No, no, no, no, no, no. No. No. Bad comic artist. Bad syndicate. Bad newspaper.
Perhaps the continuing story of Oop will find Ooola telling Alley how wrong it is to grab her and hurt her when he is angry and feels like he wants to talk to her. Perhaps Jack and Carole Bender are turning this into a huge anti-domestic violence arc. They’re not, or at least if they are they are going to have to do some heavy shoehorning to fit it into the current plot, but even if they were, I hardly think a 2 or 3 panel daily comic strip syndicated to appear on the comics page of daily newspapers is the proper venue for such an issue. Not every reader will read every episode of the story. That is why most daily strips stand on their own, even if they are part of a larger story arc. In depth storytelling is difficult when you only have two to four panels a day to tell the story, even harder now with the short attention span internet age. And even assuming, for the sake of argument, the story does become an anti-domestic violence piece, this comic will always exist as a stand alone, with the hero of the strip handling his girlfriend with no regard to her health, treating her more like property than a person. Yes, Alley is a caveman. But he is also the hero of the comic, the named title character.
This is not the time to be normalizing domestic violence. Not the time to be showing it to kids as a normal part of most relationships. Not the time to teach boys that it is how real men act.
It is never the time.
(Much more on domestic violence and how hopefully society is finally ready to address the problem after the jump. Nothing more on the comic though, but stuff about an idiot named War Machine and a few NFL players.)
We are in the midst of a cultural “moment” on the subject of domestic violence. The tide could actually be turning on for the better on this issue. With the Rhianna/Chris Brown incident still hovering in the back of the mind of public consciousness, domestic violence once again took center stage in 2014 due to several high profile incidents. In February, Ray Rice was arrested for knocking his then fiance out cold in an Atlantic City elevator. TMZ released the security footage from outside the elevator, showing Rice dragging Janay’s corpse like body from the elevator. The Raven’s and the NFL handled the issue with an eye on their wallets and the reputation of the player, the team, and the league, throwing the proverbial book at Ray Rice in the form of a two game suspension. Raven’s fans showed Rice how they felt about him smacking his fiance around by giving him a standing ovation. Janay Palmer, the victim in the case, apologized at a press conference for her role in the assault. (Which was delivering a vicious headbutt to the poor handrail, it turns out.) The Baltimore football team rallied around their man, publicly at least. The punishment seemed in line with other NFL domestic violence cases, as “(f)ormer Ravens cornerbacks Cary Williams and Fabian Washington earned two- and one-game suspensions, respectively, for similar first-time offenses of domestic violence.”
Not everyone was quite so happy with the Raven’s and the NFL’s handling of the case. The NFL interviewed Janay Palmer with Ray Rice in the room. The Raven’s supported the press conference where “Ray Rice apologized for ‘the situation he and his wife were in.'” Also during that presser, “Janay Rice apologizes for her role in the situation.” In case you missed it live, “the Ravens share highlights from the event on social media.” The fact that Janay married Ray in March was bandied about as proof that it wasn’t that big of a deal, ignoring how predictable it was from those who understand the psychology of abusers and victims. Finally enough people raised an eyebrow and asked, “two games? Really?” that the NFL and Roger Goodell “admitted that he “didn’t get it right” when he handed Rice a two-game suspension, and beefed up the league’s domestic violence policy in reaction.” That was on August 28th.
August this year began with a horrifying case of domestic abuse, similar to many that occur far too often in our nation. This one involved people with a certain level of fame, which guaranteed it would get the press and attention that many similar cases do not. When the eye-rollingly ridiculously named MMA fighter War Machine assaulted his ex-girlfriend, Christy Mack, and her then boyfriend Corey Thomas, he may have been intending to end her life. He threatened Mr. Thomas that his friends would kill him if he told anyone about the incident, after punching the man some 15 or so times in the face, and choking him near unconscious, finally allowing him to flee so he could turn his attention on to his true target.
Mack told police that War Machine then began beating her as he read her text messages, and continued after he made her shower in front of him. She later posted a statement online saying she feared for her life when War Machine sawed off her hair with a dull knife.
Police reported that War Machine punched and kicked Mack, who was treated for extensive facial bruises, fractures and lost teeth, and internal injuries including a lacerated liver.
Mack said she escaped out a back door when War Machine went to the kitchen. She told police she feared he was fetching a sharp knife to kill her.
