A Netflix Original series sends disturbing messages to men and boys about consent. Should Netflix care?
I’m a fan of Netflix. In fact, I don’t have any form of cable or satellite TV. Just Netflix. That fact really confuses the cable telemarketers….”Wait, what? You don’t have any type of TV service?” I feel like the unspoken question is, how do you live like that? Your life must be unimaginably horrible.
But it isn’t. I find plenty to watch on Netflix. And, I really enjoy some of the content specifically created by Netflix. House of Cards? More please! Orange is the New Black The Killing, Bloodline, Sense 8, Bojack Horseman…I enjoyed them all. Oh, Lillyhammer? Really odd, but I couldn’t resist seeing Bruce’s guitarist and music legend Steven Van Zandt not looking so hip and rock star-like. I could go on.
Recently I decided to watch a Netflix original series called The Seven Deadly Sins. It is done in anime style and based on a Manga of the same name. It indulged my latent sword and sorcery geek and fed my inner child with a cartoon. Sounded like the perfect show for that moment.
[SPOILER ALERT] I’m going to discuss details of the show. If you don’t want to know, do not read any further. [END ALERT]
The show quickly introduces us to the main character. He appears to be a young boy. Who owns and runs a tavern. It turns out he is actually a much older, experienced knight that just looks young. You know, demons blood and all that can have an impact.
And shortly after that we meet who else, but the princess. Well, one of several, but she is the main princess in the show. It isn’t surprising that, as in typical in anime, she was both voluptuous and scantily clad. She enters the knight’s tavern and promptly passes out. As knights do, he gallantly put her in a bed so she could recover. And that’s when things started getting weird.
The talking pig (yep, there’s a talking pig) looks at her and says, “She’s a girl.” In response the knight proceeds to grab the princess’ breast and squeeze it several times while saying, “Yep, she’s a girl.”
As the princess comes to, he is still squeezing her breast. In answer to her puzzled look and “Uh…pardon me?” he replies, “Your heartbeat is just fine.”
Really Netflix? In a TV show you rate as TV-14 (suitable for teens) you want to make a joke out of non-consensually grabbing a female’s breast? And demonstrate how to play it off by making a feeble, made up excuse?
Unfortunately this isn’t a one-time occurrence. This theme of non-consent continues through the show. When the princess asks the knight what he did to have been branded a criminal, he jokingly replies that he, “Stalked 1,000 pretty girls with perfect boobs and groped them all.”
After the princess agrees to work in the knight’s tavern, she is issued a work uniform. Of course it is even skimpier than the outfit she was originally wearing. Without asking, the knight lifts her skirt to look underneath while claiming he is “Just doing a size check.”
These kinds of non-consensual acts become a running joke line about the knight and his actions with women.
I am fully aware of the degree of sexuality in anime and Manga. While there may be arguments to be made against that, it’s not what I’m addressing here. Personally, I have no issue with openness about sex and sexuality in general. I am a long time proponent of sex-positivity.
What I do have a problem with is the degree to which non-consensual behavior is being trivialized and even glorified. It is fine that the knight finds the princess sexually attractive. That’s a natural part of life. There are plenty of ways to show us his attraction without using blatantly non-consensual actions.
On top of that, eliminating these acts of non-consent wouldn’t alter the storyline. These scenes aren’t integral to the story. While they are included, I assume, in an attempt to be humorous, they in fact, are terribly damaging.
At a time where we are trying to promote and embrace a more robust understanding of consent and its importance, this show actively works against that goal. And, it is a show that is aimed and and deemed appropriate for teenagers, when the concepts of consent and boundary setting are really being understood and internalized.
Boundary setting is the other piece glaringly missing. At no point do any of the females do more than make a mild comment about the actions. There is never a consequence to the knight for ignoring the need for consent.
I don’t want Netflix to censor. I actively support the freedom of expression and creativity. Art and creativity get to push boundaries and go against the grain. I also don’t believe it is Netflix’s responsibility to always promote social change. I get that their primary purpose is entertainment.
Yet I can’t help but wonder if they shouldn’t think about some of these issues as they choose where to spend their money. I’m not asking them to not create the show. I’m simply suggesting not including a few select, unimportant scenes could help in the efforts to change young men’s attitudes about consent.
I’d be surprised if the people at Netflix would be okay with some guy grabbing their daughters’ breasts or lifting her skirt without her permission and playing it off as a joke. If I’m right, why create a show promoting exactly that?
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