Offender: Producers and writers of Nip/Tuck, “Roxy St. James” episode
Media Outlet: FX cable network, first aired 1/27/09
The Offense: On this fictional show, a woman fearful of developing breast cancer because she has lost multiple family members to the disease, asks the main characters, who are plastic surgeons, to perform pre-emptive surgery and remove her breasts. When they refuse to do so, she cuts off one of her breasts with an electric carving knife in a waiting room full of patients.
NOW’s Analysis: The scene itself was unconscionable. It played into our society’s fascination with violence against women (although they cynically made this woman inflict violence upon herself), while promoting the stereotype of the out-of-control, emotional, irrational woman.
Nip/Tuck’s effort to tackle the issue of breast cancer this season was completely undercut by this exploitative episode. The show took the very serious, topical matter of at-risk women having pre-emptive surgery in an effort to avoid developing breast cancer and turned it into a gory spectacle.
The possibility that the character might be mentally ill was implicit, but was not addressed. The doctors initially did not take the woman’s concerns seriously, but once she had maimed herself they proceeded to perform a full mastectomy on her without hesitation. A dangerous message was sent — that women must do something horrible and extreme to themselves to get men (and/or the medical establishment) to listen to them. If the writers of Nip/Tuck were trying for insightful commentary, they missed the mark, achieving only shock and horror.
Take Action: Tell the FX Network what you think about this episode of Nip/Tuck.
Lisa Bennett, NOW Communications Director