Published May 31, 2011
In a recent episode of CW’s hit series “Gossip Girl,” Ed Westwick’s character Chuck Bass showed his “love” for former flame Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester) by throwing a frustrated, impassioned punch . Although he missed her face, the character smashed the window behind her, and a fragment of glass slashed her face.
Entertainment industry experts were quick to condemn the episode for glorifying domestic violence, with Jezebel.com referring to Bass as a “textbook abuser” despite being portrayed as the “bad boy” character the audience is secretly rooting for.
Nevertheless, this certainly isn't the first time domestic abuse has received some "passionate" Hollywood treatment – On several occasions, domestic violence onscreen is explained away by storylines that indicate the characters don’t mean it, but are so caught up in the moment that they lose themselves.
Last year, Eminem's music video for "Love the Way You Lie" featuring Megan Fox and Dominic Monaghan also came under fire for scenes that some critics said were celebrating domestic violence. The music video featured explicit scenes of abuse by a young man supposedly so in love with his girlfriend he “can barely breathe.”
According to Melissa Henson, Director of Communication and Public Education for the Parents Television Council, Hollywood has a dangerous habit of implying that these volatile relationships are more intense, more passionate than your average, run-of-the-mill romance.
“To impressionable teens, domestic violence is almost romanticized. We’ve made great strides in recent years in clearly communicating the message that is never okay to hit a woman,” she said. “Today, the hidden message in the entertainment consumed by many impressionable teens is that if he hits you, it is out of love – which is absolutely wrong.”
Another mental health expert echoed her sentiments.
“Hollywood does what it can to get ratings, so that may include domestic violence scenes. Many adolescents idealize love, especially their first [love],” Los Angeles-based clinical psychologist Dr. Jordana Mansbacher, told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “ Once faced with some sort of abuse, if not educated about how this is inappropriate, [young adults] may make excuses that violence is just an exaggerated way of showing one’s love.”
Even the oh-so exotic and tantalizing teen/tween phenomenon "Twilight” has been sharply criticized by many who feel it enables domestic violence, as Edward and Bella’s relationship in “New Moon” raised a number of red flags laid out by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, including “Does your partner control what you do, who you see or talk to or where you go?” to “Does your partner accuse you of cheating or is often jealous of your outside relationships?”
“I never thought I was going to have such a serious problem with a popular book that I almost didn’t put it on the shelves… I hate them because of the sexual messaging they impart to teens, especially teen girls, robbing them of agency and normalizing stalking and abusive behavior,” L. Lee Butler wrote on The Official Blog of the Young Adult Library Services Association, adding that he usually cites Edward’s “stalking behavior as creepy.”
But given just how universally popular Stephanie Meyer’s books-turned-films have become, pop culture expert and celebrity life strategist Suzannah Galland said more attention needs to be paid to the concern of the “odd” relationship tone “Twilight” does indeed set.
“It’s hard to believe that when morality, ethics and realistic consequences come in to play, nobody is taking this seriously: ‘the vampire was particularly attracted to the scent of her blood, and was having a difficult time restraining himself from killing her immediately.’ As much as this appeals to darker human desires and emotions, one cannot legitimately ignore consequences in the world of young adults,” Galland said.
Still, perhaps the most troubling issue of all could be the trend of making domestic violence so “mainstream” that the audience no longer even notices it.
"Repeated and normalized views of this behavior may cause desensitization to this topic and can cause someone to find that they are in fact in an abusive situation when they were not aware they were even in one," Mansbacher added.