I usually don’t write about trailers for upcoming films or TV series. But taking a cue from my fave feminist media sites Bitch Flicks and Women and Hollywood, I’m beginning to think I need to in order to call out all the misogynistic bullshit I keep seeing.
For the past few weeks, I’ve seen disturbing ads for NBC’s new show Grimm. The series, which premieres tonight (10/28), boasts a homicide cop who discovers he’s in a long line of “Grimms,” “criminal profilers” who bridge the gap between the mythological realm, with characters from Grimm’s fairy tales, and the human world. The first trailer depicted an image of a beautiful woman laid seductively in the grass against a red dress, her hair cascading around her, crimson lips seductively parted. Oh, and she was murdered. That’s right, Little Red Riding Hood is a corpse.
When I went to NBC’s website, I found more clips of gorgeous dead women. Snow White‘s dead body delicately holds a bitten apple, her alabaster skin luminous. Cinderella’s lifeless arms drape gracefully like a ballerina in a bed of grass, her glass slipper nearby. In a clip entitled “Prince Charming,” a murdered maiden floats in a pool of water, her clothes clinging to her skin while a frog crawls and hops around her, the liquid framing her exquisite face. Notice a theme? All of these images don’t depict any murdered men, just young beautiful women, their dead bodies perfectly poised.
Now, I’m intrigued by the idea of updated fairy tales, hence my love for Wicked. And I don’t automatically have a problem with films and TV series containing plots where murder victims are women. I’ve written before about my obsession with The Killing and the Millennium Trilogy (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc.) which deal with themes of sexism and misogyny while boasting strong, intelligent and complex female protagonists (love, love, love Lisbeth Salander and Sarah Linden). Beyond CSI and Law and Order: SVU (I heart Olivia Benson!), the glorification of dead women’s bodies can be found in Kanye West’s disgusting “Monster” video, Vogue Italia’s horrific BP oil-themed spread, Gucci’s dead women in the desert. In fact, high fashion often exploits dead women in the name of beauty and art.
The media often subjugates women’s bodies, particularly in the form of violence and death. The proliferation of these disturbing images contributes to our rape culture that condones and accepts misogyny. Violence against women in the form of rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, and femicide, “the killing of females by males because they are female,” are all devastating crimes we need to take seriously. Yet time and again, we witness the media’s pornification of women’s and girls’ corpses. And Grimm’s ads play into this common trope.
Advertising insidiously affects us, shapes our choices and views. Most people think they can ignore ads. I can’t tell you how many times I hear people say, “Oh, I don’t pay attention to ads,” or “I have DVR so I never see them.” But advertisements splatter across billboards, buses, magazines, TV, radio and the internet. In Jean Kilbourne’s groundbreaking book Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel (which irrevocably changed the way I view advertising…seriously, if you haven’t read it, go out and buy it now), she argues that sexist and misogynistic imagery bombards us, inundating our senses even on a subconscious level. Whether we realize it or not, ads impact our lives.
Grimm will probably be off the air quickly, either due to the curse of its Friday night timeslot or if the show is as sexist as its ads, it might suffer the same fate like The Playboy Club and Charlie’s Angels. Who knows, maybe the show is really good and it’s just Grimm’s marketing that reeks of misogyny. But with the only female cast member the protagonist’s fiancée (of course her role revolves around a dude, ugh), I’m skeptical.
But even if Grimm does get cancelled, trailers and advertisements affect how we envision the world. It disgusts me that Grimm’s ads glorify murdered women, normalizing violence against women and bearing the message that women merely serve as sex objects for the male gaze. Even in death, women must be sexy.