Some years ago, I took my then-five-year-old daughter to see the Pixar film Ratatouille. It is the cute story about a rat that helps a burgeoning chef. The plot line seemingly has nothing to do with abuse. Yet there’s a scene early in the film when the rat is peering into an apartment from the rafters when he spots a couple grappling over a gun. The gun goes off; then they run to one another, embrace, and kiss. I was deeply disturbed that Pixar intentionally included such glorification of abuse and in a film marketed to families, no less. Yet this is far from the only example. All genres of film continue to make abusive relationships seem normal. They tell young people that unless there’s “drama,” the relationship is boring or mundane.
Much has been written about the Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey book series and films, documenting how they promote dangerous verbal, physical, and sexual abuse along with stalking behavior. Gone Girl (2014), for instance, makes it seem as though false allegations are common when, in reality, the bigger problem is that abuse remains significantly under-reported. Abusers are often presented in such extreme fashion that one would think every case of domestic violence involves an ax-wielding mentally-ill husband who travels across multiple state boundaries in search of his victim who has fled. But even films that present a more nuanced perspective on abuse are still too formulaic. Films like Sleeping with the Enemy (1991), Dolores Claiborne (1995), and Enough (2002) rely on a violent confrontation between victim and abuser at the end. Diane Shoos, author of “Domestic Violence in Hollywood Film: Gaslighting,” wrote, “In order for these stories to even be produced in the first place, they have to rely on this formulaic approach where we absolutely anticipate there will be a confrontation between the victim and the abuser. So the work of the narrative is to completely isolate her and make it—ironically—totally her problem that she has to solve. In a strange way these movies are seen as empowering to women, but they’re not because everything is put back on women’s shoulders.” While seemingly empowering, these films portray dangerous messages that women should prepare themselves and fight back, rather than seek help elsewhere.
Media can do better. The Big Little Lies series, for instance, provides a more accurate depiction of the dynamics of abuse. We should demand that, rather than use story lines about abuse as a means of titillating viewers and in a fashion that reinforces dangerous stereotypes, filmmakers produce work that can help educate about abuse.
Here are more ways to become a part of The Good Men Project community:
Request to join our private Facebook Group for Writers—it’s like our virtual newsroom where you connect with editors and other writers about issues and ideas.
Click here to become a Premium Member of The Good Men Project Community. Have access to these benefits:
- Get access to an exclusive “Members Only” Group on Facebook
- Join our Social Interest Groups—weekly calls about topics of interest in today’s world
- View the website with no ads
- Get free access to classes, workshops, and exclusive events
- Be invited to an exclusive weekly “Call with the Publisher” with other Premium Members
- Commenting badge.
Are you stuck on what to write? Sign up for our Writing Prompts emails, you’ll get ideas directly from our editors every Monday and Thursday. If you already have a final draft, then click below to send your post through our submission system.
If you are already working with an editor at GMP, please be sure to name that person. If you are not currently working with a GMP editor, one will be assigned to you.
Are you a first-time contributor to The Good Men Project? Submit here:
Have you contributed before and have a Submittable account? Use our Quick Submit link here:
Do you have previously published work that you would like to syndicate on The Good Men Project? Click here:
Join our exclusive weekly “Call with the Publisher” — where community members are encouraged to discuss the issues of the week, get story ideas, meet other members and get known for their ideas? To get the call-in information, either join as a member or wait until you get a post published with us. Here are some examples of what we talk about on the calls.
Want to learn practical skills about how to be a better Writer, Editor or Platform Builder? Want to be a Rising Star in Media? Want to learn how to Create Social Change? We have classes in all of those areas.
While you’re at it, get connected with our social media:
However, you engage with The Good Men Project—you can help lead this conversation about the changing roles of men in the 21st century. Join us!
We have pioneered the largest worldwide conversation about what it means to be a good man in the 21st century. Your support of our work is inspiring and invaluable.
Shutterstock ID: 1307856079