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Media Ethics - Assignment n°3
JOANA hADDAD

MEADIA ETHICS
_
RESCUE ME

SPRING 2015

The new school

Joana Haddad

Media Ethics - Assignment n°3

I . Situation

Rescue Me is a drama that centers on the inner working of Engine 62, a New York City firehouse, and the personal and emotional battles of its members in a post-9/11 world. The TV show is mostly centered around Tommy Gavin, a veteran firefighter whose life is in turmoil as he copes with stresses and fears of his job as well as the separation from his wife Janet. Tommy is lost, just like all other firefighters.
In the June 20th, 2006 episode titled Sparks, Tommy Gavin was at a breaking point. The character was involved in a controversial storyline: Tommy flies into an angry rage, throws Janet down on the couch, rips her shirt off, lifts her skirt up, and basically ‘rapes’ her. However, the way the scene unfolded on screen, it was almost as if Janet enjoyed Tommy forcing himself on her. Janet never said the words “No” or “Stop”, she did physically try to get Tommy off of her when he first attacked her. But moments later she gave in, and seemed to approve what was going on. At the end of the scene, Tommy stood up, apologized for ripping her shirt, and left Janet’s house with a smirk on his face – he seemed quite pleased with himself.

Television reviewers, bloggers, and fans complained about the scene. There was a debate about whether Tommy had raped Janet or not. Janet's reaction and Tommy's expression caused as much reaction as the assault itself, with critics saying that it made rape look unimportant, unrealistic, and that Tommy's actions were condoned. It obviously shocked some of the viewers. Is this scene appropriate for a cable TV network ?
What are the implications of Janet’s reaction ?

The new school

Joana Haddad

Media Ethics - Assignment n°3

II. VALUES

1. T h e A r t i s t i c v a l u e

According to the Oxford Dictionary, Art is “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power”. Art, at its simplest, is a form of communication. It means whatever it is intended to mean by the artist herself, and this meaning is shaped by the materials, techniques, and forms of the art, as well as the ideas and feelings it creates. Art can also simply refer to the developed and efficient use of a language to convey meaning with immediacy and or depth. Art is an act of expressing feelings, thoughts, and observations. Painting is an art form as much as a movie or a TV show. And art is aimed to express something. From a personal point of view, I consider that the act of creating is already an expression of art.
The TV show Rescue Me and more particularly the episode Spark, gather together writers, directors, actors, costume designers among others, to create something aimed to tell a story. They have created something, and as a matter of fact, it is fair to consider it as a piece of art. I agree on the fact that Rescue Me is a very hard and devastating TV show; Heroes are antiheroes, sex is violent, alcohol is omnipresent, people maintain weird relationships and some of the characters are destroyed.
Rescue Me shows something real and I believe that the artistic value is very important in this case. It implies a true freedom creatively speaking.

2. F r e e d o m o f s p e e c h

The Supreme Court has interpreted the First Amendment's protection of artistic expression very broadly. It extends not only to books, theatrical works and paintings, but also to posters, television, music videos and comic books -- whatever the human creative impulse produces.

The new school

Joana Haddad

Media Ethics - Assignment n°3
The fundamental principle come into play whenever a court must decide a case involving freedom of expression. The « content neutrality » cannot limit the government’s expression just because any listener, or even the majority of a community, is offended by its content. In the context of art and entertainment, this means tolerating some works that we might find offensive, insulting, outrageous, or just plain bad.

3. W o m e n ’ s r i g h t a n d r e s p e c t
But it doesn’t mean that the rape is something acceptable. When we talk about real life, not art, a lot of important values affects at different levels; Women’s dignity and respect are essential values in the Spark episode. Tommy treats Janet as a piece of meat, and he has no right to forces him into her. We live in a society where women are trying to become as valuable as men, as strong as them. Gender’s equality won’t happen if networks show that kind of example.

