The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Sunday, October 13, 2002

There's a Public Service Announcement (PSA) that's been running across the TV spectrum lately that tries to illustrate the problem with domestic violence. It starts off at a crowded, noisy lunch counter, focusing on a dad goofing around with this sons. Everyone's laughing and having a good time, when abruptly, a guy in the back shouts at his companion, "DON'T TELL ME TO CALM DOWN!!" and slams the table. The whole room freezes and becomes quiet while this guy keeps shouting, saying he'll hit the girl and so on. No one looks back, but everyone else is uncomfortable and looking down at their plates. Finally the guy shouts that he and his girl are leaving, and he storms out dragging her with him. The ad ends with a tight shot on one of the sons' faces, who looks really upset. The closing message is something like "Teach your boys that violence against women is wrong"--get them young, basically.

Now obviously, the message is a good one, and I admit the ad does a good job at drawing your attention. But I'm wondering if the message is crystal clear. I mean, does the scene suggest that the dad should have intervened in the argument? That would've been unlikely in any situation, and probably done more harm than good: the abuser might've backed down then, but he only would have taken it out on the woman later. And the woman probably would've rallied to her man's side, since people who are in abusive relationships are in them because they don't know how to live any other way. Then again, the non-reaction doesn't seem like a good response either. So I'm not totally sure that the scenario makes anything clear. I guess you can assume that afterward, the dad has a talk with his sons that this behavior was wrong....

I'm not saying it's a bad commercial, but it's a bit ambiguous. On the other hand, like I said, it catches your attention, and breaks through the clutter of ads. So I guess in that way, it did its job.