Excessive violence in TV sells

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WARNING: This article depicts images of TV violence

Television audiences today are given the luxury to choose precisely what they want to watch, whenever they want to see it. We have the gift of choice and selection, which means we have an endless stream of continuous entertainment at our fingertips.

Gone are the days where you had to settle for whatever was on TV. Today, it’s as though we demand things that are continuously more shocking, outrageous and envelope-pushing, or we become bored.

Our hunger for the kind of television that has been created in more recent years has raised the bar that was previously reserved and set by paid-for-cable networks like HBO. The Sopranos, a ridiculously good, mafia-based crime drama dawned on people’s screens in the late 1990’s, essentially saving the network from its own failure.

Since then, the network is not the only one to pick up violent television. AMC, Netflix and FX are notable examples of more easily accessible mediums through which people can watch whatever they please, regardless of the violent content it may contain.

On Oct. 23, I tuned into the latest episode of The Walking Dead with bated breath. With obvious spoilers ahead, I can safely say that what I watched was certainly not what I was expecting.

Fictional violence is a staple in the shows I binge watch in my spare time and The Walking Dead is no exception. For a show that kills off characters almost as easily as Game of Thrones, it showcases a universe in which violence is depicted as a mere necessity in order to survive.

We all knew that at least one person had to kick the dust this season, just not which one. Negan, the newest villain, quickly answers this question by sadistically beating in the skull of Abraham, a formerly loveable, red-headed tough guy.

He doesn’t stop when he’s dead, either. He keeps on going like he’s playing a game of whack-a-mole and this poor bastard is the ticket to an oversized teddy bear.

Abraham is left in a graphically unidentifiable smashed pumpkin state on the ground, and each character is perched in horrified shock (much like myself at that point). The audience is momentarily lulled into thinking that this might be it until Negan swings his bat again, onto the beloved fan favourite, Glenn. Barely conscious, with his eye popping out of his broken skull, he manages to choke out some heartbreaking last words to his pregnant wife: “I’ll find you.”

Glenn is unceremoniously beaten into a bloody mess, Rick is almost forced to cut Carl’s arm off and the episode ends on such a bleak, hopeless note, that I sat choking on my own tears for a good ten minutes.

This is a turn that a show like this had yet to make, regardless of its tendency for tying in as much heartbreak and slaughter whenever possible. It’s pushing its boundaries and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t pull me in even further.

The graphic nature of this violence is truthfully no rarity in television, as shocked as many were to see it portrayed in such an explicit manner.

Breaking Bad is a show that mixed it’s violent corruption with undisputedly clever humour. Game of Thrones encapsulates realistic bloodshed woven amongst a rich, fantasy laden storyline. Hannibal managed to depict incomprehensible, nauseating gore, to the tune of a beautiful soundtrack and visually stunning cinematography. American Horror Story has viewers returning to its blood stained, hour-long nightmares of episodes, regardless of how disturbing the subject matter may be. A common topic of discussion that I see is the debate about how much violence is too much violence on the small screen. Noting this valid argument, I still can’t deny the draw that these shows have. Shedding any Norman Bates vibes that I may be giving off here, the fact remains: violence sells.

The Walking Dead generated buzz all over social media, both good and bad, ensuring a solid audience for at least the beginning of their new season.

It’s a smart way to produce a show that might otherwise fall to the wayside in a sea of forgotten TV that grew stale, especially when it’s been running for seven years.

I think the key to actually enjoying this brand of entertainment and looking at it critically is seeing it for what it truly is.

Violence can be put down to the fact that if you’re living in a world of zombies, at war in a fantasy universe where dragons exist, become drug lords in a web of crime, cannibalistic psychiatrists who eats our patients, or are a murderous, horror concoction built to terrorize, it’s simply par for the course.


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