The trend of violence on television has not abated one whit. If anything, it has intensified.
News.com.au observed of this year’s Emmy nominees and winners, “While Hollywood basks in its current and much-lauded golden era of television, the new normal of programming is for the most part a compelling yet disturbing slew of dark and grisly material… Excessive TV violence, be it sadistic, sexual, drug-fuelled or even humorous, is part and parcel of TV staples like Game of Thrones, True Blood, The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, Boardwalk Empire and Under the Dome.”
While most of these programs air on cable, the trend is happening on broadcast television, too. And unquestionably the dark tone of so many cable series is influencing broadcasters’ programming decisions.
In fact, the Parents Television Council released a special report in 2009 that found that violence against women on television was increasing at a rate that exceeded the general rate of increase for televised violence.
Some of that increase could certainly be attributed to programs like Criminal Minds, which tends to depict women as victims more often than not. It was for that reason that the original star, Mandy Patinkin quit the show after the second season. Afterward he said of his time on Criminal Minds, “The biggest public mistake I ever made was that I chose to do Criminal Minds in the first place… I thought it was something very different. I never thought they were going to kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week, year after year. It was very destructive to my soul and my personality.”
In another interview, Patinkin said, “It’s [violent TV] a curiosity, I don’t get it. People love it. That show [Criminal Minds] remains very successful. My mind has to be in that place to play those parts, that very dark place… It was destroying my heart and my soul. I’m very disturbed this is what people go home to. They watch horrible, misogynistic, violent activity.”
On top of the recent trend of serial-killer dramas like The Following and Hannibal, this fall CBS will be premiering Stalker, which is described as a “violent and shocking thriller” from Kevin Williamson, the creator of The Following. TV Guide notes that the series has “already drawn plenty of pre-air criticism, and with good reason. It follows a division of the LAPD that deals with stalkers, voyeurs, and love-obsessed weirdos who target mostly women, often with deadly results.”
Counter-intuitively, although there are more female power-players in Hollywood than ever before – Nina Tassler has run CBS’ entertainment division since 2004 — they are not using their position and influence to take a stance against Hollywood’s almost fetishistic obsession with shows that focus on violence against women. Patinkin is right: It’s horrible, violent and misogynistic. And it needs to end.