Donnie Wahlberg recently announced that he and his brother Mark are going to star in a new reality series for A&E. The show, Wahlburgers, will follow the day-to-day operation of their Boston-based hamburger joint of the same name and their attempts to get a second restaurant in Toronto off the ground. The brothers will be joined by their mother, Alma, Wahlburgers executive chef and third Wahlberg brother Paul, and an assortment of the friends and family — many of whom inspired characters on Entourage. Although we're excited to see more of the Wahlberg family and watch their trials and triumphs when it comes to establishing Wahlburgers as a major franchise, we're mostly just interested in seeing more Donnie on our televisions.
When it comes to the Wahlberg brothers, Donnie always comes out on top. He's funnier, more easy going, more charming, and will generally make for a better reality television star than Mark. Plus, he probably won't get offended when clips of the show inevitably end up on an episode of The Soup. But since we know that our decision is likely a controversial one, we've had Donnie and Mark face off against each other in six categories to show you why we think that Donnie is the better Wahlberg.
Music Careers: While nobody can deny that "Good Vibrations" is one of the catchiest songs in existence, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch don't hold a candle to New Kids on the Block. Not only did New Kids sell more records and have more hits than the Funky Bunch, they also managed to reunite in 2008 to a great deal of success, and when they formed a supergroup with fellow boy band the Backstreet Boys, they found even more success and essentially kicked off the the boy band renaissance we're currently experiencing. Plus, they're set to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame sometime this year. Winner: Donnie
Television Careers:Although Mark is better known for his film career, he does have one major television credit to his name: Entourage, which he created and produced based on his own life. The show has been a massive success, running for eight seasons and spawning a developing spin-off film. However, Mark has only ever appeared on it briefly, for a quick cameo here and there. Donnie, meanwhile, has not had any of his shows become monster hits like Entourage, but he did star in the critically-acclaimed mini series Band of Brothers as Second Lieutenant C. Carwood Lipton, which earned him a role on another critical favorite, Boomtown. He currently stars on the cult hit Blue Bloods, and is the executive producer of Boston's Finest, a show about the Boston police force that has recently been renewed for a second season. Since Donnie's shows are of a higher quality than his brother's, and since he's actually starring in them, we're going to have to give this point to the elder Wahlberg. Winner: Donnie
Film Careers: This is the category in which Mark has the distinct advantage, having earned an Oscar nomination for his work in The Departed, a Golden Globe nomination for his role in The Fighter and starred in major hits like Boogie Nights and Ted. However, despite becoming a bonafide movie star, Mark has made some notable mis-steps - including M. Night Shymalan's The Happening and the upcoming Transformers sequel. Donnie, meanwhile, has had roles in several Saw films, The Sixth Sense and Righteous Kill, alongside Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, but his movie career has been, on the whole, less well-received than Mark's. Winner: Mark
Sense of Humor:Despite starring in Ted, one of the most successful comedies of recent years, Mark doesn't seem to have much of a sense of humor when it comes to himself. A prime example of this is the way he threatened to beat up Andy Samberg for making fun of him in the "Mark Whalberg Talks to Animals" sketches. Sure, he apologized and later appeared on Saturday Night Live in order to poke fun at himself, but something tells us that Donnie would've just taken the whole thing in stride. Besides, he's got to have a good sense of humor to have endured all of the boy band jokes that have come his way over the course of his career. Winner: Donnie
Sports Fanaticism: Donnie is well-known for being a hardcore fan of the Boston Celtics, and has even narrated a documentary for ESPN about the team. Like Spike Lee for the Knicks or Jack Nicholson for the Lakers, Donnie is the Celtics' most famous fan, and other Celtics fans love him for it. Mark, meanwhile, actually owns a portion of a sports team — the Barbados Tridents, a cricket franchise. Although, as New Yorkers, it pains us to say this, the Celtics are a much better-known, more relevant team in the United States, and therefore, we're going to have to give this point to Donnie as well. It might be a controversial move, but in our opinion, basketball beat cricket any day. Winner: Donnie
Personality:In general, Donnie gives off the impression of being much more laid-back and fun to be around than his younger brother, who is prone to profanity-laden rants and violence. Mark seems like the kind of guy it would be fun to have a drink with every so often, but you'd probably always be worried that he would get you into some sort of altercation. Donnie, however, seems like better long-term-friend material; the kind of guy who will back you up in a fight, but who's probably more interested in the basketball game than starting any trouble. Winner: Donnie
So, there you have it: with five points to one, Donnie is by far the better Wahlberg brother. Let's hope his appearances on Wahlburgers only serve to make us like him more.
