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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Escalated Entertainment

What type of person derives pleasure from watching violent and graphic rape and murder? What about getting wrapped up in the plotting to commit atrocities? Should it be entertaining to discuss demented, psychotic, torturous ways to inflict harm?

"Last year saw Game of Thrones eclipse True Blood as HBO's biggest series, grossing an average 14.4 million viewers every week thanks to live plays, encores, On Demand and HBO Go views." says Michael O'Connell of HollywoodReporter.com. He also notes that 8.2 million people watched the 2014 season opening episode on the first night, that doesn't even include all the people who downloaded it later.

How bad can it be? Here is a quote:
The Hound: You're a talker. Listening to talkers makes me thirsty and hungry. Think I'll take two chickens.
Polliver: You don't seem to understand the situation.
The Hound: I understand that if any more words come pouring out your cunt mouth, I'm going to have to eat every fucking chicken in this room.
Polliver: You lived your life for the king. You're going to die for some chickens?
The Hound: Someone is.
Read more: http://www.tvfanatic.com/2014/04/game-of-thrones-review-everythings-changed/#ixzz2yIyMQrkJ

Let's set the scene here, this exchange comes as part of a discussion of offering a little girl for rape and the "chickens" he references may or may not actually be young women. I wasn't really watching it, but this scene horrifically grabbed my attention.

Point? How did we get to a place where watching the most vicious atrocities played out and described in intensely graphic detail is what 15 or so MILLION people think is entertaining? And how can we imagine that watching this is innocuous?

When you see savage, deranged rapes committed or threatened, you know what happens? "Regular, run of the mill" rapes seem less horrific.

When you see every affront to your family avenged by wrathful, remorseless mass slayings you begin to concoct situations that are seemingly appropriate for this type of scheming and brutality.

When you see every conversation punctuated by "zinger" put downs and women objectified, and children murdered, and sex used as a weapon, you can't help but attach some degree of normalcy to the watered-down  versions of these problems that are around you every day.

Is my only problem with Game of Thrones? Unfortunately, no. There are countless other shows that aren't doing it as "well". Yet. But GoT has upped the ante for adult entertainment and the only thing that new writers are thinking is how to out-do the most successful show. We saw this happen with crime dramas. The "Law and Order" type shows started out bad, but with each success, imitators jumped on, and each one harsher than the next. When ratings would begin to slip, they had to become more shocking, more graphic until we now have shows dedicated to the youngest and most sadistically raped and murdered victims on SVU. Who finds that entertaining? Desensitized people, certainly. When a person can watch one of the crimes depicted while carrying on a conversation about their day, or watching dinner, or folding laundry; there is a problem.

But these are shows for adults, right? And adults can differentiate between fiction and reality, right? No. No, they can't without thinking about it. Your first reaction to a situation comes from your unconscious, the place where you have stored so many violent images and rationales that it takes a second to filter through. We all know that our first reaction is the one that creates the visceral understanding of the situation. After that first second, you may be able to determine that the person who cut you off isn't out to murder your family; or the person who bumps into you at the bar isn't trying to emasculate you; or your wife commenting on how gratuitous and unnerving a show was isn't accusing you of the atrocities committed, but your first blip of emotion thinks that is exactly what is happening.

We are starting kids younger and younger. First of all, series originally created for adults are shown as reruns at all hours of the day. We are becoming more and more lax about what we allow to play in the background even when children are present. And, even kids' shows are pushing limits of appropriateness.

When storylines for young teens on Disney and Nick surround sexual desires and the only way to be popular is to be beautiful and hateful and certainly not smart, then we have a problem. It starts with disrespect. When we devalue people (including ourselves) in any small way, it is a slippery slope. When we allow our recreation to teach poor morals and ethics, when consequences (if any) only last until the end of an episode and then all is forgiven, we inadvertently teach that our emotions are irrelevant and that the one who hits the hardest, and hurts the most deeply, wins. When our most proud moments are those that diminished another human, we all lose.

Unfortunately, this is becoming our reality.


Jim Lehmer said...

I posted something on Facebook about this, but will follow up here as well.

Sons of Anarchy
Breaking Bad

I'll even add a few of my favs from back when I was still watching TV:

The Sopranos

We are becoming desensitized as a culture. Reality shows are basically "bread and circuses" now. Thumbs up, thumbs down. Oh, wait - those were real martyrs in the ring? Oh, well.

Snobizjc said...

Oh, don't even get me started on reality shoes. Years ago, I remember feeling uncomfortable watching America's Funniest Home Videos because it was just over and over people getting or almost getting hurt, now we've moved to creating emotionally hurtful situations for entertainment. We would be a better society and more apt to move to help others if we were shocked by their pain.