The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Women’s Aid/Keira Knightley Anti-D.V. Commercial to be Censored

Posted by Sara Lewis on April 28, 2009

Though not yet officially released in cinemas, some of you may have already seen the anti-domestic violence commercial featuring Keira Knightley floating around the internet. The Telegraph (UK) reported yesterday that Clearcast – the organisation that is responsible for pre-approving British broadcasting based on Ofcom standards – is to remove the scenes depicting violence before allowing the commercial to be released to the public in the United Kingdom.

The commercial, created by UK anti-D.V. charity organisation Women’s Aid, sees Keira Knightley returning home to be confronted by her on-screen partner, who accuses her of having an affair. The ensuing scenes see Knightley getting violently attacked by the man and being repeatedly kicked while lying on the floor. The Telegraph reported that

“…it is this last sequence that has been deemed too shocking for a television audience.”

If you haven’t seen the commercial already (N.B. If I haven’t made it obvious already… insert trigger warning here):

The commercial is by no means a flawless or all-encompassing portrayal of domestic violence. After all, domestic violence is often a long-term problem that doesn’t simply pertain to physical violence; it also refers to the psychological domination and potential control of one person in a relationship/intimate partnership over the other. It is the lack of media attention to this kind of violence and abuse that, in my opinion, is partially responsible for the women who refuse to admit that they are in an abusive relationship.

That said – it seems downright ridiculous for Clearcast to consider cutting the explicit scenes in the Women’s Aid commercial. While the scenes are extremely uncomfortable to watch, I believe that there is something to be said for not sugar-coating the events of the commercial. It only takes a quick YouTube search to see that, more often than not, domestic violence is unrealistically portrayed – even ‘spoofed’ – in the media. It might even be said that before the media’s insensitive treatment of, for example, the Rihanna/Chris Brown case (which saw Rihanna’s bruised and swollen face on the covers of tabloids everywhere), some people may not yet have even been exposed to ‘real’ domestic violence. [This is not at all to say that it was ethical, in any way, that the photos of Rihanna were leaked to the tabloids – every victim of violence has a right to protection.]

The Women’s Aid commercial is an extremely confronting portrayal of one form of domestic violence, but at the end of the day it is a fictional (hell, they got Keira Knightley didn’t they?) representation of what is, of course, a very real problem. Shouldn’t this be enough for Clearcast? They definitely need to add a trigger warning of sorts to the start of the commercial, but considering the amount of graphic depictions of – for example – drug addiction and binge drinking so prevalent in media campaigns today (the latter perhaps more rampant in Australia than in the UK), why is domestic violence the issue that needs to be palliated here?

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