Category Archives: Domestic Violence

“You:” The Flip Side of the Rom-Com

By: Maria Ordoñez

Warning: The following article contains multiple spoilers. Read at your own risk.

Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) is a charming bookstore manager who reads to kids, saves old books, and keeps his young neighbor out of trouble. He’s practically the perfect guy, except he’s still recovering from his latest heartbreak. Just when he’s about to give up on love for good, a beautiful, young poet named Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail) walks into his life. From the moment she picks out his favorite Paula Fox novel, he knows it’s meant to be. And so, embarking on a series of crazy antics, Joe will stop at nothing to get the girl of his dreams. 

And when I say nothing, I mean nothing.

See, what sounds like a synopsis for the perfect rom-com, is in fact the plot of Lifetime’s latest psychological-thriller series,“You.” The series, which was recently renewed for a second season, has seen a dramatic increase in popularity since being picked up by Netflix in December. With over 15,000 total posts in the last month, one thing is clear – viewers everywhere are hooked on this addictive new drama, and more importantly, they’re hooked on Joe.

Why wouldn’t they be? After all, I did say he’s “practically” the perfect guy. Except for the part where I forgot to mention that he’s an obsessive stalker, and that his “crazy antics” include everything from breaking and entering to the occasional murder. And yet, the template of this story feels oddly familiar…

That’s because “You” is everything we’ve seen in every rom-com ever. The only difference is that it depicts what would happen if instead of on a movie screen, these scenarios were playing out in real life. It’s what would happen if the barista from Starbucks actually showed up at your house in the middle of the night to profess his love for you based on a handful of conversations about the weather. “You” portrays this flip side of rom-coms that we need to start talking about.

In its subversive exposé on the dark side of these movies, “You” has multiple moments of self-awareness where the characters reflect on rom-coms as they make morally questionable decisions. And by characters, I’m referring to Joe.

Take, for example, Episode 1 where he spends his first day “with” Beck. After following her everywhere from yoga class to work, he ends up breaking into her apartment, where he hacks into her computer and steals a few personal items. Then, when Beck comes home earlier than expected, Joe finds himself hiding in her shower, thinking to himself:

Picture1

This is problematic, mostly because it’s true. I mean, we’ve all seen movies like There’s Something About Mary. The plot of that story involves, not 1, but 6 different guys stalking the same girl. The worst part is that they actually succeed in winning her over. The normalization of this type of behavior onscreen unintentionally sets an example for day-to-day relationships. It makes guys like Joe think, “Well, if it worked for Ben Stiller, then it can work for me.”

That brings us to the scene in Episode 6, where Joe, having followed Beck up to Peach Salinger’s (Shay Mitchell) estate, finds himself in a similar predicament. This time, though, he isn’t trapped in a shower, but rather under a bed, bearing witness to Peach’s latest sexual encounter. Here, he makes a reference to the classic movie When Harry Met Sally, saying:

Picture2

Although Harry never does this per se, some would argue that he and Joe have some similar issues with boundaries. I’m not saying that Harry is a murderer, but he doesshow up to Sally’s party uninvited, he doesn’tleave when she asks him to, and he doesn’ttake her “I hate you” as the explicit rejection that it is. It’s like Joe is taking pages straight out of Harry’s playbook, and just taking them one step further.

To top it all off, in the surprising season finale, there’s no doubt that Joe is all about going big or going home. I mean, when Beck finds out what a creep he really is, he literally keeps her prisoner in a glass cage. As if this wasn’t concerning enough, Joe goes on to justify his behavior as an act of true love. He claims:

Picture1

You got me again, Joe. It ithe stuff of a million love songs. The Police told us “Every breath you take, I’ll be watching you;” Lady Gaga sang “I’ll follow you until you love me;” and even The Beatles said “I’d rather see you dead, than to be with another man.” Everywhere we look, the media is telling us that if love isn’t obsessive, then it isn’t true love.

Of course, most love songs and rom-coms are meant to be entertaining, not to be taken literally. However, the reality is that all media, whether fictional or not, can have an influence on the way people behave in the real world. I’ve met my fair share of “nice” guys who lurk outside the workplace, show up to places uninvited, and think “no” simply means try harder.  

In the era of the #MeToo movement, “You” shows up at the right time to shed some light on the issues of boundaries and the abuse of power. Most of all, though, it leaves us with a lesson for all people of all genders:

Forget what the rom-coms have taught you, you don’t want to end up like Joe.

Surviving R Kelly: Black Girls’ Lives Matter

By: Moriah Mikhail

The Play-book of a master manipulator:

Lure, charm, ensnare, lie, coerce, abuse, lie some more, compliment, abuse again, threaten, control, cover up, and then lie again. repeat.

