In the new Facebook game Angry Brides, players choose from an arsenal of weapons - a red stiletto, for example - and heave it at the head of a prospective groom. Every clout to the head or groin brings down the dowry price he’s seeking from his future bride, and tallies it in the player’s bank.
Creating by the Shaadi dating site, the game is meant to “raise awareness” about dowry-related violence in India, in which the groom's family abuses a new bride to force her family to pay up. In India, the website says, there is one dowry death every four hours.
But how much “awareness” does chucking shoes at a cartoon figure’s head really raise? The game appears to be the latest foray into battered-woman chic has made its way into advertising, photo shoots, music videos - walking a thin line between gratuitous shock value and actual public education.
Some commercials are certainly powerful: to show this Keira Knightley video on television, censors required the final scene be cut in which she is shown lying on a kitchen floor being brutally kicked by a jealous boyfriend.
More questionable is this photo shoot, in which Glee actress Heather Morris poses with a black eye. “Even Barbie bruises,” the photographer writes on his web page. Or the Edmonton salon that ran an ad showing a model with another black eye, and the tagline: Look Good In All that you do. (Again, the salon owner said they were just trying to start a conversation.)
But what kind of conversation we might ask?
And what does “raising awareness” actually accomplish in the end? After all, as a post on Gawker.com points out, there’s apparently no money being raised for women’s issues in India though Angry Brides. And the typical conversation about this game - and all the other examples - probably falls more in the “Hey check this out!” category, than “Let’s bring about real social change.”
Of course, you may fall into the camp that feels every little bit helps - and if you have read this blog, after all, you now know at least one statistic about dowry-abuse in India. But there’s also a danger that just playing the game is enough to make people feel they’ve done something to reduce domestic violence.
It’s hard to see how throwing a virtual stiletto achieves that goal - no matter how angry you feel.
Does a game like Angry Birds help reduce domestic violence?