Sunday, September 30, 2007

When did torture become sexy?

We first got our idea for creating a blog when our staff began reading about a backlash against the advertising campaign for the movie Captivity. So even though the fervor has died down and the movie is out of theaters, we still wanted to post about it briefly.

In her article at the Huffington Post, Jill Soloway described the billboards she saw as she was taking her young son to school:

The first image had a black-gloved hand over her mouth, titled CAPTURE. Next, her eyes begged for rescue as her mascara ran and her bloody finger tried to pry its way out of a cage, titled CONFINEMENT.

In the next picture, titled TORTURE, she was encased in a strange mask, with tubes coming out of her nose, draining blood.

The last frame was Elisha, may her career rest in peace after posing for this, hanging dead, lying on her back with one breast prominently displayed. The word in this frame was TERMINATION.
What's the big deal, right? It's just a horror movie. Jill's assessment:

This wasn't just horror, this wasn't just misogyny... it was a grody combo platter of the two, the torture almost a punishment for the sexiness.
So when did torture become sexy? We've seen it in a gradual movement leading to Hostel, a film that explicitly associated torture and violence with erotic gratification, but this is the first time that we've seen a torture film marketed in such a way. Joss Wheadon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, had this to say about the film in his own letter to the MPAA:

I've watched plenty of horror - in fact I've made my share. But the advent of torture-porn and the total dehumanizing not just of women (though they always come first) but of all human beings has made horror a largely unpalatable genre. This ad campaign is part of something dangerous and repulsive, and that act of aggression has to be answered. . .

But this ad is part of a cycle of violence and misogyny that takes something away from the people who have to see it. It's like being mugged (and I have been). These people flouted the basic rules of human decency. God knows the culture led them there, but we have to find our way back and we have to make them know that people will not stand for this.
The backlash, described in Soloway's article and in news and entertainment pieces across the nation, reached a fever pitch, with tens of thousands of calls and letters made to the MPAA.

How can we create movement like this in our own community?


Anonymous said...

So are you bother by the message the marketing sends or the content of the movie?

Women's Resource Center said...

Both. The film itself assumes that people want to watch a woman being kidnapped and tortured for entertainment value. It's not a documentary meant to shock people into action. The display of violence in this film is purely for enjoyment.

That being said, there are two victims in the film who are kidnapped and tortured. However, the advertising campaigns only show Elisha Cuthbert, as if it is a bigger draw to see an attractive young woman tortured than it is to see violence directed toward a man. The violence is troubling in any case, but the sexually charged and gendered marketing raises another host of concerns.