R.L. Stine is still the most prolific children's horror writer in the business. Though the kids are reading his books on iPads these days, not under the covers with a flashlight. His Goosebumps series ruled the Book Fair circuit, and it seemed like every time your parents took you to the mall, there would be six new stories to buy. Part of the creepy charm of the Goosebumps books were their grossly fun evocative titles and illustrated jackets, which gave your imagination just a taste of what Camp Run-For-Your-Life looked like. Here are our favorite Goosebumps titles and their Amazon descriptions. How many do you remember reading?
1. Say Cheese and Die!
"Greg thinks there is something wrong with the old camera he found. The photos keep turning out . . . different.When Greg takes a picture of his father's brand-new car, it's wrecked in the photo. And then his dad crashes the car.It's like the camera can tell the future — or worse. Maybe it makes the future!"
2. My Best Friend is Invisible
"Sammy Jacobs is into ghosts and science fiction. Not exactly the smartest hobby -- at least not if you ask Sammy's parents. They're research scientists and they only believe in "real" science.But now Sammy's met someone who's totally UN-real. He's hanging out in Sammy's room. And eating his cereal at breakfast. Sammy's got to find a way to get rid of his new 'friend.' Only problem is...Sammy's new friend is invisible!"
3. The Horror at Camp Jellyjam
"Camp Jellyjam is no ordinary sports camp. The counselors seem a little TOO happy. And why are they so obsessed with winning? It might have something to do with the hideous, slimy discovery lurking in the darkness..."
4. How I Got My Shrunken Head
"What has two eyes, a mouth, and wrinkly green skin? Mark's shrunken head! It's a present from his Aunt Benna. A gift from the jungle island of Baladora.And Mark can't wait to show the kids at school!But late one night the head starts to glow. Because it's actually no ordinary head. It gives Mark a strange power. A magical power. A dangerous power..."
5. The Blob That Ate Everyone
"A famous horror writer. That's what Zackie Beauchamp wants to be. He's writing a story about a giant blob monster. A pink slimy creature who eats up an entire town!Then Zackie finds the typewriter. In a burned-down antiques store. He takes it home and starts typing.But there's something really odd about that typewriter. Something really dangerous. Because now every word Zackie writes is starting to come true..."
6. The Girl Who Cried Monster
"When Lucy observes the summer librarian eating flies and turning into a grotesque creature, she is certain that he is a real, live monster."
7. Piano Lessons Can Be Murder
"Convinced that there is something creepy about his new piano teacher, Jerry soon hears terrifying stories about Dr. Shreek's music school and students who never completed their lesson alive."
8. The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena
"Becoming sick of the endless hot weather in their Pasadena home, siblings Jordan and Nicole Blake wish for a real winter and are delighted with an Alaskan family vacation, until they come face-to-face with the Abominable Snowman."
9. The Cuckoo Clock of Doom
"When his father brings home an antique cuckoo clock, Michael is cautioned not to touch it, but he turns back the hands and suddenly he is getting younger by the minute — a year younger to be exact."
10. Don't Go to Sleep!
"Matt hates his tiny bedroom. It's so small it's practically a closet! Still, Matt's mom refuses to let him sleep in the guest room. After all, they might have guests. Some day. Or year."
An inspired parody of the decadent world of '80s heavy metal, This Is Spinal Tap was said to have been so realistic that many of the artists it pilloried failed to see any humor in the amplifiers that turned up to eleven, the preposterous song titles ("Lick My Love Pump") and the labyrinth of backstage corridors. Indeed, displaying a staggering lack of self-awareness, several bands have since made the fictional rockers' absurd antics appear positively normal whilst filming their own real-life music documentaries. Here's a look at five which you'd struggle to believe if they were scripted.
Rattle & Hum
Sadly, the moment when U2 became stuck inside the giant lemon prop on the Popmart tour never made it to celluloid. But following in the footsteps of Spinal Tap, their visit to Graceland during their po-faced companion piece to their 1988 album did.
