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Enough With the Blood, Violence, and Gore on Television

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Halloween night I was watching a Lifetime movie, Christina’s House, I believe it was. It was a halfway decent thriller until the last thirty minutes, when it turned to a gore fest. Sorry, but that was the last straw that broke my camel’s back. I am sick (literally) and tired of all the blood, viscera, guts, dismemberment, and gore – and that’s just network television. Satellite and cable are even worse. It’s getting where a mild-mannered person can’t even watch Law and Order without seeing a mild-mannered version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. (Okay, I am exaggerating, a little).

Once upon a time, I was a big fan of all those tacky low-budget movies they chucked out on the Sci Fi Channel. Now, though, even their basic science fiction movies are nothing but hatchet-fests with much dismemberment. Where are the days when science fiction was about mind versus machine, space exploration, and an occasional dinosaur that wasn’t dripping blood and when it did munch on a lawyer, we only saw just enough to cheer for the T. Rex? One shudders to think what would be required of a new Jurassic Park or how explicit a new Star Trek would need to be just to pull in an audience.

But, I don’t want this stuff in my chick flicks. I don’t want it on network television. Heck, I don’t even want it in science fiction.

Why is it necessary?

No, I think the important question is what is it doing to our society? What does it say about our society? Is this one of the reasons people are so desensitized to violence and don’t blink when some horrific crime is committed? I know the new reality includes Islamic beheadings, but if we don’t draw the line at such things as part of our entertainment, such barbaric practices are going to lose their shock value, and then what? Are we going to start retaliating by doing the same thing?

Unfortunately, I am afraid that day has already arrived. A week or so ago, I was reading that, in Mexico, drug dealers are now beheading their competition, a practice copied from Islamic brutality. Where does it stop? When does it stop?

If our entertainment is a mirror of our society, we are truly in serious trouble and in decline toward barbarism.

Once upon a time, psychologists were decrying all the gunplay on television. Those days look like youthful exuberance compared to what is on it now. The thing is, do you actually hear, see, or read of anyone complaining or doing the necessary psychological studies about what this sort of thing is doing to our culture? Why aren’t we trying to curtail the encroaching desensitization of our culture?

I am a big fan of murder mysteries and the entire cop/PI genre on television and in the movies. But, I rarely watch new programs on television. They are too violent, too detailed. They make me too uncomfortable and I want a bath after it is over. I guess that’s the way I felt when I watched that Lifetime movie the other night. They had the makings of a fantastic thriller but took the cheap way out and ignored plot development and simply went with a ketchup fest.

The premise of the story was excellent. Mother freaks out, ends up in a private sanitarium where she ‘grooms’ men to come in and protect her family. Naturally nubile young girls begin to disappear and show up dismembered and so forth (oh, for the innocent days of Twin Peaks). Nubile teenage daughter thinks the new handyman is hot. Father runs off boyfriend who wants only the usual from the nubile teenage daughter, etc. The last half-hour of the movie is about the boyfriend being dismembered by the psychopath handyman. We think the father has been dismembered when we see this (it really grossed me out) nasty bloody knife. Nubile teen must defeat and kill handyman psycho. The end of the film shows another psychopath being released from the sanitarium, being sent on his way by the mother.

We never know if the mother is the catalyst. Is she trying to protect her family or destroy them? Is she some kind of a psychotic monster? This could have been a fascinating psychological thriller, but, evidently, it is more marketable if there is so much blood on the sets the cast and crew can’t stand up for falling into something fake and nasty.

When Lifetime, a network dedicated to quality programming for women, stoops to this level, I don’t know about you, but it is a flashing hot pink neon sign of trouble ahead. How do we stop this sort of thing? How do we, as concerned consumers, stand up and say, enough already! I want something less… can I say, obscene?

I don’t know about you, but I would much rather see some ‘naked flesh’ than all that violence. I don’t know which is more ‘obscene’. Which has the worst effect on society? Why can’t we return to the simple days of I Love Lucy, or better yet, Magnum PI?