Perhaps he only intended to scare her, or perhaps he was going to kill her. From the pictures she tweeted out of her injuries, I have to think he was definitely capable of killing her. Fortunately, we will never know what he would have done, since she managed to escape. The pictures were truly horrific. This case should have set off the explosion honestly, but Christy Mack’s career choice was used as mitigating circumstances by some. You see, Christy Mack is a porn actress. The last time I checked, porn consisted of having sex on film, not getting violently beaten until you are almost dead, so I’m not quite sure what being a porn star has to do with War Machine using her to earn his life sentence, but it was always mentioned in every article I could find on the incident. It’s almost like a part of the culture steeped in slut-shaming and victim blaming was lurking in the margins, “tsk tsking” that it never would have happened if she was a “good” girl. I have to be imagining that though, our culture could never give rise to attitudes like that.
Then TMZ acquired and released the tape from inside the elevator, and the explosion took place.
Everyone involved already knew what the tape was going to show. We all already knew he hit her, knocked her out, and had to drag her out of the elevator. It was in the police report. There was honestly no new information on the tape. But until the video from inside the elevator was made public, everyone from the league, to the Raven’s, to the fans, were able to lie to themselves and pretend that it wasn’t as bad as it sounded. Maybe it really was something mutual. Maybe Janay didn’t apologize because she was scared Ray would beat the fuck out of her, maybe she really did something that needed to be apologized for? Hell, maybe she lunged at Ray and he moved out of the way, then she slipped and hit her head. Maybe Ray is innocent! GO RAVENS!
The tape was a lot like the pictures Christy Mack tweeted of her injuries, with one major difference. Mack is the one who chose to release her pictures. Janay had no choice in the matter, and that is honestly a serious problem. No matter what she does for the rest of her life, no matter what choices she makes, she will always be “that girl Ray Rice knocked out on video.” Practically every single person in America and a good portion of the internet enabled world witnessed one of the worst days of her life, and she had no choice in the matter at all. It is important to remember that part of the story. But the tape is like the pictures. Disturbing. Vile. Horrific. Nauseating. Hard to look at. Impossible to ignore.
I grieve that the video was released without her consent, and for the pain it has and will continue to cause Janay, but I am still glad it was released. It forced the fantasy bubble to pop. No one could imagine what happened behind the closed doors of the elevator, because everyone saw what happened. Sure, some on Fox and Friends tried to make it into a joke, and the MRA idiots were out in force, but this wasn’t going to go away quietly. This wasn’t an obscure MMA fighter almost murdering a porn star. This was a major star in the NFL, the face of the Ravens in Baltimore, and his respected fiance, now wife, a relationship spotlighted by the Ravens. It was also a two game suspension, a punishment already seen as comical, now positively insulting when seen along side the tape. The NFL, one of the most popular cultural touchstones in America, had a full fledged crisis on their hands, and they were going to have to address it with the spotlight of the entire media shinning brightly down.
In addition to Ray Rice, the NFL also has:
Greg Hardy, Panthers
The Carolina defensive end, who was convicted by a judge of assaulting his girlfriend
Ray McDonald, 49ers
The San Francisco defensive end was arrested on a felony domestic violence charge for allegedly beating his pregnant girlfriend on Aug. 31.
Adrian Peterson, Vikings
a periennal all-Pro running back, was indicted for injury to a child in Montgomery County, Texas and charged with inflicting cuts and bruises on his 4-year-old son when he used a small tree branch to discipline him in May.
The NFL’s response to the issue, including a press con….Oh, wait a second. I’m forgetting one…
Okay. The NFL’s response to the issue, including a widely mocked press conference by Roger Goodell, has been weak. Hopefully these incidents have not only drawn enough attention, but has the staying power to keep people’s attention attention enough to force the culture into an actual conversation on the topic. It’s why I won’t watch one down of NFL football this season, as much as I love the game, until the NFL response to the issue in a way that isn’t cynically focused on protecting the “shield.”
Football reaches boys and young men. The sport is immensely popular with them. The players, whether they like it or not, are heroes and role models for a huge number of kids. The NFL has an opportunity to help shape the way a lot of children look at domestic violence. Yes, it is kind of sick that those words put together in a sentence make sense in the year 2014, that a sports league has that kind of power to shape opinions and values, but it is what it is. What kind of message is it to a young Ravens fan to see his hero, running back Ray Rice, hit his girlfriend, have her apologize for it, receive a standing ovation from the fans, and be handed a penalty smaller than those given for many in game hits, and most drug violations?
The message is that hitting a woman isn’t that big of a deal. That it is technically wrong, but not as wrong as using drugs, or hitting the quarterback in the head. And with so many cases coming out, that everyone does it.
Or they can make the message that it is never okay to hit your partner, and that there is not only never an excuse to do it, but consequences will be swift and severe for those who do commit violence in a domestic relationship.