Robbie Williams' guitarist Fil Eisler even namechecks Spinal Tap during this fly-on-the-wall look at the former Take That star's 2001 European tour after a cock-up leaves the band trapped behind the curtains. Meanwhile, a crazed stage invader and a surreal conversation about the correct height of a table and chairs adds to the whole ridiculousness.
Some Kind Of Monster
Following on from the whole Napster debacle, thrash metal legends Metallica continued to tarnish their reputation with this unintentionally hilarious account of their behind-the-scenes troubles and their $40,000-a-month therapy sessions in particular.
Seething with jealousy over his underground 'soulmates' The Dandy Warhols' rise to major label success, The Brian Jonestown Massacre frontman Anton Newcombe completely self-destructed in this compelling love/hate tale, culminating in a comical industry showcase where he instructed bouncers to beat up the audience.
Anvil! The Story Of Anvil
Unlike the more famous examples on the list, forgotten Canadian metalheads Anvil came off as utterly charming as they desperately tried to keep the dream alive 30 years into their career. But it didn't make the scenes where they were paid in goulash or performed to 174 people in a 10,000 seater arena any less funny.
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Ever since they debuted, ESPN's SportsCenter commercials have always been neat slices of humor that allows the athletes to poke fun at their own image and pop culture. It's been nearly 20 years since they first debuted, so here are 10 of the best ones. It's not a true 1-10 ranking: I love them all so much I can't pick one as being better than another.
1. Roger Clemens: Still Got It
They had him prove that the 1994 hadn't affected his fastball in a most unusual way .
2. Stephen King: Human Generator
Anything with the King of Horror is going to be awesome.
3. David Ortiz: Betrayal
Oh, poor Wally the Green Monster...poor, poor Wally.
4. Albert Pujols: The Machine
Pujols does a hilarious take on The Terminator.
5. Steve Irwin: Gator Wrestling
May he rest in peace, but this is so hilarious.
6. Floyd Mayweather: Punching Bag
It's the last two punches that really make it.
7. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Directions
Forget about stopping somewhere and asking for different directions.
8. Peyton and Eli Manning: Family Tour
You KNOW this is how life was when they were growing up.
9. Maria Sharapova: Cafeteria
Oh, like you'd save the seat for Stuart Scott, right.
10. The Kid: Not Ready Yet
Highlighting the dangers of leaving school too early to go pro.
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Chris Brown's girlfriend Karrueche Tran got a shock when she returned to the star's home to find the R&B bad boy had spray-painted her Porsche. The model had been on a trip to Las Vegas but jetted back to Los Angeles on Thursday (22Aug13) to see her on/off beau.
Tran was left speechless when she was dropped off at his property and discovered colourful monster murals had been sprayed over the white paintwork of her expensive sports car.
Taking to Instagram.com, she uploaded a snap of herself looking glum while sitting on the vehicle's hood, with the message, "This (is) what the f**k I come home to lmao this n**ga man."
The graffiti is in the same style as the daubings on the outside of Brown's home, which the Kiss Kiss hitmaker was made to remove earlier this year (13) following complaints from neighbours.
When asked why he chose the path of boxing, Rocky Balboa offered a simple, though rather elegant, explanation: "Because I can't sing or dance." Now imagine if he could, and you'll get a pretty good idea of what's in store: a Rocky musical, the latest film adaptation to be mounted for Broadway. The Hollywood Reporter shares that a team of Alex Timbers (director), Thomas Meehan (writer), Stephen Flaherty (composer), and Lynn Ahrens (lyricist) will be transforming Sylvester Stallone's Oscar winning picture into a song-laden stage production; Stallone himself weighed in on the forthcoming project:
"I couldn’t be more proud or more excited about this production and how my original story of Rocky Balboa has been brought to spectacular life onstage," Stallone told THR. "Alex Timbers and the entire creative team ... have made [the character's] story as exciting, heart-breaking, and inspiring as it was when Rocky first went the distance onscreen."
