When Entertainment and Social Consciousness Collide

Though rarely voiced publicly, I have definite political opinions. Knowing that I’m an out lesbian woman and a voter, most people would probably expect that I stand firmly in the liberal camp on everything. I don’t. I tend to be fiscally conservative – within reason – and socially liberal but not far left. I am usually loath to express my opinions online or, frankly, anywhere. I typically stay out of any argument or even tame discussions about politics.

I live, work and write in the conservative heartland. Many people here have bent or are bending on social issues like issues that affect women, their health and their bodies (but stopping flat out at condoning abortion) and like same sex marriage. I don’t need to prod them along any faster with a pitchfork. That tends to have the reverse of the intended effect anyway. As an author, I certainly don’t need to be loud and proud and controversial online and alienate readers who are looking for entertainment from me (I write fiction) and not political or social discourse.

While I typically avoid all out political discussions, I don’t always stay out of conversations about social issues. I can’t. Too many of them affect me and other humans like me. I’m a woman. I’m part of the gay community married to another woman (but not legally in the state we reside in). I’ve been affected by women’s health issues. Other women I know have been even more seriously affected by women’s health issues. Some important young women in my life who work very hard at real jobs to provide for their children while their deadbeat dads work the system depend on insurance programs and food programs to get by and to care of themselves and their kids. Another very young woman in my life has been in a hospital fighting for her life these past few weeks with a disease no amount of testing in her 23 years on this earth could have turned up. The disease has damaged her heart and she needs open heart surgery. She works hard too – for an employer so small that they don’t offer health insurance. Were it not for subsidized insurance plans, she probably wouldn’t be with us today. With one, she has a fighting chance.

Social issues are important. The way most people learn about social issues is through the medium of television. Entertainment, whether we like the idea or not, is the key to opening a lot of hearts and minds. That same entertainment though sometimes crosses a line where it’s no longer about gently teaching or enthralling and engrossing an audience and more about shock value and the almighty dollar. For example, we’ve seen an incredible outpouring of articles, posts, comments and tweets over the past week or so about the television series Game of Thrones (GoT) and it’s latest in a series of depictions on screen of violent, gratuitous rape. Some of these articles, posts and such are in support of the show. Most vehemently oppose what its writers have wrought. Some of the best, most insightful commentary compares what was shown on GoT with the story line in the most recently released Mad Max blockbuster movie, Fury Road. The completely different depictions of such a controversial topic in the two different mediums have the whole country talking about rape in a variety of ways.

My personal opinion is that rape should never be depicted on television or in movies in any form, to shock or otherwise. There are too many rape victims out there that seeing such scenes is traumatizing for. I’ve never personally been raped but I do personally know several women and one man that have been. The man doesn’t talk about it. A few of the women spent years trying to get over the violation of their bodies and to repair the damage to their psyche’s. One, now many years later, never has. Most of these women have problems trusting men. Two are currently married; one to a man, after years of trying to come to terms with what happened to her. The other is married to me. Every single one of these women would get up and walk out of the room or out of the theater when it’s evident that a woman is going to be raped on screen. What, I ask is the value in that?

It was in the throes of the national discussion of using rape to garner ratings and buzz about a television show that we learned of the molestation allegations against Joshua ‘Josh’ Duggar, the eldest son of the Duggar clan made famous by their reality television show on TLC, ’19 Kids and Counting’. Police documents released and/or uncovered during the investigation of an Arkansas police officer on child pornography charges implicated that there were at least 5 instances beginning in Joshua Duggar’s early teens were he sexually molested young and teen-aged girls including some of his own sisters. For his actions, it has since come out, Josh was sent off to a work camp of sorts by his parents that was run by his uncle and he was given a ‘stern talking to’ by the aforementioned police officer around the time he was 17.

TLC moved swiftly to cancel the television show. Joshua Duggar quickly resigned from his position as the Executive Director of the legislative branch of the Family Research Council, FRC Action – a lobbying group that supports the definition of traditional families that is typically viewed as anti gay. A firestorm of protest ensued nationwide and, more locally, among people directly around me over TLC canceling the show with only a few voices raised in support of their action.

My voice was one raised in support of the action that TLC took. My wife, a person who has family values and a great love for children in spades, a woman who’s worked in law enforcement, a woman who was the victim of rape at the hands of a relative, was vehemently opposed to TLC canceling the program…at first. She changed he tune after more facts became known but, frankly, I was stunned at her initial reaction. She, at first, vowed to never watch TLC again. She believed they were canceling the show because June, of ‘Here Comes Honey Boo Boo’ fame raised a stink (her show was cancelled when it was learned her live in boyfriend was a sex offender). She felt that Duggar was being tried and convicted in the press.

Stepping back, many would find it odd that two out lesbian women watched the ’19 Kids and Counting’ show in the first place but, we admit, we did. It was a window into a life we could barely fathom. We couldn’t understand wanting or effectively raising that many children but they seemed to be doing it pretty well. We couldn’t understand women willingly being so subservient to men but they did seem to do it willingly and we know other people in our own lives who are like that. We rarely agreed with their methods for doing some things and we certainly didn’t agree with who Josh Duggar chose to be employed with but we both believe we’re all created equal and that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and to live life as they see fit.

I came into the knowledge of the misdeeds of Josh Duggar before my wife did and I came to them with the backdrop of the GoT rape debacle to hold it against. My wife though hadn’t followed any of the GoT news because she never watched the show again after the first time they depicted a rape on the series (this was number 3). I didn’t continue to watch either but I stay more current on news than she does. Her initial reaction was that the network (TLC) was over reacting before all the facts were known. Now that Josh has admitted what he’s done and the family (primarily his mother Michelle) has come forward and first said they got him counseling and then recanted and said he was never formally helped, she sees a problem with the Duggars and with Josh in particular and not with TLC as a network.

Admittedly, molestation isn’t rape but, how far away is it really? Does an admitted molester deserve to be on national television where his very presence would taunt other sex abuse victims? Does a family that swept his illness under the rug and discounted the feelings of his victims – some of them their own daughters – deserve to have a show on national television? I don’t think so.

There was a great firestorm of protest when A&E temporarily pulled its hit pseudo reality show ‘Duck Dynasty’ because of anti-gay comments made by family patriarch Phil Robertson in an interview with GQ Magazine. Phil Robertson is entitled to his opinion. We’re all entitled to agree or disagree with him. We can watch his show or not watch it. A&E can employ him or not but, in the end, no laws were broken and no one was traumatized by things the man said in voicing his personal opinion. No one was physically violated either.

It’s different this time. People are being traumatized by what the writers of GoT keep trying to pass off as good television. People have been hurt by Joshua Duggar – emotionally and violated physically. Mr. Duggar himself has an illness and he needs help. Maybe he’ll finally get it.

I only have to wonder, would as much light have shone on Josh Duggar had we not already been having an emotional national conversation about ‘Game of Thrones’ and about rape?

About Anne Hagan

I'm an East Central Ohio based government employee by day and a fiction author by night. I specialize in mystery fiction featuring lesbian sleuths and cozy fiction featuring women sleuths. I also dabble in romance especially romantic lesfic. I live with my wife and our dogs in a tiny town that’s even smaller than the Morelville of my first fiction series and we wouldn't have it any other way. My wife grew up here and she has always called this little village home. Though it’s an ultra-conservative rural community, we're surrounded here by family, longtime friends and many other wonderful people with open hearts and minds. My wife and I are the co-owners of a commercial haunted house: Hagan's House of Horrors. Much as my dream has always been to write fiction, hers has been to create it through the medium of horror. We went full commercial in 2015. Watch us as we grow!
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