Women on Film: Ike, Tina and The Realities of Domestic Violence

What will it take to make people understand the horror of domestic violence?

In the current cultural wars, the assault on women’s rights is escalating. Republican candidate Rick Santorum wants to give states the right to make birth control illegal. Virginia’s Bob McDonnell wants mandatory vaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions. Singer Chris Brown continues to make a mockery of domestic violence victims, shouting a big “huzzah” when society tries to reprimand him for making girlfriend Rihanna’s face look like tenderized meat.

For Chris Brown, the message is clear – if you’re charming or talented enough, you can get away with whatever you want. He has unabashedly refused to NOT behave like a spoiled brat. Legions of fans continue to support him, like @shamoox18 who dreamily tweeted “Not gonna lie…I think I’d let Chris Brown beat me. #sosexy #lovehim #awkwardtweet #dontevencare.” Rihanna herself is now collaborating with Chris Brown. Twitter’s #teambreezy is on top.

So maybe it’s time we remind ourselves what domestic violence really looks like.

Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett give us a chilling depiction of domestic violence as Ike and Tina Turner in 1993’s What’s Love Got to Do with It? The film depicts the rise of Tina Turner, who went from small-town singer to star alongside husband Ike. She finally left their abusive marriage in 1976 after suffering a beating – depicted here – while in Dallas for a performance. After their 1977 divorce, Tina Turner walked away virtually penniless but retained the right to use her stage name. In the 1980s, Turner’s career launched into superstardom, shuttling the singer farther away from her abused past.

But just what was life like for Tina? Bassett described her performance as “a car going from zero to 60 in ten seconds.” As she wrote in her autobiography, Friends: A Love Story, while filming “you had to turn on a dime, from peaceful and serene, everything’s okay to – Pow! – getting the crap beat out of you. From calm to where you’re fighting, scared for your life.”

This is terrifying, until you remember that Bassett is merely describing acting in a scene. Important to note is that this life is a reality for the 4.8 million American women who are raped and battered each year. Are we a culture that celebrates punk cowards like Chris Brown and Team Breezy so easily? That places women’s health and lives above our own political beliefs?

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