It was 1976 when Stallone brought his now iconic character to Hollywood for the first of six (so far) times. The Best Picture victor, among the most beloved of sports films, is so full of memorable lines, scenes, and emotional instances, that it'll be quite the endeavor to turn the lot of them into musical numbers. So which Rocky's thick-tongued slurs, Adrian's squawking admonitions, Paulie's crass cackles, or Mickey's endearing insults will earn their own showstoppers? Here's one example already:
"The Italian Stallion"An upbeat overture, introducing the audience to its lovable hero: Rocky Balboa.
"Be a Thinker, Not a Stinker"Apollo Creed's Gilbert & Sullivan style romp about the merits in education trumping the glory in athletic stardom.
"Eat Lightning, Crap Thunder"The first powerhouse number of the play: a fired up Mickey puts Rocky through the wringer with this operatic call to arms.
"Ya Don't Have to Kiss Me Back"To follow, a softer entry: Rocky professing his affection for leading lady Adrian, offering the chance to refuse his courtship in this duet.
"Eat the Bird"Perhaps the emotional crux of the film, Paulie's vigilant ballad, directed toward his sister Adrian in a moment so wrathful, it'll warrant a therapeutic intermission immediately afterward.
"I Ain't No Bum"The tenderness hits a peak when Rocky channels all of the pain he has felt over his modest intellect and poor choices, declaring to the audience that he has more to him than everyone thinks.
"A Damn Monster Movie"At last, the real showstopper! The showdown between Rocky and Apollo Creed, an orchestrated song pitting the two against one another in the ring. Whole lotta dancin'.
"A Couple of Coconuts"Finally, following the big match, we reunite Rocky with Adrian, allowing him the happy ending of his true love's embrace.
Fill in the gaps with your own suggestions!
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter
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Jon Hamm to Host the ESPY Awards: The Mad Men star announced today on LIVE with Kelly and Michael that he was been asked to host the 2013 ESPYS. This is the first time the AMC actor will be hosting the sports-centric televised award ceremony. Fans can catch Hamm hosting the ESPYS Wednesday, July 17 at 9 PM on ESPN from the Nokia Theater L.A. Live in Los Angeles. [Deadline]
ABC Family Picks Up Another Pilot: In addition to their two new dramas Twisted and The Fosters, ABC Family ordered a full season pick up of a third pilot. Chasing Life — formerly called Terminales — is an adaptation of a successful Mexican television series starring Italia Ricci as April, an ambitious young newspaper reporter who tries to balance her career aspirations with her hectic family. However, just as things are staring to look up for April, she is diagnosed with cancer. The drama is set to premiere in early 2014 on ABC Family. [Deadline]
Guillermo del Toro Teams Up With HBO: Looks like the infamous director is finally making the jump from the silver screen to the small screen. It has just been announced that Del Toro is developing a new show for HBO called Monster. The series is will be an adaptation from 18 volumes of Japanese Manga and the thriller is about the worldwide search by a young doctor for the most evil sociopath that has ever lived. Del Toro will direct the upcoming project and will co-write the story with Dr. Who’s Steven Thompson. [Deadline]
FOX Apologizes to Zooey Deschanel: During the coverage of last week’s search for the Boston Marathon Bomber, a FOX news affiliate KDFW in Dallas-Fort Worth, the closed captioning named the New Girl actress instead of the suspect. The text read, ““Marathon Bomber. He is 19-year-old Zooey Deschanel.” After reacting to the erroneous error on Twitter, Deschanel has received an official apology from the station. Company president Kala J. Patterson says in a statement issued Tuesday they “sincerely apologize for this error.” [EW]
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The movie business, in many ways, functions in a similar fashion as does professional sports. Like sports, the year of movie releases is broken into seasons. The most important is obviously the summer blockbuster season, then the holiday season, which falls almost right in line with awards season. The months of January and February, on the other hand, are very much the off-season. These two months often represent a landfill of subpar films from which, if we’re lucky, we occasionally mine a few gems. Here, at the end of February, it has become frighteningly apparent that 2013 may be one of the worst early-year droughts to date. Could this be true?
We gathered a group of prominent writers, including C. Robert Cargill, screenwriter of 2012’s Sinister and former critic for Ain’t It Cool News, Will Goss of Film.com, and Jeremy Kirk of FirstShowing.net, to try and get a foothold on the dearth of quality at the multiplex thus far:
Why is it that January and February is such a dumping ground?
