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Comedy shows reinforce stereotypes about domestic violence

On Behalf of | Jan 8, 2019 | Domestic Violence

Domestic abuse in Texas tends to follow a predictable pattern, but the roles played by each partner are not always what people expect. According to FindLaw, research suggests that the numbers of men and women committing domestic violence against a spouse or partner are nearly equal to one another, yet men who are the victims of violence are less likely to report it, which unfortunately gives credence to the stereotype that a man is always the abuser, a woman always the victim. 

According to The Daily Dot, men in abusive relationships may be reluctant to report for fear that authorities, shelters or advocacy organizations will not take their claims seriously. The sad truth is that popular entertainment has conditioned audiences to view a woman hitting a man as a comical situation. The tropes have been around for years: the meek, milquetoast male character cowering in fear before the looming presence of the angry woman, hair in rollers, brandishing a kitchen implement such as a frying pan or a rolling pin as a weapon, the threat of violence imminent. The tropes have adapted as times change, and current entertainment presents them as variations on a theme. Viewers are now more likely to see “Friends'” Rachel smack Ross with a magazine than a frying pan-wielding housewife, but the laugh track prompts the audience to laugh even though audiences would certainly react in horror if it were Ross hitting Rachel.

As another example, the Muppets have built a reputation as family-friendly entertainment for over 60 years. The characters and their antics have become woven so deeply into the collective cultural consciousness that no one seems to notice or care that Miss Piggy has carried out a campaign of terror against her paramour, Kermit the Frog, for decades. Miss Piggy demonstrates several danger signs for emotional as well as physical abuse, including: 

  • Irrational jealousy and possessiveness
  • An unpredictable temper
  • Emotional blackmail
  • Isolating her partner from others
  • Insults, yelling and criticism
  • Physical violence, including striking, hitting and pushing

The humor from these situations stems from a reversal of our expectations based on longstanding gender stereotypes. However, societal validation and normalization of abusive behavior by women make it more difficult for men in abusive relationships to seek and find the help they need.