On “C.S.I.,” America’s most popular television drama last week, a woman’s severed head was found inside a newspaper sales box, says the Denver Post. On closer inspection, a lab technician pulled a snake from the head’s mouth. By the end of the hour, detectives used the distinctive truck tire treads on the victim’s leather jacket to find her murderer, and her decapitation was re-enacted in flashback. While the body count shows no shortage of male victims, women seem to get the most horrific treatment.
Despite studies that raise concerns about the effects of media violence and in the face of objections by interest groups, violence against women remains a reliable recipe for popular entertainment. This fall, depictions of the rape, torture and murder of women proved an especially popular way to introduce a TV series. “Exploiting the damsel in distress as a marketing tool – it’s worked since Fay Wray (in 1933’s “King Kong”),” said Matthew Felling of the Center for Media and Public Affairs in Washington, D.C. He believes Americans watch not as voyeurs but as crusaders: We want to see justice done and evildoers vanquished. On “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” now in its seventh season, “the entire series is about ‘how can we rape, torture, murder and maim women and children every week?”‘ said Jennifer Pozner of Women in Media & News.