The art of the implied

I’m sorry, but I will be on my soap box for this post.

There is a trend, which I’m sure has been going on for much longer than I’ve been walking the earth, where our TV shows and films are getting a lot more graphic. Watch any prime time cop-style TV show at the moment and you’ll see more graphic scenes of human mutilation than ever made it into any R-rated film when I was a kid!

What I want to know is why do we need to see this gore? Why should we be made to be desensitised to violence? I think the only groups of people who should not be made highly emotional by the site of such violence are medical and police professionals, who need to function with a clear head in the face of these traumas, and psychopaths. The rest of us should get upset!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in denial about these things happening, and that they will always be a magnet for stories, we have and always will be morbidly drawn to these topics (and indeed I have written quite a few horror stories myself, so I know the fascination). But there is a difference between seeing the gore in detail and using the art of the implied. A spray of red across a wall, the bloodied knife dropped to the ground, or even the expression of pain moments after we hear a gunshot can all get across the fact that a dastardly event has taken place. Seeing it should not improve the story!

I don’t want to see the graphic violence. I want to be able to sit with my friends or family and watch an action, drama or thriller without having to feel horribly uncomfortable about what is happening on screen. I don’t want to have to tell a friend when they can look again at the screen. I just want to enjoy the show.

Probably a lot of you are thinking that I can just make the choice to not watch the show, but this is my point. I enjoy horror, thrillers, dramas and action stories and have done for years, but it is now getting to the point where I can’t watch any of those without risking losing my lunch. I’m not getting a choice any more. Game of Thrones was not released in an M-rated version, if it had been I would have got it. So as a fan of the books, if I want to watch the show I have to sit through horses getting their heads sliced off in front of me, people getting daggers stuck in their eyes, and dismembered bodies littering the ground.

I have an imagination, it is amazing how well my brain can fill in the missing pieces when all the TV show gives me is a groan –and that’s the way I like it. My imagination will provide me with as sanitised or graphic a version of what is going on as what it knows I can handle. The same cannot be said of the people who produce these TV shows.

It all just leaves me wondering why do people want to see this violence in all its gory detail?

5 thoughts on “The art of the implied”

  1. I think I”m going to have to disagree. After years of watching television that has been filtered by what the religious right wing of American society* has deemed to be not obscene and acceptable for viewers to watching, I find it refreshing to watch the shows that cable stations like HBO are making that are freed from such restrictions, even though it can also involve things that I would normally prefer not to see.

    *note, I am limiting this to American made shows, which obviously does not apply to the vastly superior British made ones

  2. There may be a difference between what is shown and what is allowed to be shown (but it’s pre-coffee so I might not necessarily be arguing this well, or have got the gist), but there’s also a difference between being able to show gore and choosing to do so. Censorship is different from what, in my pre-coffee-limited vocabulary, I’ll call “art”. We shouldn’t have limits imposed on what we’re allowed to see, but that doesn’t mean something is better because it includes uncensored material.

    3 classic (or two classic and one borderline?) films which, I think, demonstrate your argument very well, Nat:
    1. Probably the most famous scene of fictional violence is the shower scene in Psycho, which is minimalist in terms of what it shows.
    2. Apart from the end and the John Hurt moment, the tension in Alien was in sharing the crew’s ignorance as to what else was on the ship.
    3. My understanding of the Blair Witch Project (which I haven’t seen and choose not to) is that the horror there comes from what you don’t see.

    It works in other genres, too. Romcoms can be sexier if there isn’t the obligatory sex scene. Uncertainty or potential create tension which helps draw the audience in.

  3. Hi Leif, I think what you are talking about is more to do with censorship rather than what I’m talking about, which is more the glorification of gore. Karen has beautifully summed up what I was trying to get out (maybe I needed the coffee on Sunday morning) about does the gore they show actually contribute to the story?

    To be honest I’m not entirely sure the religious right wing in America would actually have any problems with the gore and violence shown by shows like CSI, so I’m not entirely sure you can say they are not still having an influence. Most of those violent US shows still have people of certain religions as bad guys, while the good guys are good Christians (just watch the Christmas specials if you don’t believe me).

    This new mainstream violence means that to watch ‘popular’ TV shows and movies, you also need to expose yourself to an excesses of violence. Your only other option is to turn off the TV. I think that is taking away choice from people. Let’s face it, you can always watch porn or R+ rated movies if you want to see that violence, but now the choice not to watch it has been removed -because it has been downgraded to PG. So the only thing I can safely watch without worrying if a toe is going to be cut off in front of me, or a Y-incision done in close-up is G rated material, which pretty much limits me to kid’s films.

    There are so many classic movies and wonderful Sci-fi that dealt with adult ideas, comments on society and politically (and religious) contentious material without the gore before. I just don’t understand why it is so necessary now.

  4. True, its not violence or gore that right wing America has a problem with, just showing any flesh between the neck and ankles, though I think the principle still stands, that I dislike other people deciding what I can and cannot see.

    Would you prefer to have cut out versions of the show where overly gratuitous scenes have been removed, or would you prefer the makes to make shows that don’t have them in the first place? you would think the former option would be really easy to achieve with modern technology.

    I guess like always, it depends on the story.
    One of my favorite shows in Spartacus, which is incredibly gory, yet I wouldn’t say that it is gratuitous, since it really is part of the world that they are showing, which is a very brutal one. Likewise, I think the horse scene your described goes a long way to showing the type of character that the Mountain is.

    As for why its necessary now, probably due to the informal censorship at work. If they cannot feel some things due to the possible backlash that would result in lower ticket prices, they will focus on filming as much of the stuff that they are allowed to, which in this day and age appears to be violence and gore.

    Apologies if this was a little incoherent!

  5. I guess what I would like to see is edited versions. For those who want to watch the gore version, they can, and for those who don’t, then they could skip it. That would be nice to see.

    I would never suggest removing violence from stories (I put a lot in myself), and I heartily agree that the character cutting the horse’s head off is important. But if you show me the character raising the sword over the horse’s head, and then we hear a cut-off whinny and a thump, I’ll know it was cut off. You could even show a squirt of red on the ground if you really want to push the point home. I just don’t need to see the anatomically correct cross-section of the neck, with the blood pulsing out of severed arteries in time to the dying heartbeat.

    Imagine what it will be like when they invent smellavision!!! Gross!

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