by Rachel Birdsell
I just read in “So, Now You Know” that “a report introduced into the U.S. Senate states that a child will have witnessed 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence on television before completing elementary school.” I’m not sure if I believe that. The name of the report isn’t given, and whether or not your children see all this violence on television depends on if you let them watch violent shows. However, I do realize there is an excessive amount of violence on television. What’s with the love of watching violent acts?
I’ll pick on “Law and Order: SVU” because there are some pretty gruesome storylines on that show. Quite often the show’s writers feel the need to have someone get sodomized. But just being sodomized isn’t awful enough, so the victims have to be brutally sodomized by a variety of random objects like a banana.
I realize horrific things happen to people every day. People die in unimaginable ways and have unthinkable things done to them. What I can’t figure out is why we feel the need to recreate that horror as part of our entertainment.
But don’t think you can have a show and get good ratings with just sodomy. You also need shooting, strangling, maiming, slashing and blood, buckets and buckets of blood, because viewers seem to love the stuff. I think American television writers have forgotten you can have a murder with an interesting plot and without a lot of gore. What happened to having a show about a nice poisoning such as a little arsenic stirred into the soup or a pinch of cyanide slipped into the dessert wine? Why do we have to have so many bodies being sliced and diced?
Maybe the need for violence is because being mindlessly entertained takes less effort than watching a show that actually has a plot we need to follow and think about. Maybe watching the gore is a way to escape, but if so, what are we escaping from that is so terrible we have to watch butchery as a means of escape? Are we trying to numb ourselves against the violence that goes on in the world every day? Are we using fire to fight fire, or in this case, fake gore to numb us against the real gore?
I think we can all agree that in the past 20 years there has been a dramatic increase in violence and an increase in the heinousness of the violent acts shown on television. When are we going to reach the violence threshold?
I think it’s odd we have a society that doesn’t bat an eye at an actor being slashed from neck to navel, but goes into a moral panic when an entertainer’s nipple is accidentally shown. That is backward. It’s sad we’re more shocked by seeing a woman’s breast than we are by watching a show about someone being hacked to death. I say it’s time for us to lose our Puritanical views on the human body as well as our penchant for violence. Being sans clothes is 100 percent natural. Watching someone be bludgeoned to death isn’t.
Rachel Birdsell is a freelance writer and artist. You can drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.