Andrew D’Innocenzo, Domestic Violence and Deflategate: How ESPN Declares Deflated Footballs More Important Than Domestic Abuse

Domestic Violence and Deflategate: How ESPN Declares Deflated Footballs More Important Than Domestic Abuse

Two Suspensions, Two Distinctive Reactions

The research topic I am analyzing is comparing the media coverage by ESPN of two NFL controversies. It is a framing study and discourse analysis into how ESPN reported on two controversial sport events.  The first is New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady and the Deflategate case. The other being the domestic abuse case involving former Dallas Cowboy and Carolina Panthers’ defensive end Greg Hardy. They were each suspended for the same amount of games: four. I am looking at the first week of coverage from the time of the league’s announcement of each athlete’s suspension. I am choosing this time frame because I feel as though that the dynamic of Brady and Hardy each receiving the same punishment for very different crimes is the most notable aspect of this case. It is an aspect one would expect journalists to expose due to the drastically different severity of each situation. However, that does not seem to be the case.

The Controversies

To discuss each case more specifically, I will begin with Deflategate. After the Patriots blowout win versus the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game on January 18, 2015, reports surfaced that some of the Patriots game balls were underinflated. Tom Brady, being the main ball handler on the field, earned the bulk of the cheating allegations. An investigation ensued afterwards and the report, lead by attorney Ted Wells, was released May 6, 2015, found Brady as “more probable than not” (Wells, 2015, p. 2) that he was “generally aware” (Wells, 2015, p. 2) of the deflation of the footballs. A link to the full investigative report can be found in the appendix at the end of this paper. On May 11, 2015 Brady was suspended for the first 4 games of the regular season.

The other case involves defensive end Greg Hardy. On May 13, 2014 he was arrested for domestic abuse towards his girlfriend at the time. He was found guilty of the charges two months later and was placed on the NFL exempt list (meaning that the player will still earn salary but cannot participate in any team activities) in September. At the time he was a member of the Carolina Panthers, but after the events he did not play another game for them. He signed a one year $11 million contract with the Dallas Cowboys in March of 2015. In April, Hardy was initially suspended for 10 games, however, he appealed and got it reduced to 4 games. In early November, the domestic violence charges were expunged from his record, and, the following day, graphic police photos of his girlfriend’s marks and bruises were released.

Media Influence on the Public

These events in the NFL are both newsworthy events. Well-established NFL veterans both received suspensions. According to the Wells Report, the league’s independent investigation into this case, Tom Brady was found “more probable than not” (Wells, 2015, p. 2) for being “generally aware” (Wells, 2015, p. 2) in the slight deflation of footballs while Greg Hardy is convicted of domestic violence. Each player received the same four game suspensions. It’s no secret that television networks’ goal is score great ratings, however, it becomes concerning when the ratings are more important than covering the greater issues. These two stories serve as a prime example into how broadcast journalism dictates the importance of stories based on ratings over justice and social awareness, specifically on domestic violence.

Deflategate would gain higher ratings based on these variables, but is this truly the more important story for viewers and readers? I do not think so and that is the point of this research topic. Journalism is built on uncovering the truth and importance of issues and stories that affect the general public. “Media plays a facilitating role” (Fujioka, 2015) in an individual’s function in society, a serious factor in how a person thinks and acts in the real world, which is why I believe it is crucial and necessary for the domestic violence case of Greg Hardy to have gained more recognition. The media seems to be everywhere in the today’s world, and because of that, it is such a dominant influence on our thoughts, views, and actions. Domestic violence towards women is a very serious and, unfortunately, very common problem today and throughout history. When it is not covered properly, or, overshadowed by deflated footballs, that could reflect how serious people will think and care about it.

Literature Review

The conversation of how ESPN reports on sports controversies is very rare, especially on these two events as they are less than two years old. There have been discussions on journalistic integrity in this day and age where executives, money, and ratings are considered more important than social justice and awareness. Robert McChesney’s book Rich Media, Poor Democracy discusses how the industry of journalism has shifted due to the rise in power of network executives and the emphasis on ratings. McChesney specifically discusses the problems that occur when media systems turn into profit-driven corporations. A powerful quote in his book parallels the concerns in this paper that ESPN is sacrificing the stories with serious social issues in favor of those that lead to ratings and profits:

Many problems result from the enhanced corporate pressure to make journalism a source of huge profits; this leads to easy-to-cover trivial stories and an emphasis on the type of news that will have appeal to the upper and upper middle classes. The combination of all three of these factors leads to the woeful state of U.S. journalism in the twenty-first century. (McChesney, 1999, p. 58)

A 2015 article from Yuki Fujioka titled Media, Racial Identity, and Mainstream American Values that researches how media affects the values in Americans and shows how it varies between races. The important aspects I have picked up in Fujioka’s research is how he describes media as a significant player in how individuals are “expected to socialize in our society” (Fujioka, 2015, p. 352). It relates to my topic because the media is such an influence on how people act and if a network pays more attention to deflated footballs than domestic abuse, how can some people take serious concern for the domestic violence problem in our society.

