Wish I Hadn’t Watched the TV Series You
One of my greatest fears in life is to be attacked. My fear comes from my lived experiences but, more importantly, I largely attribute it to the graphic of depictions of violence that are omnipresent in the media – depictions that, despite my best efforts, can be hard to avoid.
From sexual abuse to drug cartel battles to war, content showcasing violence is literally everywhere in the media, and in the entertainment industry in particular. In fact, it’s so common that sometimes we don’t even realize how entrenched it is to intake violence-based content, just for fun. We don’t see that we’re participating in a mass system or culture of glamorizing violence. And while I hate all forms of gratuitous violence in the media, I’m particularly sensitive to the sensationalization of entertainment content that showcases violence against women.
This issue has been weighing on my mind – including how I’ve been contributing to this problem with what I’ve been consuming – after recently watching the TV series You.
A while back, I was stranded in an airport hotel because of an epic snowstorm. Feeling sorry for myself , I donned the fluffy hotel bathrobe, ordered room service, and then curled up in bed to watch hours of TV. Several of my girlfriends had been raving about the TV series You (they’re not alone – over 40 million people have watched it now!) and so I put in on. And like many of you who have watched it, I couldn’t look away and ended up binge-watching the entire first season in one sitting.
If you haven’t seen it, You is a psychological thriller that follows an attractive male New York City bookstore manager who falls in love with a beautiful female customer. [SPOILER ALERT COMING UP IN THE FEW SENTENCES!!!] He becomes obsessed with her and, using various devious strategies, stalks her, manipulates her into falling in love with him, holds her hostage, and then ultimately kills her. Along the way, we see that he’s also hurt other women (and men), and all of this grotesque behavior comes without any repercussions. And, worse yet, there are innuendos that this will continue in the second season.
From the moment the last episode ended, I felt just awful. I tuned into my body and I could feel sensations of anxiousness throughout my body. And upon reflection, I quickly knew it wasn’t just because I had watched a TV thriller. I should not have watched You for several reasons.
As someone who has been a victim of stalking (which I plan to blog about shortly – stay tuned), it brought up terrifying memories from my past. So, I obviously shouldn’t have taken in this content for that reason alone. But here’s what is even more striking to me, as a feminist and staunch advocate for disrupting gender oppression, I didn’t pause on the misogynistic qualities of the show until my body told me that something was off! With the benefit of reflection, I can now see that one of the fundamental problems with You, and other TV series and movies like it, is that it represents gender violence without addressing how to interrupt it, address it, protect against it, or heal from the hurt it causes. Instead, it uses gender violence to hook audiences in (including me, a self-proclaimed feminist!) in how it glamorizes and normalizes it.
My reflections post-You have helped to significantly alter what I’m taking in. I already was an advocate for being more mindful in what content we consume and what we intake on social media, but this has opened my eyes even further.
There are now a few things that I do to ensure I’m making more critically conscious decisions in in what I consume to reduce the amount of gratuitous violence-based content I’m taking in, gender-based or otherwise. Before I start watching anything, I’ll either read up on what it’s about or watch the trailer. If it has “glamorization of violence” written on it, it’s a no-go. If I do start to watch the programming, I repeatedly ask myself three things:
Is there anything I’ve seen so far that feels oppressive (sexist, racist, offensive etc.) to me?
How is my body feeling as I’m watching? Am I activated in any way?
How are women and people from diverse communities being represented here?
If I have even a remotely negative response to any of these questions, that’s it for the program.
I say this repeatedly, but I’m going to say it again: what we consume matters! As I’ve shared here with you, I’m continuing in my journey of learning more about this. My hope for you in reading my story is that you’ll join me in being part of the solution – and not the problem – in how we hold the media accountable for the glamorization of violence. Let’s collectively start to consume media that lifts us, empowers us, and celebrates diversity.
Is there anything you’re consuming at the moment that doesn’t feel right with you? After today, what will you do to ensure you’re making better choices in what you choose to consume?