Kirk: I’ve always assumed it’s because that’s when people aren’t going to movies, because they are going back to work and school after the holidays. This is the time when people talk about film festivals; Sundance and SxSW.
Cargill: You get to see all the good stuff early, and by Christmas day you’ve seen pretty much everything. And after that it’s all dumping. The only people who are going to see movies at that time are over the age of thirty-five; who have savings accounts and weren’t tapped out by Christmas. That’s why Taken was such a hit and why Clint Eastwood movies tend to do so well in January. They are made for an audience that still has money. They release the Oscar bait movies, which play to that crowd, and then you just get this terrible sprinkling of crap.
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Kirk: Not all movies released in January and February are inherently dumped. But with some of these movies…you can just tell. It’s a shotgun approach; there’s always going to be good movies and there’s always going to be bad movies. And yes, there are more bad movies at the beginning of the year, but I always go into a movie hoping for the best.
How many films at this point this year did you thoroughly enjoy, which would you go to bat for?
Kirk: I would say there are two movies that have come out since the beginning of the year that I think are really solid, and that I would recommend people see. If the rest of the year is crappy, I could see Side Effects and Warm Bodies being in my top ten.
Goss: Side Effects definitely, probably Warm Bodies, and probably Snitch. But that’s three out of, what, fifteen wide releases.
Cargill: Having not seen Side Effects yet, and based on the films I have seen, I wouldn’t go to bat for any of them.
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Is it just us? Are we a subset of critics who are just being too hard on these movies or is it a widespread critical perception?
Goss: Looking at the Tomato Meter for wide releases post-January; Mama is at 60%, Side Effects is at 85%, Warm Bodies is at 78%. Everything else is rotten.
Kirk: I think it’s the audience too. If you look at the box office, there isn’t one movie that has yet passed $100 million, and probably none of them will. Maybe Identity Thief, but that’s the only one that might have a chance. Last year, January/February, we had three movies that broke $100 million. You have to go back to 2008 to find a January/February that didn’t have at least one film that netted $100 million.
Is it always that the studios believe these movies are subpar, or is it just a function of fear and uncertainty?
Cargill: Well, look back at Chronicle last year. Fox had no idea whether it was going to work or not.
Goss: I feel the same way about Rise of the Planet of the Apes, in August of 2011. They didn’t have a clue if they made something good for geeks and/or general audiences.
Cargill: That’s true. They were scrambling to put screenings together in other markets at the last minute after the L.A. critics loved it.
Goss: Chronicle was the same way; they scheduled that screening the same night as The Woman in Black. But again, right up until the week before, I don’t think Fox knew what they had.
Speaking of The Woman in Black, it seems this time of the year has become the “other October.” So many studios releasing horror movies in January, and again quality is the exception and not the rule.
Goss: Ever since White Noise was a hit in 2005, that’s what started it. If you look back at every first weekend, besides expanding titles, the only new release is usually one crappy horror movie.
Cargill: For years, horror movies made $19-20million in a January release. They would take the weekend and that would be it. But The Devil Inside proved that even in our worst dumping ground, you can appeal to a market that won’t see movies, and in fact that they’ll throw money at a terrible movie if it looks like it’s good. I mean, $35 million is sick money for an opening weekend for a film that cost, what, $250,000?
Kirk: Looking at the January horror this year, Texas Chainsaw 3D was an obvious dump, especially considering how many times it got pushed back.
Cargill, your movie Sinister was originally slated for January, no?
Cargill: Yeah. But we really wanted an October release and January, at the time, was piling up with too much horror, much of which was since reshuffled. Mama ended up on the weekend everyone was staking out. And it did quite well as a result.
Goss: Mama was the only PG-13 movie out in January, everything else was rated R. It’s the same reason movies like Escape from Planet Earth keep doing well. There hadn’t been a family film in theaters since Parental Guidance at Christmas. Even that made $70 million just by being there.
Cargill: Some years it’s really bad and some years its good, and most years there’s one bright spot; at the very least you get a Cloverfield.
Kirk: Given how well Cloverfield did, I’m surprised J.J. Abrams didn’t go back to the January slot for other projects.
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But there again, Cloverfield was a gamble for the studio. That was released a year before Paranormal Activity so they weren’t sure this whole found footage thing was going to work.