Robert Entman describes what and how a framing study works in his article Framing: Toward Clarification of a Fractured Paradigm. This work gives clear insight into the process of a framing study by describing its definition and the important aspects of it. The fundamental aspect of framing is to pick out a time frame where the most significant aspect of a media event and bring salience and attention to the material within it. There were two articles providing similar insight, only in the field of discourse analysis. First, Reiner Keller discusses the sociological approach into discourse analysis in his article The Sociology Knowledge Approach to Discourse. Keller explores the concept of phenomenal structure, which “offers a complementary third access to the levels of content-related structuring of discourse” (Keller, 2014, p. 58). In simpler language, the concept looks at the components involved within the discourse and specifically how the discourse identifies them. This can include “heroes, rescuers, problem cases, sensibly, and responsibly acting individuals, villains and so on” (Keller, 2014, p. 58). The discourse of the ESPN coverage can be analyzed into how the power of their media can identify someone like Tom Brady, who has been consistently the face a respected player in the league, to a villain. Continuing with discourse analysis, Teun A. van Dijk from the University of Amsterdam wrote an article titled Principles of Critical Discourse Analysis that laid out what the field is founded from. For example, he says, “critical discourse analysis should deal primarily with discourse dimensions of power abuse and injustice and inequality that results from it” (van Dijk, 1993, p. 252). In my topic, it can be argued that victims of domestic violence are also victim of the inequality and injustice that money-minded networks, like ESPN, raise more concern for the possibility of deflated footballs than the epidemic of domestic abuse.

Case Study Analysis provides a search engine within its site to search for a keyword and provide articles and links from ESPN with a customized time frame. I first began by searching Tom Brady between the dates May 11, 2015 through May 18, 2015. This is the first week of coverage since the league announcement of his four-game suspension. 299 results came back, with articles reporting the news straightforward to reactions from commentators and former players. Next, I searched Greg Hardy into the same archive search engine and plugged in the dates July 10, 2015 through July 17, 2015, the week of coverage from ESPN since the league’s announcement of Hardy’s four-game suspension. Note that this is when his original ten-game suspension is reduced to four. Just 38 results came back. Furthermore, I wanted to compare this same mid-July week of Greg Hardy coverage to Tom Brady. Again, I plugged Tom Brady in the search engine with the same July 10-17 dates and got 24 results back. To be clear, when Greg Hardy’s reduced suspension was announced, only 38 results came back, and in that same week Tom Brady earned 24 results. Brady had well over half as many reports on the website that Hardy had the same week news broke about Hardy. And further when Brady’s suspension was announced, he earned nearly 8 times as many reports on the website than Hardy did during his suspension announcement. Clearly, the emphasis on Brady’s case was far more concentrated according to the site.

The next pieces of ESPN coverage I will be analyzing are in the form of television broadcasts. First is a one on one interview between Greg Hardy and Senior ESPN NFL analyst Adam Schefter. In April of 2016 they recorded an interview and discussed the domestic assault case. The most interesting parts from the conversation come when they directly discuss Hardy’s involvement (this excerpt is provided in the appendix at the end of this paper). From the excerpt, lines numbered five through seven, Schefter asks Hardy about the pictures released documenting the assault. Hardy replies and states he “never put his hand on any woman in my whole entire life” (G. Hardy, personal communication, April 5, 2016). Hardy corrects Schefter when he states, “you say you did nothing wrong, you’re innocent…” (A. Schefter, personal communication, April5, 2016) by saying, “I will stop you right there and say that I didn’t say that I didn’t do anything wrong…saying that I did nothing wrong is a stretch but saying I am innocent is correct” (G. Hardy, personal communication, April 5, 2016). The entire exchange is confusing and contradictory but Schefter is respectful and understanding throughout. Furthermore, Schefter called as a guest into The Dan Patrick Show on NBC Sports to talk about the interview. When asked if he believed what Hardy had to say Schefter replies:

I went in with the idea that everybody had, that this guy is a monster. I went in there thinking this is one of the scariest people in the NFL. I came out of there with a very different feeling about him…I found him to be a changed kind of guy (A. Schefter, personal communication, April 5, 2016).

ESPN gave Hardy the stage to state his case in his words, something that was quite the opposite in the Deflategate case. Tom Brady gave a press conference after the reports of Deflategate came out and stated he “didn’t alter the balls in any way” (T. Brady, personal communication, January 22, 2016) and that he was very comfortable to say he has zero knowledge of any wrongdoings. When asked blatantly if he was a cheater, Brady responded firmly “I don’t believe so. I feel like I always play within the rules, I would never do anything to break the rules” (T. Brady, personal communication, January 22, 2016). Following the press conference was the ESPN program NFL Live; the panel on the show included host Trey Wingo and former NFL players Mark Brunell, Jerome Bettis, and Brian Dawkins. Emotionally, each individual concluded that Brady was lying and digging himself a deeper hole. Most notably was Brunell, who spoke first, following the press conference. His initial thoughts concluded with “I just didn’t believe what Tom Brady had to say” (M. Brunell, personal communication, January, 22, 2016). Brunell gets visibly emotional, as his voice seems to shake and face begins to pout.  The rest of the panel shared similar views and emotions as they discussed the presser. There was a very distinct consensus among the panel that Brady was lying about his part in this scandal as they dismissed nearly everything he said.

What is most striking between these two visual instances on these cases are how similar each player’s responses are and how different the analysts react to them. Hardy is given a non-judgment and low confrontational, comfortable stage to plead his case, while Brady is bombarded with questions at a presser for over twenty minutes. And while each essentially denies their wrongdoings to an extent, ESPN allows Brady to immediately be pronounced a liar, while Hardy is considered “a changed kind of guy” (A. Schefter, personal communication, April 5, 2016), according to Schefter.

