I am working on this essay-ish post about pacifism. It is taking a while, I have a lot to say on the subject. I wish I had it finished, because I think it would provide a lot of context for this post.
I read about Nicole Polizzi (aka Snookie) getting punched in the face in a bar during the filming of a reality TV show. The show is called Jersey Shore, and I think it is about Italian-Americans who like to party, or something. I am unsure because reality TV shows do not interest me in general, but I have heard about it peripherally due to its depictions of Italian-Americans. Google it, if you want to know.
Anyhow, I read about this at Huffington Post (which also contains a video of the clip). From there I followed a link to an article on Jezebel that talked about the PSAs MTV is planning to air concerning this incident.
It was there that I read something that made me what to comment on this:
The episode of Jersey Shore that includes Snooki getting punched by a man in a bar will air next week, followed by a PSA cautioning, “Violence against women in any form is a crime,” reports the Daily News.
The article goes on to explain the crafting of the message:
The case is clearly not a classic example of “domestic violence,” given that the perpetrator was a man in a bar Polizzi had never met. The PSA addresses the issue by modifying the usual text: “If you or someone you know is being abused by a boyfriend, family member or total stranger…“
The emphasis in both the above quotations are mine. I can’t find any videos of the PSA, and so I am merely reacting to what this post says.
“Violence against women in any form is a crime” is a subset of “violence against people in any form is a crime”. That they modify the domestic abuse message to include “total strangers” is borderline absurdity. I have firsthand knowledge of domestic violence, including successful recovery (if there is such a thing) from it through the use of counseling and the help of loving people. Getting the message to people that there is a way out is important. Tacking “total strangers” on is just that, tacky (okay, that was an awful pun).
Let me make a few points that plainly state my opinions.
I don’t mind violence being shown in media. I believe it, like most actions by humans, requires discretion. I am not going to see the latest Ranbo movie because I don’t believe it has any value, and I am comfortable with my current level of sensitivity to violence, and I think that movies of that caliber do not serve to keep my sensitivity where it is at. When I watch the video of Polizzi being punched I feel my face spasm as my brain tries to figure out the body language that will show the people around me my shock. I think that is of value, in certain contexts.
I would challenge the idea that this isn’t simulated violence, at the very least referring to the clip that I saw. I hold onto the hope that people are not “dumb” in the way non-commentators seem to be when it comes to consuming media. I think that people are capable of using that discretion I was talking about to figure out how the things they perceive interact with their personal values. That being said, an internet video meme of a women being punched in the face (and the subsequent dialog that emerges) is different from the music video-style clip that literally uses 17 seconds to compare a person talking about being accepted in a group of peers to the same person antagonizing another person and then being punched out. The clip even ends with, I am guessing here, the arresting cop telling the aggressor, “you’re going to jail.” Did we all take lazy pills and forget this is MTV?
Focusing on the gender dynamics hurts the dialog. There are women getting in fights with each other on TV shows all the time. Men beat each other to a pulp (boxing), and are celebrities for it. A man punches a women and suddenly MTV feels the need to warn people about it? WTF, mate? How about the fact that the confrontation allegedly came about from the aggressor stealing booze from Polizzi and her party? Where is the scathing commentary about the pressures to perform in public on camera? Or perhaps the simple acknowledgment that the violence ensuing in the clip is neither correct nor simple?
I feel like I am wasting my digital breath, because the millions of viewers who thrive on this stuff, and thereby reinforcing many of the issues that I pointed out, are never going to see this. It is not flashy, it hurts. Violence is insidious in that way, just talking about it can be painful. It gets easier over time, but we are using every bit of technical and attention-absorbing trickery we can to put off the conversation.
One last thing I want to point out is on the matter of people laughing at the clip. I didn’t, but I know that in a month from now I am going to watch some clip where someone gets “snookied” or something, and I will react on the spectrum of shoulder shrug to howling laughter. If someone you know laughs about this, consider what you know about them. Do they seem like a person who will assault you? Or, do they seem like a person uses laughter as a way to emote built up energy in a way that is acceptable in public? Let’s not use this as yet another diversionary tactic.