Of all the reactions one might have to a domestic violence PSA that involves Courteney Cox, David Arquette, and Kenneth the Page pretending to have sex in bunny suits, Newsweek has a key one: Is the anti-violence message effective?
(That is, if you can find that anti-violence message amid the self-consciously idiosyncratic and sexualized imagery.) Kate Dailey points out a major hurdle such ad campaigns face:
Almost no one disagrees with the notion that domestic abuse is "just wrong." Politicians on both sides of the aisle campaign against domestic violence, and polls show that few people would argue that it's OK to solve family arguments with violence and threats. The problem is that the majority of people involved in abusive relationships don't identify themselves as either villains or victims, and that people's attitudes toward domestic violence don't always match their actions.
Several experts back up this point, including one who says that abusers in rehabilitation told him that since they didn't see themselves that way, messages targeted at them were useless. Another says, to that end, that an effective message would be, "Even good guys or nice guys [can be abusers], that's one theme...or that abuse doesn't have to be physical."
Maybe that's why so many ads are targeted at the people around abusers and not the ones perpetrating it. Here's a French ad that gets to the way domestic abuse is hidden in plain sight as people simply live their lives:
An English one with a similar bent was more focused on calling an emergency line when hearing noises that suggest domestic violence:
Another tactic, of course, is shock, as we saw with this violent and controversial Keira Knightley PSA.
In that one, we know more about Keira playing a victim than we do about who her abuser is and why he's doing what he does. Is it possible to show a man in a scenario with whom abusers could identify and use to have an epiphany, or is that a futile task?
Can PSAs End Domestic VIolence? [Newsweek]