The Unfortunate Reality

The media is a powerful influence to our society. Their coverage serves as a helping hand into how we as individuals think about moral and ethical issues due to the amount of attention we as a whole are exposed to. This power becomes flawed when the attention these organizations, like ESPN, are swayed by profits, not justness. The events that happened to Brady and Hardy are separate. Their connection in this paper are through the similarities they share, most notably the identical punishments handed down. Because they are separate stories, there are many variables that will affect their media coverage. I believe the most obvious reason for this response has to do with viewership and status between these two athletes.

While Hardy is a former Pro Bowler, his stature in the NFL isn’t even close to that of the future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. What is juicier of a story than to vilify someone considered an idol and golden boy that is Brady and to accuse and continue to run the story of his alleged cheating scandal? While this certainly warrants to be covered and examined, how more important is it in the real world and grand scheme of things than an NFL player convicted of domestic abuse. A convicted player who continues to deny it and ultimately reduces gets his suspension by over half. These two stories, side by side, are telling of how journalism, once created to uncover the truth and provide a voice for those who cannot, is now dominated not by social importance and impact of their stories, but rather revenue and ratings the network brings in.


Dijk, T. A. (1993). Principles of Critical Discourse Analysis. Discourse & Society, 4(2), 249-283. doi:10.1177/0957926593004002006

Entman, R. M. (1993). Framing: Toward Clarification of a Fractured Paradigm. J Communication, 43(4), 51-58. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.1993.tb01304.x

Fujioka, Y. and Neuendorf, K.A. (2015) ‘Media, racial identity, and mainstream American values’, Howard Journal of Communications, 26(4), pp. 352–380. doi: 10.1080/10646175.2015.1049762.

Keller, R. (2011, April 22). The Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse (SKAD). Human Studies, 34(1), 43-65. doi:10.1007/s10746-011-9175-z

McChesney, R. W. (1999). Rich media, poor democracy: Communication politics in dubious times. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.


Excerpt from Greg Hardy / Adam Schefter Interview:

  1. Hardy:“I’ve never put my hand on ANY women … In my whole entire life, No Sir. That’s 2. just not how we’re raised. As you can tell, like I said again, it’s the Bible belt. It’s just
  2. something that’s, I wouldn’t even say frowned upon, just something that’s nonexistent in
  3. most southern homes.”
  1. Schefter:“You say you did nothing wrong, you’re innocent and yet the pictures of her
  2. that surfaced would seem to suggest a woman who had some type of physical contact.
  3. How do you explain that?”
  1. Hardy:“I will stop you there and say that I didn’t say that I didn’t do anything wrong. That 9. situation occurred and that situation was handled but … saying that I did nothing wrong
  2. is a stretch but saying I am innocent is correct. Yes sir.”
  1. Schefter:“Did you ever put your hands on her?” 
  1. Hardy:“No Sir … No Sir.” Ted Wells Investigative Report Greg Hardy Interview The Dan Patrick Show Interview Tom Brady Press Conference Part 1 NFL Live Segment


Maggie Harrison, Words, Weights, and How America Changes Them

Language is power. Commanding the use and growth of language is one of America’s greatest talents; we retain the ability to control rhetoric through pushing specific narratives, thus we change words’ meanings and weights, often for justification’s sake. The genocide of Native Americans is known to us as “Manifest Destiny,” for example. More recently, we seem to have renamed the imperial act of “civilizing.” The taking over of a culture by Western power has historically been referred to as the so-called civilizing of the indigenous peoples. This wording painted a Imperial powers in a valiant light, providing a portrait of good-doing: saving natives from their primal ways through industrialization. This, however, was false rhetoric aimed to distract from ulterior, resource-focused motives. When one shifts the same idea to a modern context, much of the justification for the War on Terror that was propagandized in the United States was the oppression of Muslim women, who we set out to “liberate” rather than civilize. The realities behind both eras are much more complicated- and often far less noble- than the general public is made to believe, and past and present are eerily similar. Media theories like framing and cultivation can be used to study the ways that media outlets reflect and perpetuate the social hierarchies and oppressions which perpetuate damaging ideologies. Understanding who it is that controls media rhetoric and the language we use regarding social and political issues is vital to understanding the full picture; through the analysis of media institutions, we can better understand the deeper implications of the messages and images delivered to audiences. Focused particularly on the War on Terror, this reality can be seen in how we talk about non-Western women, how we talk about Muslim and Middle Eastern people in the US, and how understandings of language shape our understandings of the world around us.

A UK study done in November of 2007 showed that spanning the course of just a week, ninety-one percent of articles in national newspapers mentioning Muslims portrayed them negatively (Press Association 2007). This is media framing, wherein “individuals make judgments and perceive the world within certain frames of reference, and these frames of reference can be set up in such a way to impact individual judgments and perceptions” (Bryant 101). There are two parts to media framing: building and setting. The building of media frames is rooted in hierarchal social foundations, which then influence and are influenced by economic pressures, audience demands, set agendas, and the people who own and operate media outlets. Frame setting is how said frames are delivered to audiences. Words, languages, and images are used-or not used- to affect the behaviors, attitudes, and thoughts of consumers, consciously or unconsciously.

Journalist Samina Ali, over the course of a few months, asked several different groups of people what came to their minds when thinking of Muslim women. As she moved in between social spaces, she found that the words given back in response echoed from one person to the next: “veiled, submissive, Arab/Middle Eastern, victim.” These words have repeatedly been used to drive narratives of Muslim women, hence they’ve become synonymous with one another. Meanwhile, the veil (in its many forms) has emerged as a symbol of ultimate oppression.

