Blog of Feminist Activism

The feminist activism of charliegrrl and co

Can’t get away from disturbing images

Posted by charliegrrl on June 1, 2007

About a month ago , I went to the cinema to watch This is England with a friend. We were sitting through the adverts, when on came this trailer for the recent film Black Snake Moan, featuring Christina Ricci, Samuel L Jackson and Justin Timberlake. I sat squirming in my seat, angered that I had to watch images that to me were eroticising the slavery of women.

If you watch the clip, you’ll see the way the camera focuses lingeringly on her near-naked body, bruised and in chains- her wayward body needing to be tamed. An ugly or fat female body just wouldn’t look good bruised in chains.

Today, I opened up my emails to see a promotion of the film Paradise Lost– the image flashing in my inbox was that of a woman covered in blood, trapped and scared half to death. Her scared body is supposed to titillate me. Instead it disturbs me and I cannot get away from tortured and pained images of women.

This reminds me of the anger in America over a billboard advertisement for the film Captivity– the advert shows four images of a woman- one being abducted, one being confined, one being tortured and one being terminated. There was so much complaint about this imagery, that they removed it.

What annoys me is that we can’t get away from this imagery- we have no choice but to see it, on our high street, in the cinema, in our emails… We are supposed to see such imagery as entertainment, as fiction… the images aren’t real, they’re art…

Well, I don’t find images of women being tortured or in pain, entertaining. I don’t want to see bruised, battered, tortured and enslaved eroticised images of women’s bodies. But as it stands I don’t have a choice.


14 Responses to “Can’t get away from disturbing images”

  1. Lucy said

    I’d seen a trailer to that before, i think i got it from the website for the film is pretty horrific aswell. Urgh, when she’s writhing on the floor in ‘agony’.. obviously we deserve to be punished for our ’sins’, i’m also quite offended by the racial terms included in it, i suppose some people (lighter skinned males) would find this type of sexist, racist film amusing. But then again we are there for their pleasure right?? Makes me sick.

  2. rgm81 said

    Hear, here!

    The emerging confluence between violence and sexuality is getting over-the-top in its gruesomeness. When looking at the ads for Captivity, it appears as though the only point of this movie is to depict “hot” women being tortured, disfigured, and murdered. They ought to put everybody who goes to see that movie on some kind of watch list, because there may be some issues involved with people who find such a film to be “entertaining.”

    The big movie release this weekend appears to be the new misogyny laugh-fest called Knocked Up. I guess it would have been too much of a copout for the female character to just get an abortion and be done with it, thereby sparing us all of this likely to be terrible movie.

  3. Arantxa said

    It’s as if you have two choices. Either you become complicit in the eroticisation of violence against women by internalising it or you live under the terror that these images instill in you. Either way, women lose. I think one of the ways of refusing those images is to destroy them and I mean literally destroy the image that is facing you there and then. A campaign to reduce media glorification and eroticisation of violence against does nothing to satisfy the need to fight the thing that is threatening you in the here and now.

  4. glumpy said

    As I understand it, the definition of pornography is “depictions of female enslavement.” If Captivity, Paradise Lost and Black Snake Moan don’t fit that definition perfectly, nothing does. So, as far as I see it, it isn’t even the pornification of violence acted upon women, but the epitome of pornography itself.

    I know this genre can’t be new, but my awareness of the near total misogyny of pop media is. But it does seem like there’s been a recent uptick in the amount and degree of blatant hatred of women in pop culture, doesn’t there? Or is it a constant?

  5. fannyblood said

    I’ve just watched it without speakers but urgh, it’s the way, in the first shot that she’s placed ‘sexily’ laying on the floor in just her knickers. It also disturbs me that they choose someone with a child-like frame.

  6. rgm81 said

    I’d say that it’s the former: there is more of it and it is getting more repugnant. Why? Because there is a demand for it, and that increased demand is also “pushing” people to produce material that tops what’s already out there, or else it’s just a “been there, done that, I’m bored” sentiment from viewers. Disgusting, really.

  7. CrankyCrone said

    The following PREVIEW has been approved for ALL AUDIENCES

    I am not sure what planet the Motion Picture Association of America are on, but certainly that trailer is not suitable for children.

    Even though most of the scenes in this clip are disturbing (as is the entire premise of this film), the scene where she runs out of the house and SLJ yanks on the chain clearly shows the young woman to be ‘dog on a chain’.

