#hotgoss redux: Netflix...and consent?
What do TV and movies tell us about consent, relationships, and sexual violence?
In our #SAAM month edition of #hotgoss, we wanted to provide you with some helpful resources for becoming a more aware consumer of media, especially when it comes to the looking at messages we get about consent and sexual assault. Check out the full episode here!
So, why can't we just Netflix...and chill? There's nothing wrong with watching TV for pure entertainment sometimes. We get it, you need to turn off your brain for a second and just chill. While that can be a great self-care tactic, as Oronde said on the episode, you want to make sure that even the stuff you're watching for fun isn't putting harmful messages out into the world.
The TV and movies we watch and that we create depict both the world we live in, and the world as we want it to be. As the conversation about sexual assault and consent, grows and changes, our media needs to reflect a deeper understanding of consent, an empathy for survivors, and zero tolerance for sexual assault as well.
Kids and teens are sponges for the messages they receive from the content they watch. Plus, adults learn a lot from the movies they watch too. There's endless research that shows that TV and movies (and books and music!) shape the world around us, both how we see it and how we act in it. Which means we need some tools to interpret the stuff we watch, especially as it pertains to sex, consent, and violence.
Speak About It believes the best way to become a smarter consumer of media is to start by asking good questions. We want you to do some of that work on your own! So, below you'll find some of our favorite questions to ask about TV and movie depictions of consent and sexual violence. Try and answer them about some of your favorite shows.
- Does that look like affirmative consent to me?
- If it does: Why?
- If it doesn't: Why not?
- If I am seeing a non-consensual hook up scene, why is this in the movie?
- How does this movie feel about this relationship? Does it celebrate it? Show it as ideal?
- What are the power dynamics between these characters?
- Are they on an equal playing field?
- Are they both able to express what they want from a relationship?
- Is coercion or intoxication present, what does that do to change their relationship?
- Are they listening to each other?
- What gender stereotypes are being employed in this film or show?
- How does that effect consent in any hook-up scenes?
- How do other characters support and reinforce consent in this movie? How don't they?
- Does portraying sexual violence mean endorsing it?
- Why or why not?
- Is this depiction of sexual violence glamorizing or sexualizing it?
- Is it showing rape to be 'edgy' or 'exciting'?
- Is this movie or show using sexual violence as a surprise plot twist?
- Is this depiction of assault purposeful and useful, and not harmful?
- How does a character's history of trauma add to their storyline? Is it a trope or stereotype?
- Is the character defined only by their history, or is it a larger part of who they are as a character?
- Is a history of sexual violence used just to further the story line or explain 'bad behavior' in a character?
- How does gender affect this?
- Does this story center the narrative of the survivor?
- How does this film feel about the perpetrator? The survivor?
- What does this film say about the underlying causes of sexual violence?
- Does the creator seem to understand how power and control affect assault and consent?
- What does this movie/show say about who is allowed to be a survivor? Does it reinforce stereotypes about the gender, race, sexuality, age, and other identities of survivors?
Other general questions:
- Who is the butt of this joke? At whose expense are we laughing?
- Does this joke "punch up" or "punch down?"
- Whose story are we not seeing?
- What stereotypes does this film rely on? What does it break?
- Who made this film? What identities do they occupy, and how may that affect the story that is being told?
These are just the beginning of questions to get you thinking critically about movies and TV. Let us know if you have other ones that you find helpful!
DO YOUR RESEARCH
There's lots of great media and writing online about pop culture, TV, and movies out there. Questions about that last episode of Grown-ish? Are you marathoning Girls and something that happened gave you pause? Google it!
Here are some of our favorite articles about problematic scenes and/or conversations about consent and sexual violence in media:
- Was That a Rape Scene in Girls? - Slate
- When Pop Culture Sells Dangerous Myths About Romance - The Atlantic
- Why I Won't Watch Game of Thrones Anymore - Elite Daily
- What 13 Reasons Why Gets Wrong and Right About Rape - Huffington Post
- 5 Amazing Moments When Pop Culture Got Consent Right - Everyday Feminism
Feel free to share some of your favorite articles and examples with us. Shoot us an email or DM, firstname.lastname@example.org, we'd love to hear your thoughts.
And, as promised, here's some great clips from one of our faves, Steven Universe.
Speak About It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that partners with high schools and colleges to educate, entertain, and empower students to create positive change within their communities, advocate for and practice healthy relationship habits, and prevent sexual violence.
Copyright 2016 Speak About It, Inc. Website by Alexandra Valleau