Sophia Bush, star of the TV series Chicago P.D. recently shared her story of being stalked and harassed by someone on Twitter.
For the past few months I have been harassed to the point of sheer horror by an online stalker. This person has taken to harassing and bullying many of my followers as well.
Sharing more than 500 screen captures of harassing messages on Instagram, Bush wrote:
I’m sharing it here to make something very clear. This kind of behavior does. Not. Fly. You do not have permission to hide. Not anymore: This has gotten beyond out of hand…Obsessive. Violent. And legally punishable.
Almost everyone has heard horror stories of celebrities being stalked by obsessive fans, of having to take out restraining orders for their own safety and the safety of their families, of finding their stalkers in their homes, or even in the tragic case of actress Rebecca Schaeffer, star of the ‘80s sitcom My Sister Sam, killed by their stalker.
But it’s not just celebrities that are victims of stalking. In the United States, according to Bureau of Justice statistics, 3.4 million people report being stalked.
And yet in Hollywood – where you would think there would be heightened sensitivity to this issue, “stalking” has gained some cache as an excellent theme for television shows and music videos.
Maroon 5 this week released a music video for their hit song “Animal,” and it is the stuff of nightmares. (Song lyrics, by the way, include lines like “Baby, I’m preying on you tonight, Hunt you down eat you alive, Just like animals, Animals… Maybe you think that you can hide, I can smell your scent from miles, Just like animals, Animals.”) Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine plays a butcher who sees a beautiful woman (played by his wife, Victoria’s Secret model Behati Prinsloo), stalks her, becomes obsessed with her, breaks into her apartment, photographs her while she’s sleeping, and eventually follows her to a bar, where he approaches her and is rebuffed. He stands outside her window and fantasizes about having sex with her while blood rains down on them. These scenes are interspersed with images of him shirtless in a meat locker smearing blood on his torso and surrounded by sides of beef hanging from meat hooks.
Is this creepy, stalker behavior is somehow supposed to be romantic or sexy? There’s no hint or suggestion that what he’s doing is wrong or illegal. There’s no clip of her picking up the phone to report him to the police. No squad car pulling up next to him to take him into custody. No courtroom scene where she tells the judge that she’s terrified he will hurt her. Just the denouement of their naked bodies in a passionate embrace, drenched in blood.
All of this would be bad enough if it were an isolated incident, but it’s not. Last night, CBS debuted Stalker – which promises to be 22 weeks or more of similar imagery – assuming the series doesn’t get cancelled before then.
The series premiere opened like this:
A woman is in her car driving home. She gets out of her car in the dark. She gets a phone call on her cell and a man’s voice says he sees that she got home. She asks him to please leave her alone and hangs up. Then she walks toward her front door and a man in a hood and a mask is standing in front of her door. She screams and runs from him but he chases her and pours gasoline on her. She gets in her car but he has the keys and shows them to her while she is locked inside, covered in fuel, screaming and honking the horn. He then douses the rest of the car in gasoline and lights it on fire. She puts the car in reverse and rolls backward but the car is already on fire. It crashes into a light pole and burns with her inside it. Then the car explodes. The killer stands and watches.
Predictably, CBS rated this as appropriate for a 14-year-old.
Stalker has already been widely criticized for what some are calling “torture porn,” and rightfully so.
From the Hollywood Reporter:
Let’s assume for a moment that I am the head of said Threat Assessment Unit. Here is my decree: “Warning, a really disgraceful television series depicting the pornography of terror is on CBS tonight and under no circumstances should anyone watch. This show poses a threat to your capacity to receive and shrug off incoming visual stimuli such as, say, women being doused with gasoline and lit on fire.”
Do you get the message?
After a premiere week of singing the praises of CBS’s ability to craft serialized dramas, I see Stalker as a potent reminder that when CBS goes wrong, it usually errs on the side of excessive violence, often toward women. Stalker is just such a swing and miss, as the network opts for something creepy rather than creative.
Lauren Duca of Huffington Post says:
Its premiere features violence so exploitative and gratuitous that even Quentin Tarantino might feel a bit uncomfortable if he gets around to watching the show…. It’s not that there can’t be violence in art (or even on crappy primetime cable shows that probably don’t count as art). It’s just that when there is violence it needs to be executed responsibly or those violent scenes will just serve to further perpetuate all of the evils they represent. After Wednesday night, the “Stalker” pilot is the only thing we should be trying to set on fire.
From the LA Times:
The problem with “Stalker” is not the violence, creepiness or depravity. It’s that the violence, creepiness and depravity appear to be the point, because nothing of value is offered in balance.
Which might be acceptable if “Stalker” were trying to explore the meaning, message or causes of such unsettling themes. Instead, it’s just a clunky crime procedural attempting to leverage a newly acknowledged type of crime, committed mostly though not exclusively against women, with maximum sensationalism.
Given the creativity and complexity of so much of television these days, a show this cynically conceived and constructed is, well, did I use the word “unforgivable” already? I’ll use it again. It’s unforgivable.
Headlines about sexual assault on college campuses and violence against women and children have dominated the headlines in recent weeks; currently 76 institutions are currently under federal investigation for failing to respond to the needs of student rape victims, and the NFL has lost sponsors because of the off-the-grid behavior of its players.
The PTC has documented disturbing TV trends about violence against women, including: a) Violence against women and teenage girls is increasing on television at rates that far exceed the overall increases in violence on television (from 2004-2009), and b) Violence towards women or the graphic consequences of violence tends overwhelmingly to be depicted (92%) rather than implied (5%) or described (3%).
What we do know is this: A growing body of research has documented the desensitizing effect that exposure to this kind of messaging can have on the viewer. Sexually violent content in movies has been found to increase acceptance of violence against women, increased acceptance of rape myths and victim blaming. Other studies have found that repetitive exposure to movies that include sexual violence against women is associated with men’s increased enjoyment of the content, and girls who are exposed to these messages are more willing to accept harassment and abuse and men are more apt to believe such behavior is okay.
CBS should be ashamed for green lighting such an exploitative and misogynistic series, and any advertisers that knowingly help to underwrite it should be likewise ashamed.
Hollywood, it’s time to stop treating violence against women, and the sexual exploitation of women and children as entertainment.