As humans we seem to have a tolerance for levels of ‘brutality’ while very few of us would enjoy to see real pain or real violence there is a wealth of ‘acted’ or ‘fantasy’ violence some quite brutal. I’ve been thinking about where and why we draw that line.
One example I was thinking about relates to heavy metal music. Which has been linked to some rather chilling acts committed by people such as the Columbine Massacre. http://edition.cnn.com/2008/SHOWBIZ/Music/05/09/metal.violence/. Now while all of this has been refuted the fact it was even brought up interests me.
The genre lends itself to exploring the darker nature of human reality and this can be quite shocking to a mainstream listener. The following are the lyrics for the song Cream of the Crop by Cattle Decapitation to illustrate the point.
Coagulation sets in
A bolt in my head! The grisly aftermath of a life
Waiting for the carnage to come
I love the stench
Of my brothers, my sisters
Bloodsoaked and lifeless
Sinew, clots, cream of the crop
Scrap heap to be digested
This love never dies”
While this is clearly graphic I do wonder what separates this from things that are more acceptable. Game of Thrones? The Saw Films? Saving Pirate Ryan? Some content which can be as equally graphic at times is socially acceptable and some is not. I think this is simply based on popularity.
We are exposed to a lot of de-sensitising material on TV and this can happen from quite a small age. This of course has lines which tends not to be crossed but we also try and find justifications I feel. One example would be the brilliant anime dragonballZ in which good and bad guys are hurt quite bad and gore does exist. While gore can be justified for artistic reasons or realism I want to focus on the example shown on kids TV and while it is censored to a degree I can’t help but feel Freiza’s predicament is acceptable because he is an evil guy.
We don’t feel sorry for him therefore it is okay?
I also think something else is behind it. Metal music was attacked because it was different and while the likes of Rhianna are criticised for content such as in S&M it is not to the same degree and less blame is placed upon it. Video games have also fallen ill of this sort of issue in which because a person plays violent games there seems to be a link in a politicians head between this and actual violence. As if a mock acting of violence or watching it on TV is somehow very separate in our distinction between fact and fiction than a semi-gory computer game. This is something that in time will become less of an issue as has the music issue simply the generation who lived with it no longer see it as the issue their parents did.
Still we seem to want to enjoy experiences that fulfil our inner desires to see others in painful or graphic situations. We also seem to enjoy to varying degrees different levels of what we consider acceptable violence or graphic content. We distinguish this based on media form as well as intensity regardless of the effects it actually has on us. (My research seems to hint at it being healthy, metal for example is relaxing acting from what I can work out as aggression without being aggressive.)
To conclude I do wonder why and how we draw the lines. This is different from the factual case for any argument that can be made about this sort of content and if something does shock us I do think that it is important to ask why.