CNN’s Poor Choice of Thumbnail #thingsthatmakeyougohmm


Is CNN’s thumbnail for a Steubenville-inspired Public Service Announcement sending the wrong message?

For days, I tried to avoid writing about this. I tried to run from Steubenville because, let’s face it, what is there left to say? Article upon article, blog upon blog has been written and re-written.

About rape.
About “rape culture”.
About what it does to our boys.
About what it says to our men.

And we’ve heard it loud and clear. Even us here at the Good Men Project. (Especially us here at the Good Men Project.)

But then I saw this. And it made me gasp in my cubicle. See what he does with passed-out girl. It looked like a spam ad that tries to connect me with “singles in my area.”

I knew what it was. I knew that it couldn’t be anything too vulgar or too graphic. So I clicked it.

It was a Public Service Announcement created by a student at the University of Oregon in response to Steubenville. And if we’re calling them like we see them, it was a cheap shot. I get it – headlines sell. But at what cost?

What message does this misleading headline send to our boys?
To our men? And even to our girls and women?
Do headlines and “rating raisers” like this promote “rape culture”?
Where do we draw the line?

About Diana Palka

Diana is a writer, runner, lover of words and life-long learner. She graduated with a Bachelor's degree in News-Editorial Journalism from Gardner-Webb University and since entering the proverbial "real world," has been challenged (slash forced) to learn what does and doesn't work when communicating honest messages. Currently, she works with a Benefit Consulting firm just outside New York City where she heads up the creation of employee communications and client deliverables for her team. Diana has a passion for a brave vulnerability that reveals the ugliest of impurities in the light of a perfecting grace.


  1. Considering the sort of “clickers” this set-up would draw, I’d say this is a perfect thumbnail. Those expecting something lewd and shocking will be either encouraged or reprimanded, depending on whether or not they wanted those expectations to be fulfilled.

  2. John Schtoll says:

    The weird part of that ad and video is it ignores that a large majority of boys/men in that position would actually do what the guy did in the video without having to be told. This is the part I find offensive, running the ad itself actually assumes that a large portion of boy and men need to be told what is the right thing to do, when in fact they don’t, they already know.

    For example, after a woman drowns her kids in the bathtub, drives off into a lake etc. We never see ads like this with a woman and several kids in a car, who just drives them to the movies with a tagline that reads “real women don’t drive their kids into the lake”

    • wellokaythen says:

      I agree. At some point we have to recognize the fact that people are not simply products of their culture. Their behavior is not just a product of the messages they are told. We don’t just simply reproduce our upbringing over and over again. Otherwise no one would ever disobey their parents or teachers or ever break the law. We would all do exactly what our parents’ generation did. People do things that they KNOW are wrong and do them anyway. If telling people the same thing over and over again was any guarantee of good behavior, then there’d hardly be any crime at all. (And I’d still be going to church every Sunday instead of…well, never.)

      Let’s be honest, everyone: do you only do things that you think are good and never do anything you know is bad?

      No? I must be the only one.

  3. Really? Really? I am at a loss. This is harmless and well meaning.

  4. QuantumInc says:

    The title is for the sake of dramatic and ironic buildup. The stereotype suggests he would rape her, but the whole point of the video is he does the opposite. The title was clearly meant to be their little addition to the experience of watching that short film. It does in fact enhance the emotional impact slightly.

    However I could see how merely glancing at it would have to opposite effect. It would stir up the stereotype without doing anything to stop it. However if the viewer can’t be bothered to do more than merely glance at such things, reaching out to them is nearly impossible. Dismantling stereotypes REQUIRES critical thought, which in turn REQUIRES paying attention for the full minute it takes to click, click, and watch.

    Of course this brings up the other reason they would use a thumbnail and title that you Diana Palka finds so offensive, for this thing to work they NEED to grab your attention. They need to shock the potential viewer out of their stupor long enough to not only click on it and watch, but to THINK. So actually it NEEDS to be a little bit shocking.

    The first place where I saw that video was right here on the good men project. It is a PSA against raping or taking advantage of unconscious women. In it the guy talks like he might do something lewd, but immediately gives her a pillow, blanket, and a beverage, i.e. the practical and compassionate thing.

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