Interestingly, many other religions share similar traditions of women’s coverings. Nuns are almost completely covered, as are women of fundamentalist Jewish tradition. A young girl wearing a cross around her neck is no different than her Muslim classmate who dons a hijab, however the American media treats the two differently. Despite the multitude of religious garb, Western culture is transfixed on veiled Muslim women as the personification of mystery, their bodies hidden from Western eyes. 9/11 brought new height to such an obsession. Following the attacks, Lila Abu Lughod, a Columbia professor, was called on by media outlets to take part in segments regarding the traditions of Muslim women. She wondered “why knowing about the ‘culture’ of the region, and particularly its religious beliefs and treatment of women, was more urgent than exploring the history of the development of repressive regimes in the region and the U.S. role in this history” (Lughod 784). Media stories like this, exploding in popularity during the 2000s, were divisive, creating an us versus them mindset and separating Muslim women as “others” who do not fit the civilized Western paradigm.

The language of liberation by imperial America is inherently racist and sexist, contributing to the dehumanization of Muslim women. It emphasizes them as weak victims who are not in control of their own fates; either they are under Taliban rule, or they are rescued and culturally redefined by the heroic US. Gayanti Chakravonty Spirak describes this Imperialistic phenomenon as “white men saving brown women from brown men” (Kolhatkar). The Bush administration used media, especially in radio and television formats, to push the oppression of women as the Taliban’s greatest injustice, and so the liberation of Muslim women as one of the US military’s main goals in the region.

President George W. Bush, in spite of his rhetoric, was no champion for women’s rights on American soil. He cut funding for family planning organizations, an action posing serious threats to the health and lives of women and children. The former President also tried to undermine the foundations of Roe v. Wade. And, while promoting US occupation in Iraq as a war for women’s rights, “the president withdrew his support for Senate ratification of a women’s rights treaty that requires nations to remove barriers of discrimination against women in areas like legal rights and health care” (NY Times 2003). This hypocrisy is a parallel of Imperial Britain’s Lord Cromer, an 1800s colonizer based in Egypt. Above anything, Cromer objected the degradation of women in extremist Islamic culture, particularly in the case of the veil; it was the veil that symbolized Egypt’s supposed inability to secure “that elevation of thought and character which should accompany the introduction of Western civilisation” (Viner 2002). Despite his convincing speech, he blocked Egyptian women from education and funded the Men’s League for Opposing Women’s Suffrage upon his return to England (Viner 2002).

Another serious problem with media rhetoric is the presence of media voices speaking for particular groups, not with them. In a November 2001 radio address to the nation, Laura Bush stated that one of the main reasons for the US’s presence in Iraq was to free Muslim women from the Taliban’s regime, claiming that “the people of Afghanistan — especially women — are rejoicing” in an effort to gain greater American support for the war (Bush 2001). Throughout her speech, the former First Lady continuously spoke for Afghan people and Muslim women, as if she were someone who has shared their experiences.

Laura Bush is not a Muslim woman living in Afghanistan. She does not share the experiences of women under the Taliban’s control. Mrs. Bush speaking for Muslim women is false representation, an unfortunate and all too frequent tool of the media. While her words carried across airwaves and media outlets analyzed every facet of Muslim women’s culture, no mainstream media called for the voices and stories of real Muslim women. Disallowing voices of the oppressed allow for those in power to maintain control over language. The images of Muslim women in the media during the War on Terror were connected to the words that the mainstream media gave them, not words that Muslim women were speaking for themselves.

Cultivation is a media theory that studies the way that television shapes our understandings of the world, declaring it a “centralized system of storytelling” (Morgan 35). I do argue that original cultivation theory is dated; it’s necessary to now apply the same concepts to general 21st Century communication, where we’re able to carry every sort of media in our pocket. Medias are carriers of systematic messages that we internalize throughout socialization. Hegemonic ideals are understood over a lifetime of limited and specific narratives, spoonfed to us by the media from infancy to adulthood. Stereotypes, which frames play off of, are a result of cultivation, wherein we learn to connect choice words and images to certain people.

Cultivating national ideologies regarding particular groups of people through false representation, whether by lack of voice or misplacement of voice, often results in one-dimensional stereotypes. The narratives of Muslim women have fallen flat. The media has become engrossed by their appearances, presenting the submissive, veiled Muslim woman as the only Muslim woman, all the same. Both the Bush Administration and the mainstream media ignored existing women’s movements in the Middle East, like the Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan (RAWA). Giving visibility to groups like RAWA would break the carefully constructed social space that Muslim women have been cultivated in. Solani Kolhatkar, co-director of the Afghan Women’s Mission, an organization in the US that works closely with RAWA, explains that the reason behind the media’s disregard for strong Afghan women was “because Afghan women like these are not voiceless and nameless victims who can be portrayed as dependent on the benevolence of foreigners” (Kolhatkar 89).

Muslim men are victims of damaging stereotypes as well. President Bush said in an Ontario, California town hall meeting shortly after the war began that it “was clearly a case of good versus evil, and make no mistake about it — good will prevail” (Bush 2002). The language of who is “good” is cultivated to represent America and its interests, while “evil” is coded speech for the oppressive others in the Middle East. Muslim men have become the face connected to the word “terrorist,” even though this directly conflicts with the reality of domestic American terrorism. Since 9/11, white right-wing radicals have killed almost twice as many Americans than radical Islamists have on American soil (Time 2015). We have yet to connect them to the word terrorism in mainstream media; militant white extremists are far more likely to be described as mentally ill loners whose hate-filled motivations lie in individual psychology, not social reasons. Whiteness and terrorism are not made synonymous in the same way by contemporary rhetoric.

