TV Shows/Movies that Try to Normalize Sexual Assault/Harassment

  1. 1. Displaying Acts of Sexual Assault/Harassment as Jokes

    Frequently in the media, the main characters will commit some act of sexual misconduct (groping, stalking, catcalling, etc.) or have these acts done onto them.  These actions are presented in a way that the audience would think is funny.  In the 90s classic Friends, Ross and Rachel’s relationship was all shades of toxic, however, Ross was an extremely obsessive, and emotionally abusive boyfriend.  Ross would stalk Rachel, whenever she interacted with another man.  His actions were fluffed up to appear funny.  In some cases, sexual assault is used to further the plot.  In Adam Sandler’s That’s My Boy, Adam Sandler’s character as a thirteen-year-old boy is shown to have had a sexual relationship with his teacher, which resulted in a pregnancy.  The teacher is sent to prison; however, the whole story gave the feeling that the character was “lucky” to be with his attractive teacher. The movie is about Adam Sandler’s character bonding with his now adult son. Adam Sandler’s reaction to the trauma of being repeatedly r*ped by his schoolteacher and being forced to care for a child at a young age is never given light.  

  2. 2. The Media Romanticizing Sexual Misconduct and Violence

    Older movies frequently portrayed men being sexually aggressive and controlling towards women as romantic.  These films perpetuated the stereotype that women only want strong men who will take what they want, and also take care of their “weak and delicate” selves. James Bond is the classic “ladies’ man”. He is charming, intelligent, physically fit, and holds a fascinating job as an elusive agent.  He is also revered for his ability to seduce any woman.  In the movie, Gold member, James Bond repeatedly makes advances on Pussy Galore, even though she makes it clear she is not interested.  He even physically pushes her, and once he manages to overpower her, Pussy Galore gives into his “charm”. The scene leaves us with the strange notion that 007 had to make Pussy realize that his “love” was all she needed to be happy.  That him sleeping with her would “fix” her.

  3. 3. Slut Shaming is Fine and Dandy

    In the early 2000s, high school “dramadies” came like a tsunami to teen/pre-teen audiences. These movies wanted to adhere to a rebellious storyline these audiences crave, while not wanting to upset parents. This resulted in the “high-school slut shaming archetype” that were prominent in teen movies like Mean Girls and Easy A.  An article by Laurie McMillan, explains how in Mean Girls movies portrayed the “slut” as the bad girl who partied and bullied the main character “the good girl” (McMillan).  Easy A did try to challenge the “slut” notion by having Emma Stone’s character (a “good girl”) pretend to be a “slut” who gave another student an STD.  She fully embraces the title for most of the movie by dressing in a more revealing manner and going on more dates. At the end of the movie, Emma Stone’s character decides to drop the charade, because the guy she likes prefers her to be her normal “good girl” self.  On one hand, this movie did overall give a message of accepting yourself and not falling for labels.  However, they do not bring attention to how terribly Emma Stone’s character was treated by her classmates due to a rumor of being promiscuous