Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Has Television Violence Gone Beyond a Stated Taboo?

I have a confession to make. Viking Dad and I watch television after the Viking Kiddos go to bed. We have many favorite shows including the Walking Dead, Elementary, CSI-Las Vegas and Criminal Minds. We do have shows that we watch that are much lighter, like Big Bang Theory and SyFy's Face Off.  

I know- I know- I know---- not very "Waldorfy."

I have only started watching Game of Thrown. I wasn't too impressed with the books so I hadn't immediately jumped on the "band wagon" to watch the HBO show. Plus, boob, sex, blood, some dialogue, more flapping boobs, more sex with more blood and dialog didn't immediately appeal to me. I can go watch the History Channel's The Vikings for that kind of entertainment and learn some history, too. Over Spring Break I did re-read Game of Thrown Book 1 and I have started Book 2. 

Which brings me to my personal observations and comments. Now, if you are a Walking Dead fan and haven't watched this last Season-----SPOILER ALERT!! 


In light of the recent school shootings and tragedies the blame for this kind of violence is often directed at violent movies, games, music, books and television. This is still a hotly contested debate. 

What I am observing in the media is a crossing of a line from what is acceptable violence for entertainment and pushing a society taboo. 

Twenty-five years ago Tipper Gore and various mothers gathered together and created the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) in which they asked the Senate to create a bill to force record companies to place warning labels on records, yes I am dating myself, that had violent and explicit lyrics and content. The turn out of musicians and artist to speak in front of the Senate Committee ran the spectrum. What caught many by surprise at the time was the folk singerJohn Denver walking in with punk glam rocker Dee Snider of Twisted Sisters. Sitting next to these polar opposite artists was Frank Zappa who had, at the time, a rather psychedelic performance style. Check out the photo gallery here.

Folk/Country singer John Denver

Twisted Sister's lead singer, Dee Snider

What finally come from this effort was a pared down version of the Parental Advisory labels and a clarified definition of the movie ratings. 

That was twenty-five years ago. The PMRC did create an open dialogue to discuss what would be considered acceptable violence and sex in entertainment that is used to this day. Many topics and images are still considered too taboo to show in entertainment. There are still Sensors in the entertainment industry that determine what is acceptable and what is not. In a recent article I discovered that television and movie writers are not allowed to show a murder in a bathroom, especially if a girl is being stabbed. The scene can lead up to it and the scene can be the aftermath of the murder. The real color of blood still can not be shown. Cannibalism is another taboo area as well in entertainment. The death of children is still a fragile and touchy area as well. 

The death of a child or children can be a fragile and touchy topic. It is even more startling when the child becomes a "monster."

~Spoiler Alert~

 In the case of the Walking Dead this season two little girls, Lizzie and Mika, have survived the initial apocalypse of zombies and even watched their father die. Actually, he was bitten by a zombie aka Walker, and Carol had to end his life or he would become a Walker.  The two girls have been adopted by another survivor named Carol. Carol, a once abused wife, who has lost her only child to the zombie apocalypse and has grown rather rigid and cold in her version of survival has decided to teach the girls how to survive. Initially, this doesn't seem to be a problem. Then the viewers start seeing Lizzie trying to make friends with the deadly Walkers. One bite from these Walkers and its instant death. In her mind they are "just sick" and need to be taken care of. She can't destroy a Walker. On the flip side her younger sister, Mika, sees that the Walkers are deadly, but struggles killing living things to survive; like a deer. This duality comes to a tragic conclusion when Lizzie is determine to show Carol and another survivor that the Walkers are "harmless" by killing her own sister. Carol comes to the gut wrenching conclusion that Lizzie can never be near living human beings or Walkers. In the real world she murdered her younger sister. In the harsh apocalypse world she presents a risk to everyone around her. 

The final scene is Carol making what she thinks is the best decision. She takes Lizzie out to a field of flowers and kills her. In a plush comfortable modern world Lizzie would be confined in a small "padded room." Its been shown that children who have gone to this extreme can not easily be assimilated back into the real world. 

A Child Soldier from Africa

Viking Dad commented (long winded sometimes) that rarely, if ever, do music and movies lead  society in a direction.  Instead, he says, that music and movies are the mirrors, and benchmarks of the state of the society.  Music and movies rise with the societies awareness like a wave.  They follow society.  The world becomes aware of an issue, then when the issue is already on everyone's TV News or magazine or newspaper, (dating himself isn't he), then the movies, dramas, and documentaries bring the issue to the front in full color.  Society can be looked back upon, and major changes identified dramatically in the content of Movies, Music, and TV.  But these media products are plucked from the breaking point of the wave, not from the starting driving surge.

This fact is clearly illustrated in the Walking Dead, The Hunger Games, and Taken. Recently, we watched Omega Man with Charleton Heston. It is based on the novel, I am Legend written by Richard Matheson. In the 1971, movie Omega Man the screen writers believed that vampire apocalypse would be too terrifying for the population. Instead, they used a mutant subculture called the "Family." The fear of the time was germ warfare which was a real threat. In 1971, China and Russia were in the midst of a boarder war in which they were using early biological weapons.  In the 2007, remake and renamed I am Legend, society readily accepted a vampire plague as a reasonable possibility. The vampire causing agent was genetically modified genes that were designed to cure cancer. This is the current fear. 

If one accepts our premise that US entertainment is a reflection of our current societal views then how disturbing that the child brides and massacres in Game of Thrown is acceptable entertainment. What is the box office income from the Hunger Games?

 Our society continues to push the boundaries of established taboos. 

Just my two cents....
Bless Bless.....

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