Further, we often choose the language that we hear. Deciding to listen to the words used by the far-right Fox News will result in the exposure to incredibly different frames than that of MSNBC, a source known to lean more to the political left. This concept is known as selective exposure, the precursor to selective perception, wherein audiences not only expose themselves to certain kinds of media rhetoric and images, but get out of those narratives what they want to. Sometimes we buy into us versus them rhetoric because it’s what we want to believe; America just elected a president whose conservative policies were only set apart by the racism, sexism, xenophobia, and other harmful ideologies woven into them. Such ideals were then heightened by provocative and carefully molded rhetoric aimed at very certain social groups.

I am not arguing that women do not face oppression in the Middle East or that terrorism isn’t a bad or real thing, as both would be foolish arguments to make. What I am arguing is that the degradation of women and the reality of terrorism are both things that happen everywhere in the world, including within the borders of the United States, but how we talk about (or don’t talk about) oppression and violence regarding different groups of people is really quite different. Social hierarchies, working off of dichotomies like that of good versus evil, play key roles in what words and images we attach to different people and places. One may respond that American liberation of Afghan women is a good thing, however individuals need to understand that liberation and solidarity have very specific distinctions, while contemporary liberation and Imperial civilization are undeniably similar. Solidarity would be supporting organizations like RAWA, not silencing them. And, while the word liberation implies good things, Afghan women face just as much, and even more, degradation since America’s supposed success in the Middle East; there have been increases in sexual violence, heavy blocks to women’s access to education, disallowance of women to politically protest, and more (Kolhatkar 88). Freedom is not in this kind of liberation, that based in Westernization. Freedom is in the ability to choose for oneself.

America has always declared a constant enemy. This coveted spot has before been held by the likes of 20th Century Communists, for example, who were replaced in the 1990s by Muslim radicals as the greatest threat to national security. We have a president, Donald Trump, whose rhetoric has been so powerful as to rally support for a Muslim registry, despite the domestic terrorism committed by white, Christian men in the US. We are underexposed to these men and overexposed to supposedly criminal people of color- Syrian refugees fleeing President Assad’s war crimes are now feared by the American public, xenophobia fueled by hateful propaganda. Language reveals, it covers up, and it influences. Just as we have declared the mass murder of American Indians not as genocide, but our Destiny, the war in Iraq was not a war for resources, but a war for women and against terrorism. How we use words, and language as a whole, are necessary factors in the building of frames and setting the foundation for cultivation; it’s crucial to media literacy to understand that because something is labelled one way does not mean it isn’t something else. As a master of the English language, William Shakespeare, once wrote, “what’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet” (Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2).

Works Cited

Abu-Lughod, Lila. “Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others.” American Anthropologist 104.3 (2002): 783-90. Web.

“Backgrounder: The President’s Quotes on Islam.” National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives and Records Administration, n.d. Web. 21 Dec. 2016.

Bryant, Jennings, and Mary Beth Oliver. “Framing.” Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research. New York: Routledge, 2009. N. pag. Print.

“George W. Bush: Radio Address by Mrs. Bush.” George W. Bush: Radio Address by Mrs. Bush. N.p., 17 Nov. 2001. Web. 21 Dec. 2016.

Kolhatkar, Sonali. “Freedom Through Solidarity.” Stop the next War Now: Effective Responses to Violence and Terrorism. Maui, HI: Inner Ocean Pub., 2005. N. pag. Print.

Morgan, Michael, James Shanahan, and Nancy Signorielli. “Cultivation.” Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1994. N. pag. Print.

Plucinska, Joanna. “Study: White Terrorists Deadlier Than Islamists in the U.S.” Time. Time, 24 June 2015. Web. 21 Dec. 2016.

Stroud, Natalie Jomini. “Media Effects, Selective Exposure, and Fahrenheit 9/11.” – Share Research. Taylor & Francis Group, n.d. Web. 21 Dec. 2016.

Viner, Katharine. “Katharine Viner: Feminism as Imperialism.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 20 Sept. 2002. Web. 21 Dec. 2016.

Shakespeare, William. “SCENE II. Capulet’s Orchard.” SCENE II. Capulet’s Orchard. MIT, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2017.


Elisabeth Layne


Sara Mikula, The Worry Child

Pilot Episode



A graduation ceremony at a university. We see the large stage and the backs of hundreds of graduating students.

The university CHANCELLOR is at the podium halfway through his speech.


— and when you leave this campus today,

you are no longer students. You will not

be returning home for your winter or spring breaks, but to begin your new lives as college graduates.

We see JOY HART, 21, among the sea of graduates. She is smiling excitedly at this motivational speech.


What happens next will determine your

future. And no matter what you do, do it

with passion, love, and determination.

TITLE OVER: Five Days Later


JOY (V.O.)

Who hung this picture here?



We see Joy again, now in black jeans and the restaurant’s uniform top.

The camera FOLLOWS her eye line and we discover that she’s referring to a photo of the Hollywood Hills hung above the waiting area by the entrance of the restaurant.


Who thought it made sense to hang a

photo of the Hollywood Hills in an

Applebee’s in Hudson, Massachusetts?

