Rape on Prime Time: Television, Masculinity, and Sexual Violence

Rape on Prime Time: Television, Masculinity, and Sexual Violence

Rape on Prime Time: Television, Masculinity, and Sexual Violence

Rape on Prime Time: Television, Masculinity, and Sexual Violence

Synopsis

Rape on Prime Time provides important insight into the social construction of rape in mainstream mass media since the inception of rape law reform in 1974.

Excerpt

The relationship between prime time television and social change is complex, historically significant, and as yet only partially understood. As one contemporary analysis notes, “few commentators would question that television has become more open about treating political issues and social controversies as the stuff of entertainment. But the substance and implications of its treatment are hotly disputed.” Although we know that prime time drama frequently depicts controversial issues and political debates, it is also generally accepted that prime time texts are constructed so as to avoid offending potential audience members. Thus the issues and ranges of opinion depicted are usually somewhat “safe,” either because the passage of time has made the issue less emotional and less controversial, or because prime time treatment of it is mild and nonthreatening. Although some episodes of prime time dramatic programs have depicted hot-button issues (such as Maude’s well-publicized decision on abortion and Designing Women’s “Hill-Thomas” episode), prime time more often simply incorporates subtle changes into its themes and dialogues. The broad patterns of this incorporation of the new and different over time require further examination if we are to understand the important relationship between the mass media and social change. Yet studies of television seldom focus on evolving depictions of important contemporary issues, tending instead to focus on a particular program or genre, or to examine many programs within a fixed time period. Longitudinal studies of issue-oriented or issue-based dramatic programming will be nec-

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