Cargill: It’s all gambling, and the minute anybody moves then everybody else starts shuffling around. I mean we ended up shifting our date for Sinister, what three weeks out? Everybody recognized what a huge monster hit Taken 2was going to be and knew we’d get swallowed whole.
But clearly horror isn’t the only genre getting dumped.
Kirk: I’m actually shocked that Die Hard, of all franchises, was moved to February. I thought that was such a weird choice.
To me that speaks to both issues we were talking about earlier. It was the only franchise entry to not be released in the summer. They don’t even have confidence in a Die Hard movie this year, and rightfully so, because it was a disaster.
Kirk: This year is really front-loaded with action movies. On top of Gangster Squad, Hansel and Gretel, and Snitch, we got new movies from Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Willis. Who would have thought Willis’ would be the worst?
Wow, three of the Expendables have new movies out in the first two months of the year.
Kirk: Four if you count Statham.
Goss: Last year, Chronicle did well on Super Bowl weekend, which is usually unheard of because it’s Super Bowl weekend and they don’t go for male-skewing films. You put a Dear John there and it makes a killing. So that suggests that even then they can put something there that people would actually come out and see. Warm Bodies did alright, but that’s arguably more female-skewing; Bullet to the Head clearly didn’t. Identity Thief made a ton of money and nobody goes to see Side Effects, so it’s give and take.
So what’s the consensus here? This year is bad, but not worse?
Goss: I think by default of there not being The Grey and Haywire, this year is worse. Just compared strictly to last year, I haven’t seen anything I liked as much as The Grey. However, that’s more a statement that last year was an anomaly.
Cargill: Yeah. I’ve seen some pretty lean years where everything is garbage. I’ve had years where it’s been six straight weeks of dreck until finally something halfway decent came out on Valentine’s Day.
Kirk: There are little movies here and there that are well-placed in January and February. Steven Soderbergh always does well at the beginning of the year. But I agree that we’ve been more heavily inundated with mediocre to dreadful movies.
Cargill: It’s a really rough year.
Goss: Which isn’t to say rougher than normal, it’s just that normal is pretty rough.
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Sometimes, when it rains, it really pours. And for Lady Gaga, that rain is pouring down pretty hard right now. Only a day after revealing she would have to postpone three shows, Gaga has been further sidelined by her injury — forced to cancel the remainder of the Born This Way Ball world tour in order to address her health concerns.
Gaga told fans via Twitter that she was "completely devastated" to postpone the shows after being diagnosed with synovitis (an extreme inflammation of the joints). A total of 21 additional tour dates have now been chopped, in order for Mother Monster to receive proper medical care for her injured hip.
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In a statement, LiveNation confirmed the news, explaining that "after additional tests this morning to review the severity of the issue, it has been determined that Lady Gaga has a labral tear of the right hip caused by strenuous repetitive movements in her performances." A labral tear sounds pretty painful to us: it involves the ring of soft elastic tissue (labrum) that rims the socket of your hip joints, allowing for the ball at the top of your thighbone to stay firmly in place. With a labral tear, your hip bone can "catch" and general pain. So don't expect a speedy recovery, as Gaga will likely need serious time to recover, followed by a bit of physical therapy. While the extent of Gaga's injury is not fully known to fans, it seems as thought the issue has been going on for awhile, and that she's been trying to work through it, likely causing more damage.
Here's hoping for a speedy recovery.
[Photo Credit: WENN]
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On television, a female character is more likely to be strangled or stabbed than shot. But is that a symptom of reality pervading art, or is it an example of television amping up the drama to get a bigger reaction?
TV is a dangerous place, what with the meth dealers, zombies, gangsters, vampires, and legions of cops and robbers on every network. Characters are practically looking for danger every time they step into a frame that doesn't reside in the cozy confines of a sitcom. Hollywood.com recently released the stats of a study by Funeralwise.com, which named The Walking Dead the deadliest show on television, but the report also included an interesting statistic about the fate of women in televisual danger: "While guns were the most prevalent method for killing both genders, females died 70 percent of the time in other ways — by knife or blade, beating and strangulation, poisoning, vehicle crashes, etc." The quick, clean, relatively emotionless method of murder by gun is a fate mostly saved for male TV characters, many of which occupy the zombie/henchman/lackie categories.