    The premise is that “Rae” is a ‘nymphomaniac’, a condition that becomes worse after her brutal rape. The reality for the majority of rape victims is that after being raped, they want very little to do with sex or men. Only in the porn script is the ‘insatiable lust’ lie promoted (up until this mainstream film of course).

    What kind of creep is “Lazarus” who a) chains up a woman and b) chains her up in a semi-clothed state?

    In the trailer it shows the supposed ‘why’ she was raped — she was ‘a slut’ (therefore supposedly deserving rape, or it was ‘to be expected’).

    In the scene where she gets up to discover she has a gigantic chain around her waist is so totally ridiculous — what, she wouldn’t have felt the weight of such a heavy object around her? What utter crap. If you pause the clip at 1:00, you will see that there is actually enough slack in the chain around her waist to slip over her hips. It also seems that the chain around her waist is fitted tighter for some scenes.

    Rape and imprisonment (of women) as mainstream entertainment? If it was SLJ chained to the radiator, then it would be seen for what it is. Why is it suddenly ‘ok’ when it is a semi-clothed woman? [clue: it’s not]

  8. I read a few reviews about this and only one of them mentioned that she had been raped, most of them say something like she had a misfortune and ended up bleeding in the gutter…
    The reviews were critical, saying this is a quaisi-porn exploitation film. Mark Kermode, a film critic, was talking on BBC radio 5 about this film and about the comeback of the genre Grindhouse movies. He said that in the 70s, grindhouse movies were sexpolitation and violent films and you could criticise them for what they were- glorifying exploitation. But this genre has come back in a different guise, as arthouse, stylish and ironic, ie Black Snake Moan, Tarantino’s Grindhouse…therefore it is seen as art, not a film made by patriarchs making money out of making exploitation of women look titillating. Craig Brewer, the writer and director of the film also made a film called Hustle and Flow, which was about how hard life is for a pimp…
    These men making these films are showing their contempt for women. Contempt dressed up as arty and stylish, is no less contempt, it just shows their audaciousness in their willing to glorify their contempt.

  9. Bex said

    I removed a Captivity subway car poster as I was exiting one train, then tore it up and discarded it for those very reasons.

  10. I’ve just seen an advert for Captivity on the side of a bus- grrr

  11. Dewey said

    And when we complain about this sort of thing, the ‘censorship’ outcry starts up. There’s no easier way to make a liberal-minded person feel guilty enough to shut up than the censorship label.

  12. Sam said

    Now that folks like Joss Whedon have publicly come out against Captivity’s ad campaign and feminists have been bitching about it, the marketers have ramped up their promotion tenfold. Any publicity is good publicity, and if pissing feminists off works to garner media attention they work it to their advantage.

    When women complained about the Barbie-ish Coors Light twins because incesty sexbotism is gross, Coors bought more billboards and produced a radio jingle procaiming “I love twins!”

    When the NYC subway had a malt alcohol drink ad with a naked woman hiding behind a can of the stuff with the tagline “There’s something for you behind my can” I saw many of the ads written on and ripped. A week or two later there were some subway stops with no other ads but this one plastered all over them; they took over the whole fucking subway platform after getting complaints from women. The more women hate something the more men love it.

    It works conversely too, that the more women like a thing the more men hate it. Men hate women so much that because women liking chocolate is a stereotype men avoid buying chocolate. Delicious, sweet, creamy chocolate men would rather go without than risk the slightest hint of femininity. The marketing team that came up with Yorkies “not for girls” campaign don’t care about feminism but they do care about increasing men’s chocolate-buying habits.

  13. Bex said

    I just saw someone condescendingly reference my own personal blog post (elsewhere) about my own spontaneous Captivity subway poster removal, saying that it was more effective to simply ‘spoil’ the movie’s plot for others by revealing that in the end, the terrorized heroine survives and defeats the baddies.

    That’s all very nice, but the whole impetus behind my spontaneous action was that it was the extreme manipulative cynicism of the ad campaign that had infuriated me to the point of doing what I did.

    One also wonders: why make a point of subtly sneering at what I did, rather than just let everyone know what the plot point is, offering that alternative way to kill some of the buzz?

  14. Jessica said

    I know exactly what you mean there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t find an image that offends the female gender… I don’t see why those who enjoy looking at these images can’t just open their eyes and realise that they’d hate to be in the situation where they were treated like meat – why oh why don’t they just grow up and realise the damage it’s causing across the world.

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