The worst part of it all is I have been the one defending gunplay and violence in the media as free speech. I hate complaining, but somewhere we’ve crossed the line from free speech, outright bad taste, obscenity, and are now heading down the slippery slope of something truly disturbing. Why must I be ‘treated’ to such things like dismemberments, freely flowing blood, and the like every time (it seems like) I turn on the television? I have the option of not going to the movies, which I no longer do, primarily due to the completely unpleasant movie-going situation here in Lincoln County. But, when this stuff spurts out every time I channel surf, enough is enough already.

Okay, I can’t sleep and wake up around 3 AM or so. I want to read and watch something until I fall asleep again. So I channel surf. Wrong move. Once again, I am treated to the obscenity of blood and violence I’d turned off earlier in the evening. Forget that. Then, to be assaulted by shadowy images of some ad for a movie compendium of films so raunchy and bloody they can’t be shown in public – no thanks. I want sweetness and light.

Seriously, I truly do not like this stuff. It is offensive. It is also dangerous for our society. Free speech is free speech, but somehow I just don’t think our mild-mannered founding fathers envisioned this sort of thing. Then again, my tenth great-grandmother, Hannah Dustin, ended up scalping about a dozen of her captors (in the 1690s) to escape alive. Maybe we’re just too protected and know nothing about the filthy realities of life. Could be, though, the whole Norman Rockwell scenario is just the ticket our society needs today.

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About SJ Reidhead

  • Iloz Zoc

    Your points are well taken, but the part of the equation we really need to focus on is not the gore and violence in movies today.

    Horror and science-fiction have always been genres that reflect the times, mores, and social attitudes of a society. If science fiction has become less hopeful, and horror more realistically extreme, it is because our global village has become a more dangerous and senselessly violent place to live. And just imagine how kids and teens see all this through their eyes.

    The escalating gore and violence on screen is in direct correlation to the escalating gore and violence in reality. Our reality.

    To say we need to stop it in fictional events misses the point entirely. The dangerous monsters and grisly deaths are no longer on the screen. The monsters are us, and we’re doing far more bloodier, dirtier things to each other than anything shown on screen.

    If you want to clean up what we see on the screen, you will first need to clean it up in reality. And that’s quite a task indeed.

    So expect it to get worse, and more nihilistic in the cinema, because that’s exactly how it is in reality.

  • JR

    As a matter of taste, I totally agree with this article. I don’t watch horror movies, but I can’t get away from the commercials for them. They’re worse than the drug ads.

    Unfortunately, however, there this evidence that the blood and gore on TV reduces violent crime:

    The bottom line: More violence on the screen means less violence in the streets. Probably that’s because violent criminals prefer violent movies, and as long as they’re at the movies, they’re not out causing mischief.

    You also might want to think twice about the examples of real-life violence you gave in the article: Islamic beheadings and Mexican drug violence. Neither of those are actually happening in America, where you are subjected to all this violence on TV. So at best, you just chose the wrong examples; at worst, the reality undermines your argument.

  • http://bonamassablog.us Joan Hunt

    While I knew where you were going with this, I almost half expected to read something about you wanting no more Al Gore on TV. To both, or either, I’m with you.

    Seriously, though. As a mother with a child only 10-years old, I’ve discovered commercials during pre-prime time aren’t even safe for us to view during the summer and early autumn months. More than once, he’s cringed and buried his head to escape the terror-laden promos for the next big slash ‘em up. Either that, or he’s confronted with thinly veiled sexy dry humping in the trailers shown all over the place. If given the choice, I’d opt for the sex over the gore, but I’m not given the choice and neither is anyone else.

    So much for watching TV with your kids, eh?

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    As a huge fan of the blood and gore genre, I of course found the piece ridiculous. If you don’t like it, you change the channel. Obviously, if shows like CSI and Law & Order are where they are in the ratings, it’s not bothering that many people. Suck it up and deal with it. It’s not real gore, and hardly even close.

    The Sci-Fi Channel flicks with all of their is so completely over the top or done on such a low budget I can’t imagine how you could find it offensive.

    For story purposes, depending on the tone of the show/movie, it makes a huge difference. Passion of the Christ is the first one to come to mind for its gore. Sure, you can HEAR how the guy suffered, but to see it has emotional impact. Not a huge fan of the movie, but the gore was on an entirely new level.

    Same goes for CSI. “Well, her intestines were ripped out and used to strangle her.” Sound gruesome? Sure it is. Hearing about it is cringe worthy. To see it is shocking and more impactful.