After watching the Surviving R Kelly Lifetime documentary, it seems Kelly has not only mastered this play-book but may have written it himself. The disturbing reports of pedophilia, sexual and physical abuse, as well as manipulation the girls recounted from their experience with the R&B pied piper were enough to make any viewer physically ill. And yet the most disturbing component of Kelly’s systematic manipulation is how he specifically chooses the girls he preys on. This once idolized Black artist utilizes the oppression experienced by Black women and girls to his advantage, successfully (until now), silencing his victims. One Survivor featured in the Lifetime series, Asante McGee, alleges that the singer preys on super fans specifically, employing his power as an R&B superstar to sexually manipulate vulnerable fans. McGee became involved with R Kelly at the age of 32, but she describes that regardless of age; “if you are vulnerable and he knows he can control you, that’s who he’s gonna go for.” The significance of that tendency is this—the R&B molester’s main goal with these girls is to seek control and exploit them with little threat of repercussions. He preys on the very community that has helped him achieve stardom, and worse, many young girls from that community. Because of this, survivors have been hushed by their own community and their reports against him have evoked little outrage. As Chance The Rapper described, and an opinion many unfortunately hold: “I didn’t value the accusers’ stories because they were black women.”Kelly is utilizing a racist societal ill to his advantage, and it cannot be stressed enough how problematic that is, especially for a black artist idolized by the black community.

For those that have not been able to tune into the series, I will summarize a few critical points. Disclaimer: some of the stories mentioned below may be triggering for certain viewers that have experienced sexual or domestic abuse; please use discretion as you read and prioritize your mental health.

1994 marks the start of R Kelly’s apparent trail of pedophilia with his illegal marriage to the then 15 year old, Aaliyah, considered the princess of R&B. As described in the docuseries, those in his inner circle considered his relationship with Aaliyah to be an anomaly in Kelly’s sexual history. They believed he loved her and that he thought she was “different,” “mature,” and “beyond her years.” I use quotes not to say she could not have exhibited those characteristics but that coming from Rob it sounds more like a cover-up to convince his peers that their relationship was an exception and not an obvious red flag that he was (and still is) a pedophile. Recently, Kelly’s lawyers have come to his defense claiming Aaliyah lied about her age saying she was 18 but recently a video clip resurfaced, proving R Kelly was in fact aware she was 15 at the time of their marriage. He was 27.

Sparkle (Stephanie Edwards)describes a different side of a familiar scandal in Surviving R Kelly. The trending upcoming singer introduced her niece to R Kelly when the young girl was just 12 years old. Her hopes were that Rob could do for her niece what he did for her—help her achieve stardom, as the girl (whose identity has been kept confidential), was an aspiring young female rapper. This same girl that Sparkle clearly holds a sister-like protective love for is more widely known as “the girl R Kelly peed on.” Yes, a girl introduced to Rob at the mere and vulnerable age of 12 is the same girl from the “sex tape” (filmed rape) that Kelly faced child pornagraphy charges for in 2002. When the tape was taken Sparkle confirmed her niece had to be 14 years old because she recalls her hairstyle in the tape was the same she wore when she was around that age. Kelly was 35. The girl and her family, paid off and embarrassed, did not testify against the girl’s rapist. Sparkle, even after overwhelming discouragement from people in the music industry, spoke out against R Kelly and all that came from the trial was the ruin of Sparkle’s music career and charting songs for R Kelly. The Jury found him not guilty.

During the course of the 2002 trial, R Kelly’s superfans display their support from outside the courtroom. One young female supporter catches his eye—an underage Jerhonda Pace. He exchanges numbers with her outside the very courtroom he is entering to face child pornography charges. The two begin communicating via text and phone call immediately. The young girl is swept into Kelly’s house where he harbors his cult of underage sex slaves. We watch the once star-struck superfan walk off the set, crying, as she recalls the abuse she experienced from him. Lisette Martinez meets Kelly in the mall at the age of 17 and is pulled into his cycle of manipulation and abuse. Dominique Gardner connects with R Kelly through her fellow superfan friend, Jheronda, and remains a prisoner to the house for 9 years after. Countless women describe eerily similar experiences of being star struck, flattered, charmed, built up, tore down, coerced, threatened, controlled, abused, and emotionally drained in their abuser’s sick cycle of manipulation. The survivors that ended up in “the house” describe his harsh control of degrading rules where the women would have to knock or stomp to ask permission to enter parts of the house, perform sex acts he requested for himself or on others, call him ‘Daddy’ and relieve themselves in buckets in their rooms. Some names mentioned like Jocelyn Savage and Azriel Clary are still prisoners under his control, along with countless other women and girls.

Surprisingly, there is even more disturbing accounts that the documentary covers but in summary Kelly displays a 20 year long track record of pedophilia, abuse and manipulation. Not to mention he hints at admitting to these accusations in his songs and even released a 19 minute song titled “I admit” where he mentions his cult, sex slaves, and having sex with “the younger ladies.”

