To The Extreme

Posted Saturday, August 1, 2009, 12:51 PM


I don't know how common a viewpoint this is, but I have a particular dislike for graphic sex and violence in my entertainment. Except that's not always true, as it all stems from context.

I used to work for an Adult Website, so there was a lot of nudity and sex everywhere I turned. I had no moral or personal problem with this (except in very specific circumstances). To me, pornography has a purpose, and therefore a place, that works in as far as its intent fulfils a need in the marketplace. That is to say, if you want to see sex in explicit detail, for whatever reason, then porn is the place to see it.

However, I don't like to see sex or nudity in a TV show or movie.

This is not because I am prudish, but for a completely opposite reason. If they are trying to make the sex in the movie erotic, then the audience is going to be stimulated. And being stimulated sexually while viewing a drama in a public place like a cinema is neither appropriate nor comfortable. If stimulation is what you crave, do it privately, with material designed exclusively for that reason. Therefore, keep erotic displays of sex out of the movies.

After all, there are very rarely instances of a dramatic storyline where displays of nakedness and sex are necessary. Movie makers can tell the story without it, so why put it in? Imply it, refer to it, suggest it, or even excise it; there are alternatives that don't require its display.

Even worse, there are many times where they have sex displayed on screen, but aren't allowed to show nudity for ratings reasons, ending up with something so half-arsed and limp it's not worth the attempt. Writers, figure it out; just don't bother with your poorly written excuse for gratuitous exploitation.

Violence, on the other hand, I have a different view on. It can be argued, and often is, that violence in movies desensitises you to its impact in real life. I don't know if I agree with that entirely, I think people react to real life violence in exactly the same way they always have, and movies haven't changed that.

Currently, at least.

But we react reasonably to the results of violence, do we still react to the application of it? Is violence still enacted upon one another due to movies, and sports, showing it as a form of entertainment? I don't know, but it is my fear.

The problem I have with violence in movies is the three levels of display.

EXAGGERATED VIOLENCE AS ENTERTAINMENT:
I grew up on TV and movies that had a very sanitised approach to violence. Either they don't show it at all, and it happens off screen, or they showed the violent acts but with no resulting blood.

For example, a cowboy might shoot some enemy, but there'd be no visible wound or spurt of blood. Or a dramatic house fire would result in only a little soot on the victim's face. Very unrealistic, very safe, while still trying to imply the drama of the situation.

Later, in the 70s and 80s, violence started to get more graphic. Gore and blood were splashing around everywhere. It was ridiculously excessive, and so graphic as to be almost absurd. The acknowledgement of this absurdity helped reduce the impact of this "cartoon violence." The consequences were dismissed, but then the act of committing the violence was portrayed as equally over-the-top.

Arguably it was the wrong direction for entertainment to head in, but I don't have any real problem with its portrayal. It's now widely accepted as harmless, and I think this is probably true. Video games also usually take this approach to their violence, and for that reason I disagree on many people's views that video game violence is at unacceptable levels.

REALISTIC VIOLENCE AS DRAMA:
Sometimes the violence in a movie has to be portrayed to be real, so it may show something squeamishly graphic, but the reaction from the characters, and the point of the scene, will be about what that violence means in a genuine real life context. As much as I don't like seeing it myself, I have no issue with it existing in movies. It has a very important point to make, and it is well made when there is a subsequent reflection of reality.

REALISTIC VIOLENCE AS ENTERTAINMENT:
And then Quentin Tarantino came along, and fucked things up for everybody.

I hate Quentin Tarantino. I think he is a repulsive blight on the cinema landscape, and though I do not wish him ill, I know that if he was gone off this earth, I would not mourn him for a single second.

He has introduced and maintained sick, ugly, twisted, and repellent, displays of graphic, realistic, gratuitous violence, in every one of his so-called "iconic" movies, and used it solely for entertainment value.

He is morally repugnant, and should be stopped.

The violence that he portrays ought to have meaning, or real world level consequence, but it does not. It is used to get a laugh.

Fans argue that there is consequence, that we are supposed to dislike the people who are dishing out this violence. But I disagree - they are clearly anti-heroes who are the protagonists we are supposed to be rooting for. They are the main characters, the providers of entertainment in the stories, because there are no sympathetic lead characters in his films, but they are also the perpetrators of the most repellent levels of gratuitous cruelty.

It almost literally makes me sick. I refuse to watch Tarantino's films, so perhaps I'm missing out on some subtleties and growth in his abilities. But I doubt it very much.

Robert Rodriguez, who is something of a protégé of his, is almost as bad.

The problem is, that this level of gratuitous violent display makes me uncomfortable. When it is intended to make me uncomfortable, in a suitable dramatic way, then I reluctantly accept its place in entertainment. But when it is intended to make me laugh or whoop for joy, I am repulsed, and cannot enjoy any other aspect of the film.

I am concerned that the popularity of this kind of violence amongst modern audiences signifies a shift in what is acceptable in not just entertainment, but in real life, and things that used to shock and upset will soon be dismissed as blasé and push the bar of acceptability too high.

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