    If you can’t take it, switch to Nikelodeon. Leave all the gore to me. To even suggest censorship makes it sound like your moving towards a membership in the PTC.

    *shudder*

  • http://thepinkflamingo.blogharbor.com/blog SJ Reidhead

    I am not advocating censorship. I am advocating a little more restraint. Believe me, I turn the channel. A long time fan of the Sci-Fi Channel, I no longer watch their movies. They have gone way over the top.

    I don’t even mind admitting a watched some horrible slasher film on either HBO or Showtime a few months ago. I closed my eyes at the horrible parts. That is not a problem. But, when the same thing trickles in to my favorite Lifetime Channel and we are treated to a bloodfeast, enough already yet! Take it elsewhere.

    I also agree that the Sci Fi movies are pathetic. All the big bucks seem to be going into their regular programming such as Gallactica. But – maybe they could save a little money on ketchup and put it into a half-way decent script. If there isn’t at least an hour of pure dismemberment…

    I turned CSI off, last night. I don’t mind the ‘discussion’ of forensics. Forensics fascinate me. I wish I had the fortitude to go into the field, but I don’t. I’m just getting sick and tired of this stuff popping up everywhere.

    I keep thinking about kids and science fiction. I lived for it. There wasn’t a science fiction show I did not watch when I was growing up. But, today, if I had kids, there is no way I would allow them to watch a lot of this stuff. It seems to me people need to stop thinking about themselves and start considering the problems this stuff creates in children and teens.

    What I can’t believe is I am the one saying this. For years I constantly complained about censorship and the fact that violence does not impact kids. I was very wrong. I think it does. I also think it is a parent’s responsiblilty to pull the plug. But, I think society has a responsibility to those who could be impacted. And, I can’t believe I am saying this, but it is true.

    And, no I did not go see “Passion of the Christ” for just that reason.

  • JR

    Matt Paprocki: As a huge fan of the blood and gore genre, I of course found the piece ridiculous. If you don’t like it, you change the channel.

    My problem is that we aren’t being left many channels to change to. Based on the article I sited above, I want there to be violent programming; I just want to be able to avoid it myself.

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    “I am not advocating censorship. I am advocating a little more restraint.”

    Same thing. “Oh you can’t do that because it goes too far.” That’s censorship. If someone wants to show, say, a head slice in slow motion, and you say they can’t because it’s too far, how is it not censorship?

    “A long time fan of the Sci-Fi Channel, I no longer watch their movies. They have gone way over the top.”

    Believe me. I sit through them every week for my column. I feel your pain.

    “But, when the same thing trickles in to my favorite Lifetime Channel and we are treated to a bloodfeast, enough already yet! Take it elsewhere.”

    TV shows have ratings, and label them for violence. It’s not hard to check.

    “I keep thinking about kids and science fiction. I lived for it. There wasn’t a science fiction show I did not watch when I was growing up.”

    And those shows are still out there. Sci-Fi has them on all the time. Twilight Zone, Hulk, etc. Rememeber Outer Limits? Loved that one. Someone has to have that on somewhere…

    “But, today, if I had kids, there is no way I would allow them to watch a lot of this stuff.”

    Neither would I. That’s not the audience for most of this stuff. With all the DVD tech, downloadable video, game consoles, etc., they barely even need to watch network TV or cable. It’s really a non-issue.

    “It seems to me people need to stop thinking about themselves and start considering the problems this stuff creates in children and teens.”

    Don’t take away my enjoyment because some parents are too lazy to monitor their kids. That’s where the focus needs to be here.

    “For years I constantly complained about censorship and the fact that violence does not impact kids. I was very wrong. I think it does.”

    Based on what exactly? Dropping violent crime rates down to their lowest level since the early 80s? Research that shows no long term effect of media violence?

    “I think it does. I also think it is a parent’s responsiblilty to pull the plug.”

    And we have a winner!

  • daniel

    I love gore guts and blood and im 11 and if you dont want to whach it change the chanel or complane to someone else !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://blogcritics.org/video/article/enough-with-the-blood-violence-and/ …..

    Violence will occur no matter if it is showed on Tv or not so in my opinion its better to be notified about what COULD happen to everyday people in our society. This is my opinion and people may think differnetly