No Blurred Lines: Rape Culture in American Television

Written by Regina Sanders. Media by Ben Isaacs.

Emma Canady walked into Kauffman with excitement etched on her face. She apologized, even though she was only a few minutes late and I’d just arrived seconds earlier. Canady sat down, immediately ready to talk.

Canady just completed her honors thesis titled, “No Blurred Lines: Rape Culture in American Television,” a play on the Robin Thicke hit. Through a YouTube channel and blog, she analyzed rape culture perpetuated by television. Through these modes, she explores different concepts of rape culture using various TV programs as examples: “Westworld” and consent, “Gilmore Girls” and slut shaming, “Rick & Morty” and joking, and “Jessica Jones” and good representation. Canady’s channel has six episodes: one introducing herself as a person, one explaining rape culture, and four episodes about the shows listed above.

Photo of Emma Canady. Photo from Facebook

Canady focused this capstone on two of her passions: feminism and television. She’s always considered herself a feminist, defining the controversial term as anyone who believes that all genders are equal. But why, specifically, rape culture? Canady commented,

The more I learned about it [rape culture], the more obvious it felt to me and the [clearer] it was to me that a lot of people didn’t know anything about it.”

Canady zeroed in on this important conversation by connecting feminism, television, and incorporating media theory and analysis.

To get her message out and capitalize on the biggest audience, Canady chose popular television shows. To avoid bias, she excluded shows she had already seen except for “Gilmore Girls.” While some episodes were hard to write and others hard to film, Canady felt that awareness was important.

Seeing flaws in our favorite programs taints them a bit. So, how do we continue watching these shows without condoning such horrific actions? Canady commented,

If you haven’t reached [the] limit [of what you’re willing to accept from a show] but you recognized things that are bad about it, then even your awareness is important. Because that stops you from internalizing those messages.”

Canady reflected on her time in high school when friends engaged in sexist and rape jokes. Upon consideration, Canady felt that some of those jokes and ideas originated from the television programs that she and her friends watched. Maybe they’d internalized a bad message?

Canady is presenting a colloquium on her work Mon., May 15, at the Digital Media Center from 3-4 pm if you want more information on rape culture. Everyone is invited!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here