The restaurant’s MANAGER, a stressed woman of about the same age, shoves two menus into Joy’s arms.


I did. Table nine.

Joy momentarily scans the room for table nine and a look of disgust falls on her face when she finds it. We don’t see what she sees, but we can tell she is not a fan of whoever is sitting there.

She plasters a fake smile on her face.


Camera perspective is at a low angle, as if the POV of the customers sitting.

Joy comes into view.


Mr. and Mrs. Donoghue! How nice to

see you!

Joy hands off the two menus and we see MR AND MRS DONOGHUE, 40s, sitting in the booth seats. They look like two people that you would just hate without really knowing why.


Joy Hart! See, honey?

(speaking to wife)

I told you it was her!


I sure wouldn’t have expected to see

you here!


Well, here I am.


College not work out?


Uh, no, college did work out. I just


(a beat)

With your daughter.

(another beat)

We went to the same university.

(one more beat)

I saw you at graduation.

The couple just blink at her.


(changing subject)

So, can I start you guys off with

any drinks?


Two Pepsis. And if you don’t mind me

asking, why are you here?

We see Joy write Coca-Cola in her notepad instead of Pepsi — it’s the small victories.


This is temporary. I’m saving up and it

gives me more time for auditions.



Auditions? Your parents had mentioned

something of the sort at graduation, but

I assumed it was just a phase.

Joy gives Mrs. Donoghue a puzzling look — so you do remember seeing me at graduation?


Not a phase!

The couple looks astonished.



I’m glad I’m not your father!

Joy is still smiling.


I’ll get those drinks for ya.

One half of the couple proceeded to say something, but Joy didn’t stay long enough to hear it — or care.


Joy walks behind the bar, grabs two empty cups, and begins filling them with soda. KATE, 21, steps next to Joy. She is wearing the same uniform.


Ew, oh my god, are those Hannah Donoghue’s



Unfortunately, and they just gave me the

most encouraging input on my life choices.

I forgot how much I loved them.


KATE                          (gags)

They just think they’re so cool cause’

Hannah got an internship at Google.

Little do they know, their daughter

spent the first two weeks of freshman

year Googlin’ every boy in Duffer


(a beat)

Do you get it?


Joy plops a straw in each glass.



Yeah, I got it.


Joy starts walking away with the drinks.





Should I spit in them?


On her way back to the Donoghues, Joy stops in front of the Hollywood photograph and her eyes linger for a moment. She sighs before walking back to table nine.







JENNIFER HART, 50, is doing the dishes at the sink. MICHAEL HART, 24, Joy’s brother, is eating his cereal standing up against the counter.


Joy enters the kitchen from the hallway, followed by the family dog, KIP.


Why are you up so early?


Kip kept me up all night with those

weird nightmare tremors he has.

Kip stares at Joy, tongue out, tail wagging.


(to Kip)

I’m glad one of us had such a good night’s



(to Joy)

Any plans for today?


Hmm. Probably catch up on some TV, maybe

grab a coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts, I’m not

really sure. It’s all still very flexible.

Michael sits to put his dress shoes on for work.


Don’t you have that acting class today?


That’s tomorrow morning, thank God,

otherwise I’d be having a heart attack

right about,

(looks at




You do have that dentist appointment at

2:00 this afternoon, sweetie.

Joy slumps against the counter.



You’re kidding.


Well it’s better than doing nothing.


I was not going to do “nothing”. For your                     information, I was going to rewatch all

of the Star Wars prequels to see if they

are really that bad.

Joy grabs juice from the fridge.


And! Speaking of which, ya know what

I learned in one of my Communication

classes last year? That Harrison Ford

was a carpenter before he was an actor and that didn’t happen until he was like thirty-five.




The moral of that story, Michael, is that

I have time.


True. But, like you said, Harrison Ford was

a carpenter, not a couch potato.


Should I become a carpenter?


Maybe that’s the key to acting.

The three laugh until suddenly Joy gasps.



The tremors! They’re back!

We see Kip, once again asleep, twitching happily in his sleep.


A shot of a small, brick building with a statue of a tooth with two arms, holding a sign that reads “Hudson Family Dental”.


Joy is leaned back in the operating chair and the DENTIST is busy painfully picking away at all her teeth.


So, I heard you recently graduated?

Joy tries to respond.



Oh! Ow, you bit me.


Please don’t close your mouth when I’m

working on it.

Joy stares at the woman — you asked me a question?

The woman removes her hands and passes Joy a small cup.


Rinse and spit, please.

Joy does as she is told.


So what have you been up to since school

ended? Were you able to get a job right



I’m actually just waitressing right now.

But, it’s nice. I’m pursuing acting so it

gives me time for auditions.

I actually have a class tomorrow.


Ah, so you’re the family’s worry child.



The worry child?


Ya know, the artsy one, the one that has

to stick around with mom and dad just a

bit longer, the one that Mom and Dad gotta



worry about.

(sees Joy’s reaction)

Oh, it’s not meant as an insult, darling.

Joy is insulted.

The dentist grabs her tools and goes back into Joy’s mouth.

We hear a slight crunch.


Ow! You really got me that time, please

be careful.

As much as Joy can with a hand in her mouth, we see her smile.


Joy has one hand on the wheel and the other is holding her phone to her ear.


(into phone)

I almost bit her finger off.


Michael is on the other end of the conversation.


(into his phone)

Wait what?



My dentist. She almost made me a

murderer. She roasted me for being

an actress. She called me a “worry


(a beat)

I should’ve bit harder.



