October 27, 2006 - Today, just before Halloween, Lion's Gate and Twisted Pictures are releasing "Saw III," the third installment in a low-budget but very successful horror movie franchise. Like the two prior films, "Saw III" will be promoted through a real Halloween Blood Drive ("This Halloween, Give 'Til It Hurts"). To that end, Lion's Gate has distributed eye-catching blood drive posters. Unfortunately, the posters feature sexy/scary "naughty nurse" imagery. We commend the film companies for the blood drives, which the film's web site claims collected enough in 2004 and 2005 to save thousands of lives. But we urge the companies to stop promoting that effort with images that degrade the very professionals who use the blood collected to save those lives.
The "Saw III" web site has five different posters promoting the blood drive, which is being held at locations throughout the United States. All the posters have a stark black, white, and red color scheme. The fourth poster (above) is the most overtly sexual. It shows an attractive young model sitting on a stool, not quite in profile, wearing a very short, tight, white "nurses' dress," complete with an old school cap. Her crossed arms more or less cover her cleavage, but the dress is so short that viewers see well above the white lace at the top of her stockings. The first poster (right) shows three nurses, dressed the same way, standing in a tight circle. There is a hint of cleavage here, though it is not explicit. The fifth poster shows one of the nurses close up from the side, from the waist up, her head thrown back in what seems to be ecstasy. And the second poster shows all three of the models close together; the middle one holds a bag of blood. Oooooh!
The "Saw III" site boasts that the 2004 blood drive collected 4,200 pints, for "up to 12,000 lives saved," and the 2005 drive collected 10,000 liters, "saving 30,000 lives." But what the site does not mention is that for the most part skilled nurses would have been the ones to actually give that blood and save those lives, working with physicians and others. The blood did not just leap into anyone's body. It had to be carefully extracted, maintained, and directed in the right way, aspart of highly skilled care nurses provide to critical patients in need of transfusion.Therefore, nurses are the last people the filmmakers should be gratuitously degrading.
And though these are not the worst naughty nurse images we've seen, they are still damaging. The deep-seated association of nursing and sexuality discourages practicing and potential nurses, fosters sexual violence in the workplace, and contributes to an atmosphere of disrespect that weakens nurses' claims to adequate clinical and educational resources. The naughty nurse is not an image that appeals to most career seekers, particularly men, which is a key reason the profession remains over 90% female. When you combine all that with the college-level training nursing requires, and the difficulty and stress of actual nursing practice, it is no surprise that the profession remains in the midst of a global crisis driven by rampant short-staffing.
Some might also object to the posters' association of nurses with horror. Naturally, the posters are calculated to be unsettling, and the suggestion that nurses are seductive agents of malevolent forces is certainly not unfamiliar, from Nurse Ratched to anime and modern horror. This theme arguably reflects discomfort that female nurses may actually be in a position of power over vulnerable male patients; one way to cope with that is images like this. Perhaps ironically, nurses do not seem to play any major role in the plot of "Saw III." However, a female physician is one of the main "pawns" on the "evil chessboard" of the franchise's star villain Jigsaw. We wonder why the blood drive posters do not feature images of this physician character in a naughty outfit, which would at least have borne some relation to the plot--that's just a big mystery, isn't it?
We urge Lionsgate and the makers of "Saw III" to stop promoting their otherwise worthy blood drive with naughty nurse images that undermine the same vital health care the drive supports.