Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dear Film and Television Industry

Content note: This post talks about homicide and gender in real life and in fiction.

Dear Film and Television Industry,

Thanks for all of the great entertainment you've given me over the years!

Here are some Google results:
transcript "dead girl" 3,000,000
transcript "dead lady" 72,100
transcript "dead woman" 1,120,000
transcript "dead boy" 495,000
transcript "dead guy" 989,000
transcript "dead man" 3,480,000

script dialogue "dead girl" 1,640,000
script dialogue "dead lady" 91,800
script dialogue "dead woman" 1,460,000
script dialogue "dead boy" 700,000
script dialogue "dead guy" 737,000
script dialogue "dead man" 1,990,000
What crosses the million mark?  Dead girl, dead woman, and dead man, in both searches.

The lowest?  Dead lady, by far, followed by dead boy.

I find it telling that "dead girl" so far outstrips "dead boy."

Why did I look this up in the first place?  I like mystery stories, so I watch a lot of mystery movies and crime procedurals.  I've noticed that you often depict professionals (investigators, for example) saying "dead girl" in their dialogue.  For example, they'll mention needing to speak with the dead girl's parents.

I'd like to suggest "the victim's parents" as an alternative.  Or "[name]'s parents," as the victim is usually a significant enough character to have a name the audience would recognize.

Maybe your point is that these gritty cops are so jaded that any corpse is just a dead girl to them.  My first response to that is, great, so find other ways to show it.  My second response to that is, okay, but why do you so often use "dead girl" when the victim was eighteen or older and therefore a dead woman?

Why does dead man exceeds dead woman (3.5 to 1.1 in one search, 2 to 1.5 in the other)?  I'd guess that it's in part because men's stories are told more often.  It's also because most homicide victims are more likely to be men than women.

Why does dead girl exceed dead boy (3.0 to 0.5 in one search, 1.6 to 0.7 in the other)?  I'd guess that it's in part because, as I mentioned above, people often label women as "girls," skewing the results.  It's also because homicide victims are more likely to be girls than boys.  Wait, no, that's not right.  The study reports that, "Most of the children killed are male and most of the offenders are male."

If most homicide victims are male, then why am I seeing so many dead girls on my TV?

Here's a fun fact!
Female victims are more likely than male victims to be killed by an intimate or family member.  Male victims are more likely than female victims to be killed by acquaintances or strangers.
If the victim is a woman, and the butler did it, then the butler's probably her father or husband.

While feminists work against the patriarchy so that all lives have value, so that no one views men as expendable or women as victims or men as brutally violent or women as girls, please join our fight.  We'll all be better off for it.  Here are some tips to get you started!  Stop sexualizing violence.  Stop sensationalizing violence against women.  Stop glorifying violent criminals.  Work on all of your crappy narratives about sexual predators and pedophiles.  And start using your victims' names.  That whole thing where the killer is more important and interesting than the victims?  I see too much of that in real life to enjoy watching it in my fiction.

With love,
Frank Lee

P.S. I wonder how much things like Dead Man Walking skewed those results?

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