Dad used to call me that when I stopped

playing football in middle school. He



thought it was a stepping stone to being

gay. I just hated football.



I don’t want to be a worry child! I

wanna be successful! I wanna act!


He checks his rearview mirror.


Don’t worry about it, Joy, she’s just your

dentist. Hey, wanna meet for lunch? My

lunch break just started.




Dang, I wish I could! I’m meeting Kate

though. She said she needs my help with




Alright no worries. I’ll see you tonight


He stops at a redlight and notices that someone texted him while he was on the phone. It’s from his boss.

The text reads:

“Michael – hate to do this, but we’re

more behind than we thought and I’ll

probably need you to stay a bit later

tonight. Possibly come in early tomorrow.”

Michael grunts in frustration. He looks out his rolled-down window and one of those cheesy, promotional billboards is on the side of the road.

The ad shows a man flashing two thumbs up next to the caption “Change Your Life Today!” followed by a phone number.

Michael gives the inanimate sign the middle finger and proceeds through the green light.




Joy and Kate are strolling through the mall with drinks from Cinnabon in their hands.


(to Kate)

Why did you want to meet at the mall?

(gasps at a 50%

off sign)

I mean I’m all for it.


Well, I actually need a new business-

casual outfit.


I have an interview tomorrow!


(matched excitement)

What! No way! Where!?

Kate fiddles with the straw of her drink.


It’s just this small, start-up

outside of Framingham. But, they

need an advertising position and

said they loved my resume so

hopefully it’s me!


Don’t be so modest, of course you’re

gonna get it! That’s amazing!

(fake sad voice)

You’re leaving me all alone at Applebee’s.

The two friends turn into a dressy clothing store.




I’m sorry.


No, don’t be sorry! I wouldn’t wish a

life of Applebee’s on my worst enemy.

Kate inspects a rack of skirts.


Well, soon we’ll both be outta there.

Kate stops suddenly as she spots something across the store.



Oh my god, is that Hannah Donoghue?



In the flesh.

We see HANNAH, 21, looking back and forth between two jackets in each of her hands, even though she is already dressed fantastic. She is tall, blonde, and beautiful.

We PAN back across the store to Kate and Joy, who both have a momentary look a disgust.


Oh god, she sees us.


Oh god, she’s coming.

Hannah approaches with her arms spread out, expecting a hug.

Kate and Joy find themselves involved in an awkward threesome hug.


(overly friendly)



(matched friendliness)



Oh em gee, how long has it been?


Not that long, we have gone to the same

school for like eighteen years straight.

Hannah laughs obnoxiously and Joy cringes hard.


Kate, you’re so funny.

Kate smiles awkwardly — thank you?


What brings you here?


I’m shopping for a couple new outfits.


Little known fact: Google has a really

strict dress code.

Kate rolls her eyes as discreetly as possible.


Oh yeah, I heard about Google. Your

parents seemed really proud when I

saw them the other day.


Oh yeah! They told me that you waited

on them! I love that you’re still

pursuing that acting thing. It’s so



The cutest.

Hannah makes a big show of checking her expensive watch.


Oh em gee, I gotta go!



(air kisses)

Love ya’ll!

Hannah exits and Kate and Joy are left standing.


Hey, but at least she loves us.

She eyes the skirt that is in Kate’s hand.



And you’re twins! Both shopping for a new

work outfit! You’re the same person!

Kate stares at Joy.


I will fight you.


Joy and Michael are in front of the small TV that stands on Michael’s desk. They’re playing a Star Wars video game.


If you kill me one more time with a

grenade, I’m gonna kill you for real.


It’s not my fault that for some BS

reason, Leia wasn’t given a lightsaber.


Then be Luke next round.




We see, on one half of the screen, the animated Leia chuck another grenade, followed by an explosion on the opposite side of the screen where Michael’s player is.

Michael grunts in frustration.



When Carrie Fisher was my age, she was

already Princess Leia.

Michael still just looks at the game.


What if I’m not like Carrie?


Your dentist had this much of an impact on



No! I mean, yes. I don’t know! I just

wanna know that this is all going to

have been worth it one day.

We see Michael’s character attack Princess Leia with a lightsaber. Joy rolls her eyes.


Listen, I’m just an accountant, so I

don’t know a whole lot about dream jobs.

But, I do know that all you can do in

life is your best. I think that’s all

that matters. And, you’re pursuing

something that you actually like doing.

That takes guts.

Joy takes that in.


I know that you could’ve used a really

suitable Yoda quote given our current

activity —


And you appreciate me withholding?


No, I wish you had used one. It would

have been better than what you came up

with just now.

She is just teasing him.



Very funny.


I know.


Pee break. Pause it.

Joy exits.

Michael leans over and grabs Joy’s controller and while we can’t see the TV, we see that Michael is up to something.

Moments later, Joy returns. Michael tosses the controller back to her.


I changed your username.


Oh, god.

Joy looks to the TV and so does the camera. We see that above Princess Leia’s head, where the username of the player would be, it reads ‘The Worry Child’.



Caoilfhionn Schwab, Gender Policing in Athletics

When Congress passed the Educational Amendments in 1972, within the law was Title IX, which prohibited any sex-based discrimination in the participation in, or the benefits of, any federally funded educational programs, including athletics.  However, women still do not have the same opportunities in athletics as men have for a variety of reasons; one of which is because masculinity and athletics are seen as interconnected, whereas a woman who performs equally as well as a man in a sport challenges the belief that women must maintain their femininity in their actions, that women rely on men for their strength and protection, and that women’s bodies are not as physically capable as men’s bodies.  Gender policing in sports, specifically focused on policing femininity, is a result of a strict gender binary and a fear that women who are just as physically capable as men are breaking the boundaries of the two established biological gender boxes; men and women.

