Stalking in Popular Culture

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1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men have experienced stalking victimization at some point during their lifetime in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed (NISVS 2010 Summary Report, CDC).In honor of Stalking Awareness Month, I’d like to explore how stalking and other forms of sexual harassment are depicted and discussed through the media we consume. Countless media portrayals regularly misrepresent stalking and other forms of violence, leading to victim-blaming, minimization, and disbelief from society at large.

These misrepresentations can often wildly skew our understanding of offender typology; this is especially true of films such as Fatal Attraction, Misery, and Swimfan – in which the main offenders are women, distracting audiences from the fact that men make up nearly 90% of stalking perpetrators. Beyond even misinformation, the media’s biggest blunder when it comes to stalking is its tendency to minimize and even romanticize stalking behaviors. While this problem spans a wide variety of popular media, I’d like to focus on music.

More so than movies and television, music has constantly attempted to explore the themes of sex, relationships, and love. And as we all know, where there’s love, there’s also the misapplication of it.  While there are literally countless examples of romanticized violence in music, I’m going to focus on only two recent songs and their respective music videos: Maroon 5’s “Animals” (2014) and Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Possess Your Heart” (2008). I’ve chosen these two due to the extreme disparity in their styles, just to highlight the spectrum of these misinterpretations.

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