The #MuteRKelly movement is stronger than ever with the emergence of this unveiling docuseries, and I stand behind this movement 100%. We cannot conveniently “separate the art from the artist” as the money this man makes from music royalties on the radio and streaming platforms, and ticket sales from concerts go directly towards his cause of covering up his trail of pedophilia, molestation, and abuse. Predator Kelly is not an “artist;” he is a professional serial rapist and abuser, R&B is simply his means to support his true demented career. When you Mute R Kelly, you contribute to the cause of supporting these survivors, freeing his current victims, and achieving some sort of justice for every life broken by this man. Stop playing his music at your BBQ’s for the ‘nostalgia’ and wake up—stand for these survivors that have been neglected for too long by their own community.

Dysfunctional Mitten

By Marie Cantor

With the end of the semester fast-approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about home.  The breezy air from the Great Lakes, the bustling sounds of Ford Road, and the ruthless certainty that the Detroit Lions will never make it to the Super Bowl. I’ve lived in Michigan

Williams, Izzie. My Detroit. 2016. Instagram @livingizzie, Detroit.
Williams, Izzie. My Detroit. 2016. Instagram @livingizzie, Detroit 

an my whole life. I’ve gone through the lows of Kwame Kilpatrickand the highs of the slow revival of the automotive companies. My whole life I was told Detroit is good, bad, and ugly. Currently, domestic violence in Wayne County–– the most populous county in Michigan, within which Detroit is included–– is on the rise.

Wayne County’s population is approximately 1.8 million, and Detroit accounts for roughly 37% of that population, according to the 2017 census. By comparison, twenty-eight Bostons can fit in one Detroit. Wayne County’s prosecutor, Kym Worthy, reports a noticeable increase in domestic violence in 2017. She explains that in 2017, the cases neared 9,000––thats about 2,000 more cases than average.[1]

Williams, Izzie. Unnamed. 2016. Instagram @livingizzie, Detroit.
Williams, Izzie. Unnamed. 2016. Instagram @livingizzie, Detroit.

There are 72 organizations in Michigan that provide services to people experiencing domestic violence.[2]Recently, Wayne State University created a new program to help survivors in the Metro Detroit area. Of the 11,341 rape kits found in 2009, those that were tested by the Detroit Police convicted 152 rapists.[1]Pursuits to combat domestic violence in Michigan are all in full force and taken seriously. So why this sudden influx of abuse in Metro Detroit?

Worthy notes a trend she calls, “the CSI effect.” Alluding to the overtly dramatic television show by the same name, this effect makes clear the phenomenon that jurors in the Wayne courtrooms expect theatrics. Jurors want lawyers screaming, and eye-witnesses crying; the jury expects the courtroom to reflect entertainment from television shows.  Prosecutor Worthy says this causes difficulties in performing due process.[1]In our culture, there is a thin line between reality and what we see in the media.We watch shows like CSI and Law & Order, and expect to have the same experience in the real world.

The aforementioned theory still doesn’t explain the increase in cases of domestic abuse. The Detroit Police has not given any formal statements or information on the matter. Frankly, there isn’t much talk in general, except for casual slips of information regarding the increase in Wayne County. Even Prosecutor Worthy gave a small statement with no new information, and claims that the police department is  ameliorating such situations. Despite this statement, all I personally see is useless talk and little action.  I realize that feminist programs continue fighting to help survivors every day, but officials still shirk from solving issues sprouting from lack of communication.    

Williams, Izzie. The Beauty of the Broken. 2017. Instagram @livingizzie, Detroit.
Williams, Izzie. The Beauty of the Broken. 2017. Instagram @livingizzie, Detroit.

Detroit is not an outlier in this issue. In our society, there is an abundance of programs to help survivors, which is fantastic, but there is no education on how to prevent violence in the first place. The question still stands–how can you tell someone not to be an abuser?

Relationship education is not stated in the sex education obligations providing by Michigan Department of Education.[3]In early education, there needs to be a standard of instructing what a healthy relationship looks like. Instead teachers are instructed to stressabstinence from sex.

Where are the statements? Why are there no questions? Why is there more domestic violence? We claim “Detroit vs Everybody” but it seems we are only fighting ourselves. There is no point of promoting strength when we are still crumbling through the cracks. Detroit is trying to rebuild its economy with fancy bars and cute decorations. But the people of Detroit are being forgotten. 

      

 

 

 

[1]Jachman, Matt. “Wayne County Prosecutor Talks CSI Effect, School Threats, Domestic Violence in Town Hall Meeting.” HometownLife, 5 Dec. 2018, www.hometownlife.com/story/news/2018/12/05/kym-worthy-talks-csi-effect-school-threats-more-town-hall-meeting/2161061002/.

 

[2]“Michigan Domestic Violence Help, Programs and Statistics.” DomesticShelters.org, www.domesticshelters.org/mi/michigan-domestic-violence-help-statistics.

 

[3]“HIV/STD and Sex Education in Michigan Public Schools: A Summary of Legal Obligations and Best Practices.” SOM – State of Michigan, Department of Education, www.michigan.gov/documents/mdch/Michigans_Sex_Education_Laws_Summary_303019_7.pdf