Gender policing is a way to maintain the binary, to enforce normative ways of expressing gender through our behavior and dress on individuals who are not considered to be performing their assigned sex adequately.  Women who perform “too well” in sports are scrutinized, questioned, accused of cheating and are often forced to prove their assigned sex by undergoing hormone tests.  However, if a man is underperforming in a sport, meeting the expectations placed upon a woman’s performance in a sport, his sex is not questioned nor is he tested for hormonal imbalances.  According to John M. Sloop, author of “This is Not Natural: Caster Semenya’s Gender Threats,” gender testing was required of all female athletes at the Olympics, but more recently it has only been necessary in cases where female athletes “performed in a questionable manner” (Sloop, pg. 84).  The controversy over Caster Semenya’s athletic performance demonstrates the fluidity of the physical traits of gender, and brings light to the fact that a gender binary is an unrealistic construct of our society.  It is also important to acknowledge where gender policing stems from; anxiety over not being able to identify one’s gender identity just by an individual’s appearance, as well as a fear of women threatening a gender-based hierarchal structure due to the fact that they do not fit into the cultural norm of what a woman should be.

In the case of Tonya Harding, gender policing had a part to play in her struggle to become successful in the figure skating world, resulting in no sponsors and Tonya’s supposed involvement in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan.  Tonya did not fit the mold that female figure skaters are expected to embody on and off the ice; an ice princess that embraces femininity, glamour and poise.  Female skaters must perform in such a way that the tricks they do must look effortless, making their skating look as though it is not athletically challenging.  The sport has athletic and artistic components, which are assigned to men and women, respectively.  Tonya was athletically built, rather than dainty like the rest of her competition, and although she could land tricks most women could and would not attempt, she was consistently facing criticism and unfair bias from the judges because of her lack of femininity.  Tonya embraced her tom-boy appearance, and was deemed “the ugly duckling, with frizzy blonde hair, from the wrong side of the tracks” by Connie Chung, a CBS News Anchor, in her interview for “30 for 30: The Price of Gold.”  Women typically choose to skate to ballet suites, however Tonya would often choose her own music that did not fit the criteria of the quintessential ice princess, furthering the judges discomfort towards her.  Because of the gender policing by the judges, Tonya rarely got the recognition she deserved, despite her inherent talents.  This resulted in a lack of sponsors, while Nancy Kerrigan, who was equally as talented as Tonya, was successfully making a career out of ice-skating.  It is speculated that Tonya felt as though she had no other option than to involve herself with the attack on Nancy as a way to overcome the gender policing she faced, in order to have a fair chance to win at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships and the Olympics that same year.  Because Tonya was threatening to the expectations figure-skating had on its female athletes, it was easy for the media to paint the Tonya versus Nancy story as black and white; “evil witch versus the snow queen”, according to Nanette Burnstein, the creator of “The Price of Gold.”

Because of her athletic performance, Caster Semenya, like Tonya Harding, was also seen as a threat to the gender binary.  In August 2009, Caster Semenya was subjected to “gender tests” as a result of her incredible speed and strength that lead her to win the gold medal in the 800-meter at the World Championships in Athletics in Berlin (Sloop, 81).  The decision to test Semenya was due to her “masculine” appearance and her “dramatic breakthroughs in her speed”, which lead officials to believe she had an unfair advantage because she was not performing her gender in a way that fit into the traditional binary (Sloop, 81).  Along with her athleticism and her physical traits, the way Semenya dressed was also used to question her assigned sex, furthering the gender policing and scrutiny she faced by the media, the public, and sports officials.  Multiple news outlets, including Australia’s Daily Telegraph, ABC News and The Sunday Times of London, called attention to her choice of typically “masculine” clothing, such as Semenya’s choice to wear pants rather than skirts, and used her apparel as proof that her clothing was another way her “internal maleness” was manifesting itself (Sloop, 85).  Race also increases the likelihood of a female athlete’s gender being questioned and policed because women of color in the U.S. are already deemed suspicious because they do not “perform ‘mainstream’ femininity correctly” (Sloop, 85).  In order to combat the criticism she received, Semenya was forced to prove her femininity by subjecting herself to an ultra-femme photo-shoot in which she wore clothing that proved she fit the gender binary, as well as underperformed in future races in order to prevent further speculation over her gender.

Gender policing is not only problematic because of the fact that a gender binary is an unrealistic way to examine how people should identify themselves, but also because it is humiliating to its victims.  In the Caster Semenya case, as well as the Tonya Harding case, both of their reputations and careers were ruined by people who felt the need to enforce the gender binary on these two individuals.  In the world of sports, gender policing is limiting to the types of people who can participate in athletics because of the enforcement of normative gender expressions, which are extremely restricting considering many people do not fit into the two categories of men and women.


Dahl, John. “The Price of Gold.” 30 for 30. Prod. Bill Simmons and Connor Schell.            ESPN. 16 Jan. 2014. Television.

Sloop, John M. ““This is Not Natural:” Caster Semenya’s Gender Threats.” Taylor and

            Francis Online. N.p., 31 May 2012. Web. 20 Mar. 2017.