The camera pans across an end table inside a house. On it, there are several framed pictures. The smallest three frames hold pictures of a very young boy, about 5 or 6. The first looks like a school picture as the little boy is wearing a comfortable t-shirt. The second is formal, the little boy smiling big with a white turtleneck and black jacket. The last, a bit more difficult to see because it is the smallest of the bunch, also looks casual, perhaps another school picture. All we see is a green collar and yellow shirt, no other striking detail. The largest frame holds a picture of a newly married couple at their wedding, posing as they dance. This picture in particular looks older, and paired with the pictures of the young boy I assume is their son, these two have been married for quite a few years now. We assume this is a household with a mother, father, and son. The entire room is rather dark.
The end of the pan shows a white staircase. There is a light coming from an adjacent room we cannot see that shines on the side of the staircase. The rest of the room is black, leading me to believe that a light would be need because it is late at night. There is a shadow of a person cast on the side of the staircase. As it moves, we see the shadow is very tall and wide. There is no visible sign of this person, but from the size of the shadow, I assume this person is the father/husband.
The young boy seen in the pictures is now seen in the flesh, sitting on the stairs. He is dressed in pajamas and holding a toy truck in his hand. He is not downstairs with his father, and he seems to be higher up on the staircase, in the dark. From this, it is confirmed to be late at night, and past this boy’s bedtime. Perhaps he can’t sleep, otherwise something has drawn him out of his room, but has not intrigued him enough to move downstairs. He may be afraid to go downstairs because it is late at night and he should be asleep, which would explain why he is so high up on the staircase, he may not want to be seen or else he would get in trouble. If he can’t sleep, why wouldn’t he seek comfort from his father? He fumbles with the toy in his hand, but his gaze is directed down towards the room with the light, where I imagine his father stands. There is one light that illuminates the boy making him the focus of this spot.
The shot shifts and I now see the back of the boy. From this angle it is confirmed he sits at the very top of the staircase, he hasn’t moved. At this spot, he may be hidden from his father, but can still see whatever he is doing. A different shadow appears on the wall next to the boy, cast from the same lit room downstairs. Very slender and small, I assume this shadow is of the mother/wife, joining the father in the only lit room. While watching this spot, I got a feeling that the boy has done this many times before, passively watching his parents, and comes from an innocent place. Perhaps he feels safe hidden by the balusters where he can’t be seen.
The camera transitions back to a forward facing shot of the boy, but is zoomed in to only show the boy’s upper torso and part of his face. From this angle, we can see the boy’s white pajamas are covered with pictures of hockey players. His attention is now fixed the toy he brought with him, though he looks a little upset. Perhaps he knew he’d be sitting there a while, and brought a friend in the form of a toy truck. The toy metaphorically protects him. His toy distracts him, momentarily bringing him relief. His expression slowly gets a little happier. The lighting has changed and the boy’s face is now slightly obscured by the dark.
A loud noise startles the boy and his eyes snap back to the room his father and mother are in. He is scared now, and looks as though he is about to cry. He is now alert, on edge, and certainly uncomfortable. From the sudden change in posture and expression from the boy, there is a lot of tension in this shot.
The boy, now wide-eyed, is breathing heavily. His mouth is open and he seems to have forgotten about his toy. The light coming from the only lit room is blocked by the balusters, leaving a dark line down the boy’s face as he looks through to the room his parents are in, creating a very dramatic image. Something awful, potentially violent has happened.
The boy looks down at his toy, different from before. He is visibly uncomfortable and upset, yet hasn’t moved from the stairs. He has not removed himself from the situation, and may be too scared to do so. He is silent, most likely out of fear of being seen. His heavy breathing has slowed down, though still looks shaky. Due to his age, one would assume he would yell out and cry, but he does no such thing, staying frozen on the stairs, careful not to make a sound. He has been in this situation before, or at least something very similar. A typical child of his age would probably be crying right now, be found out, and put back to bed, but due to the tension in this and the earlier shot, this child may be facing higher stakes than a firm talking to, causing him to fight the urge to cry out, opting for silence instead.
The screen goes black and a message in all whit is displayed in all capital letters: “Children have to sit by and watch. What’s your excuse?”. This is a powerful statement, while certainly accusing. The audience is assumed to have an excuse to not take action in this situation. Children are exempt from this accusation and are free to have an excuse, in this case that they “have to sit by and watch,“. Are they required to sit back and watch? Do they really have no other option? Whatever the situation, children have no say, only older people do. A bit excluding, isn’t it?
Information for a domestic abuse hotline is displayed on the screen in place of the statement. The logo for this hotline is a centered half black half blue box with the phrase “There’s no excuse” in all capital letters, “no” being the largest and most prominent, marking it as the key word of this phrase.
Watching the ad once again with sound had a few differences in tone. It started out innocently enough, the husband asking where dinner was, and the wife responding that she thought he would have been home earlier, and put everything away. This conversation turned violent very quickly when the husband begins yelling. His wife plead for him to calm down and to speak quietly, I assume for their child’s sake, but this only enrages him further. There is no shot of the fight, instead we only see the reactions of the child, who has become our sole informant on the situation. He is upset, but too young to truly realize the gravity of this problem. After a loud slap is heard, the boy is visibly stressed, so he knows something is wrong, but cannot do anything to help. He stays hidden on the top of the stairs. By the wife’s pleading, I assume this is not the first time this has taken place, and probably not the first time their son has been in earshot.
This ad for domestic abuse prevention is meant to combat the “bystander affect” in which those surrounding the situation shift responsibility away from themselves under the notion that someone else will help or it isn’t any of their business. By using a child as the focus and informant, the audience feels a sense of responsibility. There is a maternal reaction to these kinds of spots that has the message hit a lot harder than it would should the boy have been older, or not there at all. Even with this information, domestic violence is a difficult situation to prevent. Many involved in these types of relationships are either manipulated into thinking that it isn’t the case, or are too afraid to leave or tell anyone, with possible threats to his or her life should there be a chance to speak out. Within the context of this ad, where the fight happens indoors, at night, with just the child around as witness, who could possibly be there to help other than a neighbor, who would have needed to overhear this situation from outside this couple’s house and call the hotline provided? While not a far-fetched idea, it requires a specific set of actions to take place for help to be received. The best case scenario would be for the child to call to help his mother, but the ad tells us that children can only sit by and watch, they have no other option. A more likely situation to receive help would be if the significant tother being harmed found the courage to speak out, or if someone noticed changes in this person’s behavior and questions him or her about it. It is much more likely that help would be found that way as opposed to while the act is taking place behind closed doors. Perhaps these ads should start to focus on enlightening its’s audience about signs of domestic abuse and how to prevent it instead of pressuring people to take on the almost impossible task of stopping the act in the moment.