With a resounding yes, I say that pop culture influences violence against women. Gruesome images of murdered female bodies may desensitize viewers to the violent acts that lead to those deaths. Often female victims are portrayed as immoral characters which further compounds the desensitization of the violence committed against them. Then, I think about the number of times I've seen a strong female character on screen raped. It's a sick reminder/warning that she needed to be put in her place and the only way to do so is to put her in a situation where she is physically without control. Brawn over brains it is. As our readings explains, abuse results from “internalized sexism and the right to dominate women” (Lee & Shaw, p. 569). This reminds me of one of my favorite shows and a recent story arc involving the rape of a female doctor. My initial reaction to Charlotte's rape was sorrow then joy as she triumphed in her recovery. Later, I realized that Private Practice had fallen into the formulaic routine of sensationalizing the immoral and the need to break down its strongest female character to show her humanity. Why does victimization equal humanity? Charlotte is hard edged woman and it seems now that this was a way to show that she's not just a cold, emasculating woman. Why is violence against a women used to portray the injection of a soul into her being?
A franchise that's thrived predominantly on its depictions of violence against women is Law & Order. It's even devoted one of its many spin offs to the real life special victims unit which specifically handles sex crimes. These we know that women are historically far more frequently the victim of than men. Again, when people can turn this series on daily as it's in syndication, it slowly but surely takes away the acrid sting of this form of violence and basically makes it seem not so bad.
My husband and I got into a heated discussion several months ago when he was explaining to me the popularity of the rape/revenge film genre in the 70s. My one question was: "Who were these sick, twisted films created for?" Who do those movies' filmmakers consider their target audience? Surely not women. I refuse to believe that women were/are viewing those films and feeling empowered. Men? I can't imagine what men think. I did a quick web search and sure enough the story is that these films have been made to empower women. What's problematic about this is twofold. First, the rape itself is not condemned in this type of film. It's lazy filmmaking because the rape has to be played out for shock value. More importantly, what would empower women is initiatives that prevent from ever occurring not how to get revenge on the attacker. Second, that one act of violence is met with another only perpetuates a cycle of violence thus the system of patriarchy which for intents and purposes a system of domination. Dominating another person does not give one control. It's simply wasted energy and doesn't solve the problem systemically.
As I was doing a bit of web research on this question, I came across a great article by Natasha Walker for The Guardian. She wrote about the high amount of violence against women in movies noting her recent pre-screening of a film titled The Killer Inside Me. The film depicts at least two graphic murders of women. Walker states that in the Q & A with the film's director, Michael Winterbottom, she asked why was the violence so graphically depicted. His response was: “It's more moral to make it unwatchable” (Walker, 2010). I don't think viewers are more disgusted by violence against women. They're shocked for that moment but I think empirical evidence would probably show that this type of depiction has no lasting affect regarding activism or prevention or driving down the number of violent acts. It makes it more fabled if anything.
Shaw, S. M., & Lee, J. (2009). Women's voices, feminist visions (4th ed.). Boston: Mcgraw-Hill Higher Education.
Walker, N. (2010, June 3). Why is there so much movie violence against women? | Natasha Walter | Film | The Guardian . Latest news, comment and reviews from the Guardian | guardian.co.uk . Retrieved April 17, 2011, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2010/jun/03/women-violence-killer-inside-me-feminism