III. ETHICAL PRINCIPLE

Aristotle regards the ethical virtues (justice, courage, temperance and so on) as complex rational, emotional and social skills. What we need, in order to live well, is a proper appreciation of the way in which such goods as friendship, pleasure, virtue, honor and wealth fit together as a whole. At the first sight, showing a rape scene and transmit to the viewers bad values, may seem unethical. But virtue is a mean state between extremes of excess and deficiency. Aristotle describes this mean state as an “intermediate relative to us”. The point for the media, and especially for the broadcast market, is to find a gap between the freedom of speech, which is fundamental to a democratic society, and issues of morality. The ethical issue is how far the cable TV network should risk shocking its viewers’s sensitivities ? in order to correctly report the TV show and more generally art itself ? They have to respect viewers, but they also need to express themselves.
According to Aristotle, incontinent agents suffer from a sort of weakness of the will that prevents them from carrying out actions in conformity with what they had reasoned. Somehow, the overwhelming prospect of some great pleasure seems to obscure one's perception of what is truly good. But this difficulty,

The new school

Joana Haddad

Media Ethics - Assignment n°3

Aristotle held, need not to be fatal to the achievement of virtue. Today’s media main role is to entertain, to inform and to educate, but more than 60% of the TV’s content is violent. Sex is everywhere, alcohol and fierceness also. Cable networks are usually specialized: Music, sports, pornography, we can find any network we want, but they strictly spread their trained content. Concerning Rescue Me, the TV show was broadcast at
10 pm, which is a good gap between Sparks’s violence and the type of audience you can have at thats time.
Moreover, each viewer have the choice to watch the TV show or not.
Spark was not the first episode of the first season, viewers knew what they were looking for. To access a well being, viewers have the possibility to decide, whether they are willing to watch the show or not. They are responsible for their own choices. If the moral values of the TV show does not comply to their beliefs, they can opt to switch the channel. This is the freedom of action. I believe that the FX network has found a good compromise. The choice they made seem to be fair and reasonable.

IV. LOYALTIES

1.

Duty of The story

One of the most important elements in a story is characterization: making the characters seem vivid, real, alive. To be real and interesting, they need to have conflicts, dilemmas, opportunities, they have to make choices. They need to have a sexuality, a mentality, but more importantly, they need to be like us. Rescue Me just like any good movie has very strong characters. Most of them are alcoholics and have big attitudes, but they are also fragile and vulnerable. Rescue Me presents dark heroes. It is raw and sometimes ugly, but there is a truthfulness to the storylines. Each character has its own personality, and that is why the show is very appreciated. It tackles the daily drama of the life-and-death situations associated with being a firefighter, which means a hero, while exploring the ways the men use dark humor to protect their true emotions.

The new school

Joana Haddad

Media Ethics - Assignment n°3

Men have attitude, they are complex and they live intricate situations. The purpose of showing the « rape » scene was not to show sex on TV, but a way for Tommy Gavin to reclaim his power and boost his ego: this kind of scenes are essential to understand the complexity of the character. It tells a lot about Tommy, Janet, and their relationship.
I don’t think that Tommy’s rape is ethical, on the contrary, but I believe that the episode is; it is a reflection of real life. Tommy is a broken character, unpredictable and very lonely. He acts just like he is: violently. V . JUGEMENT

After the show aired, TV message boards all over the internet blew up with chatter about what went down. Many viewers were outraged at what they had just seen. The co-creator Peter Tolan sent a message via
TWoP to explain the original intent of the scene. He wrote:

“I’ll admit this is extremely dicey stuff. The idea of any woman ‘enjoying’ being raped is repellent, and caused all of us (and the network) a great deal of concern. But again, these are seriously damaged people who are unable to express their emotions — and so expression through brutality has become expected.”

Images and discussions of sex in society existed centuries before the dawn of television. The works of Marquis de Sade of France in the 1700’s describe sexuality as something violent and cruel. I remember studying a very chocking scene at the Sorbonne, but his work is historically considered as a master piece of the french literature. Rape and sexual violence have been a part of every war ever fought, from the ancient
Sumerians to our present day. To omit them from a narrative centered is fundamentally false and dishonest, and would have undermined one of the themes of the arts: that the true horrors of human history derive from ourselves and our lives.…...

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