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It's a plot point we see frequently on shows like Law and Order: SVU and, more recently, Fox's new serial killer drama The Following, which features numerous brutal and sexualized female killings. And the self-professed network for women, Lifetime, thrives on this brand of drama. According to the study, women are treated more brutally and more personally, dying at the very close hands of an attacker using a knife or their hands to rip away the last breaths of life.
But why? What is it about women that makes TV writers consistently doom them to deaths that are arguably more brutal and personal than the more distanced firearm dispatch?
The true life stats don't exactly add up to the picture we're seeing on television. According to the CDC's most recent study, in 2010, women and men were almost equally likely to be killed by firearm (11,078 men vs. 9,340 women) and the greater disparity came in the "homicide by other and unspecified means" category, where we see almost twice as many men killed by non-firearm assault than women. It appears that in reality, men are more likely to be the victims of hand-to-hand combat, stabbing, and other non-firearm homicide.
And when looking at the murder rates gathered by the FBI in 2011, out of a total 13,164 murders in the U.S., 8,583 were the result of various firearms and only 1,694 were from knives, with an even tinier 756 deaths by hand. If anything, the evidence seems to be stacked against the increased rate of knives, strangulation, beating, and other non-gun violence. So, if stats aren't behind television's numbers, why is the medium guilty of profusely portraying this level of intimate violence?
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The first answer is likely the simplest: history. For ages, women have been portrayed as the weaker sex in literature, film, and eventually television. "It funnels into the age-old gender narrative and the power imbalance," says women's self-defense guru and spokesperson Melissa Soalt.
If we look back at the horror genre in literature, before the moving picture was even introduced, we still see Bram Stoker writing women as lusty subjects for Dracula's bloody bite. Even in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein's love Elizabeth is killed by brute force at the hands of the monster. This concept is not new, and it has yet to be filtered out of most dramatic and violent narratives to this day.
The second answer is one that's a bit harder to take: The U.S. murder rate is more than 20 points below the nation's rate of rape attempts. While rape isn't exclusively a women's issue, a great majority of reported rapes are committed against women. As disturbing as it is, the narrative of women in danger has written itself in the real world and perhaps that's why it's written on television as well.
"It's bad enough that women are fighting this reality — we're fighting it every day," Soalt says.
And the truth of it is that while men are the majority of victims of assaults resulting in death in the U.S. (77 percent, according to the Bureau of Justice), women are more likely to be fatally harmed by someone they know intimately, like a spouse, family member, or close friend. Which, in a narrative sense, would make for a greater emotional impact when death is delivered by hand rather than by the callousness of a firearm.
But this narrative choice might actually be detrimental to our understanding of violence.
"[This kind of violence] rises to a level of violence porn and it's really dangerous," Soalt says. While there's no direct correlation between brutality on television and the same act in real life, it can't be denied that the proliferation of these images normalizes the acts. That is, that seeing this sort of intimate violence over and over desensitizes our reactions to it.
It's something even Nicole Kidman admitted when she came before U.S. Congress in 2009 to urge them to take action on violence against women. When asked if the movie industry played a "bad role" in promoting violence against women, she answered "probably" adding she avoids such roles. "I can't be responsible for all of Hollywood but I can certainly be responsible for my own career," she said.
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But what can TV writers and producers do to combat this horrifying statistic? We're working against reality and history, but there are moves the industry can take. According to Soalt, it helps to see women stepping up to the plate against their attackers during what she calls "the moment of truth." In many shows and films, this moment of truth is used as a prime shot to express a female victim's terror as her attacker closes in, but according to Soalt, that point can also be used to turn the tides.
It's something we see time and again from the female characters on The Walking Dead. It may be the deadliest show on television, but it's one place where women don't occupy a victimized space. They fight back, and when it comes to the moment of truth, when they must choose between fight or flight, they use that brief moment of clarity to assess their surroundings and defend themselves. It's also found in this weekend's romantic offering Safe Haven, in which Julianne Hough's character finds a way to stave off an attacker. So, clearly, changing the narrative is possible.
The more the rest of the industry follows suit, the more simulated violence might start to appear a little less normal and a lot less often.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: David Giesbrecht/Fox; Susan Walsh/AP Photo]
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