When I was 15, for some bizarre reason, I saw War of the Roses (trailer).  The movie stars Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas, who play a married couple in the midst of a divorce and basically spend the entire movie trying very, very hard to hurt each other physically and emotionally.  It’s a violent, violent comedy.

I remember really liking it and telling my Dad who, with his usual gentle wisdom, said something to the effect of “it’s never funny when two people who are supposed to love each other try to hurt each other.”  I was chagrined.

I was reminded of this moment when I watched the trailer for Bounty Hunter, sent in by Ryan G.  In the movie, Jennifer Aniston plays a woman who fails to show up in court and is then, essentially, violently kidnapped by her bounty hunter ex. The trailer:

Now, 20 years later, I’m with my Dad.

(Trigger warning for all the links below.)

What it is about U.S. society that makes sexually-charged violent hate so funny? Are we, as the bemoaners claim, anesthetized to violence? Is it an internalized sense that men and women are at war? Is it the idea that (heterosexual) relationships are, ultimately, a zero sume game? Is it a conflation of sex and power, and a constant affirmation that good sex (and relationships) include violence, that makes a movie such as this so titillating? Is it a true hate for the other, supposedly opposite sex? In other words, why doesn’t this trailer, for most, inspire disgust instead of anticipation?

Also related: violent divorce cakes.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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