Several years ago, while looking for something to watch on television, I accidentally stumbled across an episode of “Criminal Minds” in which a young woman was tied to a chair. Her eyes were taped open. A man was about to pour acid into her eyes.
I don’t know what happened next because I switched channels. It was too much to watch. Too much to even think about.
Now CBS has added “Stalker” to its lineup of “horrific, misogynistic tales,” as actor Mandy Patinkin referred to the storylines on “Criminal Minds” after he left the show. Patinkin said he quit because it “was destroying my heart and soul.”
In the opening scene of “Stalker” broadcast Wednesday night, we see a young woman screaming and crying as she’s doused with gasoline and then burned alive, trapped inside of a car that explodes right as she thinks she’s going to escape. And all the while, her assailant watches.
It’s not just the graphic depiction of violence on shows like this that bothers me — it’s also that the violence is directed specifically at women. Over and over again. Week after week. And it’s especially disturbing as we consider the real-life headlines about domestic violence and sexual assault.
“Torture porn” is how Tim Winter, president of Parents Television Council, referred to the violence in the opening scene of “Stalker” in a statement released Wednesday. “Our country is mired in a national dialogue about shocking levels of domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault,” he said. “Entertainment that is saturated with violence against women – or violence against any person for that matter – will only foment such horrific, real-life conduct.”
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