Something is very wrong with this picture

From Aporrea, some shocking facts about soap operas in Mexico:

Each episode of the soap opera “Fire in the Blood”, one of the most-watched in Mexico, contains an average of 50 scenes of violence against women, according to a study presented by an association of Mexican non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The tracking, which ran for ten episodes between July 14 and 25, detected a total of 498 scenes “in which various forms of violence against women occurred or were justified”, according to the study, conducted by the Citizens’ Council for Gender Equality in the Media.

Of the 498 scenes, 313 enacted acts of psycho-emotional violence, 66 physical violence, 17 femicidal violence, and 5 sexual violence, according to the EFE news agency.


“The soap opera in question promotes and justifies violence against women in all areas, from the family circle to couple relations,” said Ofelia Aguilar, representative from the Mexican Family Planning Foundation.

Aguilar also criticized “Fire in the Blood” for transmitting “an idealized conception of love, of a conservative and traditional form”, for presenting “machismo and violence as something natural”, and for depicting women as either “docile and long-suffering” or “vengeful and ambitious.”

Translation mine.

Looks like Mexican soap operas suffer from the same syndrome that always repelled me when it came to soaps up here, too: namely, sexism being presented as normal, natural, desirable, and just part of a fun, entertaining, exciting drama.

I’m sure that if this coalition monitored the North American counterparts of “Fire in the Blood”, they’d get similar results. Remember the ultra-contrived “Luke and Laura” storyline of General Hospital? Remember all the “debate” in the tabloids about whether it was seduction or rape, as if there were any similarity or overlap between the two (when in fact there is none)? And remember how Laura later fell in love with her attacker and married him? This loopy formula is “normal” in soaps. It has been copied countless times, and the controversy it invariably generates is just another way of hooking viewers.

But behind all the “raciness” of rape-as-hot-sex, there’s a profoundly conservative message pervading the soaps: Women are either “good girls” (passive, self-sacrificing and obedient) or “bad girls” (who refuse to play by the traditional rules, and are therefore considered fair game for all kinds of psychosexual punishment–which they get.) There is no moral framework of respect for the right of all women not to be violated. Even the “nice girls” are open to attack, thanks to their passivity and naiveté. And once attacked, they become “damaged goods”, i.e. “bad”, and therefore have re-violation to contend with. This, too, is “normal”. It is just another dramatic hook for viewers.

Against such a backdrop, violence against women invariably becomes a male prerogative in the soaps. In fact, it’s even portrayed as “exciting”–if she struggles, she must be overcome. That just increases the artificially jacked-up erotic tension around what would, in real life, be an unquestionably ugly situation with no eros or drama about it. It reaffirms the macho status quo, the unspoken subtext: Real men attack women, and prevail until the woman submits. Then, the woman belongs to her assailant.

How do you suppose this plays out in real life? Well, let’s just put it this way: psychological warfare against women is a given, rape is as much a tool of war as ever (if not more so), females are routinely pitted against each other in politics, and in a rape case, it’s still all down to “he says, she says”, with the “he says” half being the one that prevails–unless the victim is an 80-year-old nun with a dozen bullet holes in her.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

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