In the second episode of Beauty and the Beast season 2, the main character, Cat, was thrown to the floor of her roof and injured by Vincent, her love interest, in one of the final scenes of the episode.
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The couple is a fan favorite, and the CW has a reputation for attracting young, female viewers. With this demographic tuning in in large numbers, does the show have a responsibility to handle a topic like domestic abuse sensitively?
Let's back up. For the record, this sort of behavior from Vincent is not the norm for his and Cat's relationship. In the season one finale of Beauty and the Beast
, Vincent was abducted, and when Cat found him again in the first episode of this season, "Who Am I?,"
he had no memory of much of his past, including her and their relationship. This obviously proved problematic for the star-crossed lovers, and Cat has now made it her personal mission to help Vincent retain his memories.
In "Kidnapped," Vincent became increasingly frustrated with Cat for asking questions about his whereabouts and actions, concerned that he was being controlled or had fallen in with a group that maybe didn't have good intentions for him. When he threw her down - presumably by grabbing her neck if the bruises are any indication - she was totally shocked, saying that she doesn't remember him ever doing that before, and he left immediately afterwards.
In "Liar, Liar,"
Cat makes comments throughout the episode that concerned me greatly. I have worked with several women's concerns groups, and have heard all sorts of comments from women in abusive relationships. In the episode, Cat covers up her bruises with make-up, and when she talks to Gabe about what happened, he is concerned that she is blaming herself. She says things to Vincent like "I lied because I care about you," and how she told both herself and anyone who would listen to that what happened "wasn't your fault."
The CW is known for having a strong viewership of young, female viewers. Young women who watch this show probably watch it in large part because of the relationship between Cat and Vincent. With that in mind, I think it's important that the writers of the show tread very carefully with the message they are sending to their viewers about what Cat should think of Vincent hurting her and how they should move forward with their interactions.
This might just be a silly romance TV show, but the reality of domestic abuse is all too real. According to the site loveisrespect.org
, a partnership between the Break the Cycle organization and the National Dating Abuse Hotline, nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year. According to the site, one quarter of high school girls have been victims of physical or sexual abuse. Those numbers are alarming.
You might argue that the "old" Vincent would have never hurt Cat. That it was just his beastly side coming out in the worst way. But victims make excuses for their abusers far too often in the real world, and the fact is, in the context of the episode, Vincent hurt Cat because he was frustrated with her questions and he felt cornered. That's not a reason to hurt someone you love; no reason ever is.
My worry is that the writers are moving on from this storyline all too quickly, and that frightening moment for Cat will just be brushed aside in the name of shipping Cat/Vincent and preserving their epic love story. But girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24, many of whom watch this show, experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence in this country, almost triple the national average. Is moving on and giving a partner who has hurt you another chance really the best choice for the team behind Beauty and the Beast
to present to these viewers?
Maybe there will be a crazy twist in a future episode, like that Vincent is a clone, or is being controlled during these violent moments by some outside force, or some other scenario I haven't thought up that the writers are holding back for a stunning reveal later on in the season.
But in the more immediate future, I think it needs to be made very clear that Vincent hurting Cat was not okay under any circumstances. That message should be broadcast to the audience, because if the writers were comfortable making abuse a part of the storyline, they should have a game plan for how to realistically convey the aftermath.
All I ask for now is for this storyline to be continued, not downplayed and forgotten (as it looks like it might be, if the recent episode "Hothead" is any indication
), and for the situation to be handled delicately, with the demographic the CW caters to in mind. If it is, then kudos to the team behind Beauty and the Beast
! Thoughtful writing is always a huge plus in my book, and in this case, carefully handling a sensitive topic like domestic abuse could make all the difference for a young viewer taking their cues from a favorite TV relationship like Cat and Vincent's.
Maybe the producers could opt for a PSA about getting help for those facing intimate partner violence, at the end of an episode where an honest conversation about the incident takes place. Other shows have done something similar, and have even gotten the stars involved to read off a statistic and record the message.
Or, during a conversation about the rooftop scene in "Kidnapped," Beauty and the Beast
could show a message along the bottom of the screen with information on resources for abuse assistance. If shows can display twitter hashtag suggestions during episodes, surely they could commit a few seconds of precious screen time to displaying a quick "get help" hotline or website link.
I'll leave this piece with one such example, and with my hope that the Beauty and the Beast
team has some great ideas on how to handle the repercussions of this particular storyline.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. Visit loveisrespect.org
or their partners for more information.
Beauty and the Beast airs Mondays at 9pm on The CW.
(Image courtesy of CW)