There are two T.V. ads that are causing some controversy lately.
One is for Women's Aid, a UK domestic violence organization. It stars Keira Knightley and features the depiction of a woman coming home and then being attacked by a man she lives with. She is hit and falls to the floor, she is kicked repeatedly. Some claim that the ad goes too far and shows too much violence.
The second commercial is a stop smoking spot paid for by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. A lost child in a train station begins to cry and a voice says "If this is how your child feels after losing you for a minute, just imagine if they you for life." Critics of the ad claim that exploiting this child to make a point about smoking is offensive and borders on child abuse.
Critics of these commercials are forgetting that these are actors portraying a scene - this isn't real life. Knightley didn't really get beat up. This child, while he did shed a few real tears when he really did lose sight of his mother, according to reports on the web, was uninjured, unharmed and smiling happily within minutes of shooting the commercial. He wasn't actually in the train station, he was on a set full of actors.
What confuses me more than anything else is that just a few weeks ago I watched a woman get stabbed in the chest on an episode of Law & Order (bom, bom). If it is okay to show violence and murder on a TV show, why wouldn't it be acceptable to show a woman being hit by a lover in an advertisement? Especially if both are being carried by the same channel.
Critics need to consider the world we are living in and rather than feeling uncomfortable about what they are seeing, they should be glad that there are those out there fighting against corruption and violence in our society. They should realize a real issue is being brought to the public's attention and maybe, just maybe, they should rally behind the message rather than cry out against it.
Perhaps seeing Knightley knocked down will resonate with someone who's neighbor is a victim of domestic violence, but they have been reluctant to help. Maybe seeing a child crying alone in a train station will make a smoker realize that their smoking doesn't just effect them - it effects their family as well.. Or maybe everyone will see that they are just advertisements and in this day and age of economic distain and actual violence and a saturation of media and advertising, these two 30 second spots really don't mean that much.
"American children spend an average of 4 hours of television a day, 28 hours per week watching TV; by age 18 they have watched 22,000 hours of TV--more time than they ever spent in the classroom." (Jason & Hanaway, 1999). Watching an advertisement trying to teach a lesson or raise awareness regarding national issues isn't so bad when you consider all of the flashy lights and "splosions" that are seen in advertising throughout the day. Is a public service announcement about domestic violence any worse than an ad telling folks to eat at McDonalds?
Critics of these ads need to realize they can rally against something really threatening and leave these spots alone to do what good they can.