Gender and TV/Movie Violence

Hey people its Danny again. Its been a few weeks since my last post so let’s get to it.

I’ll warn you now this post mentions rape. Tread carefully.

Okay recently I’ve been milling over two posts by Pelle Billing about male disposability. Well one thing that I’ve noticed about male disposability is that it can and sometimes does lead to the belief that a man’s life is worth less than a woman’s and from there can lead to the impression that violence against woman is somehow worse than violence against a man.

Case in point I was watching an old western movie called “Five Savage Men”. Basically five bandits rob a stagecoach that is carrying a load of gold. When they catch up to it the men are killed immediately and after resisting one of the two women was killed (one of the five bandits was actually on the coach meaning it was an inside job). The other woman was taken hostage. I noticed that as the men on the coach were killed I really didn’t feel any concern for their fate. However when the one woman was killed I suddenly cared about the fact that they killed a woman.

After taking the other woman to their camp and after attempting to escape she was chased down and gang raped by the five bandits. Again I felt the expected concern for such a situation. Well like with the killing I began to wonder how I can see a crime be committed against a man and a woman but somehow think that the crime against the woman is somehow worse.

At first I was thinking that desensitization was the answer. On the whole when it comes to seeing murder on tv/movies I frankly I see men killed more often than women.* So maybe the reason I felt more when seeing a woman killed than a man was because I had just gotten used to seeing men killed left and right. Well that really doesn’t fly because of two reasons. One even though they aren’t killed quite as often as men there are still A LOT of women killed in movies and television. The second reason that thought fails me is that when looking at a crime in that happens to women more often than men I still feel more concern for the female victim.

Let’s talk rape for a bit. After being taken to the bandit camp the second woman was gang raped. Now there is no question that when it comes to movies and tv the majority of rape victims are women. Now going by the thought of seeing it so often that it no longer strikes a cord it would stand to reason that seeing a woman raped on tv or in a movie would not illicit much of a response like my reaction to seeing men murdered. But that is not the case. Even comparing that rape scene to say the one in American History X it feels odd to react that way.

For the scene in “Five Savage Men” imagine a camera laying on the ground the five guys doing pushups with their faces going up and down into the camera. The scene ended with showing her unconscious and tied to the ground to five stakes (one on each wrist and ankle and one with her hair tied around it). In American History X two guys are holding him face first against the wall while the rapist penetrates him and you could see everything except the actual penetration itself (I mean as in the four men in this scene were actually naked and the rapist was at least forcefully grinding against his victim giving the allusion of sex). That scene ends with the victim lying on the ground crying with a pool of his blood washing down the drain (it happened in a prison shower). But even with the differing depictions I had more of a response to the scene of the woman being raped.

So I’m left wondering why whether the crime is more likely to happen to a man or woman I’m still inclined to have more of a response to the woman victim.

Any ideas?

* – No I am not trying to say/insinuate/imply or whatever that women are not killed that often in entertainment but frankly men are killed more often. If you look at most of your shows and movies that involve death you’ll see it. In fact the movie that made me think of this is a western. I dare you try to say that women are killed more often that men in westerns.

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9 Responses to Gender and TV/Movie Violence

  1. makomk says:

    The TV Tropes wiki has an interesting article on this phenomena, as per usual…

  2. Alix says:

    I wonder if it doesn’t have something to do with a greater prevalence of victimizers being men. Men attacking their own — maybe the victim has also victimized at some point, we don’t know. Perhaps the woman victim has too, but it is far less likely since men are much more likely to rape and violently murder. So maybe the woman appears more innocent (at least as far as propensity to rape or violently kill others) then the man.

  3. Danny says:

    I wonder if it doesn’t have something to do with a greater prevalence of victimizers being men. Men attacking their own — maybe the victim has also victimized at some point, we don’t know. Perhaps the woman victim has too, but it is far less likely since men are much more likely to rape and violently murder.
    Well the thing is that while men are more likely to commit rape or murder women it is still only a small subset of men that commit such crimes. But given that A LOT of people like to paint up the image that (despite only a small portion of the male population is violent) being a man is synonymous with being violent I guess I can’t be surprised that people may think that way.

  4. Daran says:

    So I’m left wondering why […] I’m still inclined to have more of a response to the woman victim.

    Because you were trained to. It’s not just the frequency of male vs. female victimisation, but how they are treated. See the tvtropes page referenced above.

    Add age to your analysis. In particular, consider how these tropes play out in media considered suitable for under 10s.

    • Yeah, there are several tv tropes threads related to rape. The Female on Male Rape page was one that I found interesting. I had previously blogged about the comedic portrayals of female rapists and male victims and consulted that one during the drafting of that entry.

  5. Pingback: Gender and Genitals « ethecofem

  6. Shayna says:

    Well given the exact references you use, the man raped in American History X was in prison for a reason. Earlier in the movie you saw him doing some pretty sick things and perhaps felt that he deserved it a bit making it less horrible than what happened to the woman in Five Savage Men. Maybe if the was a rape of man in another movie you would feel just as bad about it as if he were a woman.

    • Danny says:

      You may be onto something but also what you say makes me think about how a lot of the times in film/tv when a man is raped its usually done in a manner in which there is a build up to show that he “deserved it”. This seems to be quite different a woman who is raped in tv/film who are treated like they “deserved it” after the fact.

      Take for instance Law and Order: SVU. Its almost always after a woman is raped that people will try to pile on with the slut shaming. Well maybe Law and Order: SVU is not the greatest example since it almost never has cases of men being raped (in fact I can only think of about 4 episodes in which a man was raped and I’ve literally seen every episode of that show). I guess in their world only women and children are raped (and there is no such thing as a malicious woman).

  7. Did anyone see Sam Fuller’s old early-60s B-movie “Shock Corridor”? I doubt you have, it’s never shown on TV and I had to track it down myself. (The guy who eventually made the video-copy for me was one of those types of obsessive collectors who owns every movie ever made; I worked with him in a video store.) It’s far too bizarre to ever make it onto TV, IMHO.

    There is a very (B-movie-ish) scene in which the protagonist wanders into the “nympho ward” of a mental hospital and is attacked and gang-raped by the women patients. What’s interesting is that this scene was used in trailers and commercials to market the movie in a salacious manner (shown at the drive-in, after all), but in the actual movie it becomes truly horrifying.

    I’ve never seen anything like that, before or since.

    Will be on DVD in a mere couple of weeks, check it out. Nothing like it, ever. (Trigger warning, but a *must* for film buffs)

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