Say no more to too much gore?

Film editor Joe Holloran on the use of excessive violence on TV

Joe Holloran
23rd October 2018
Credit: flikr
Once every year or so, without fail it seems, the question of “excessive” violence on television rears its ugly head yet again. The moral media-crusading ideology of Mary Whitehouse failing to remain in the past, where it was soundly rejected by an audience sick of being infantilised by a middle-class elite scared of the allegedly corrupting nature of a socially bankrupt medium.

Well, every question deserves an answer and here it is. No. The reason people often ask this question is that they are worried about copy-cat actions. Back in the 1960’s experiments were done surrounding this issue that have been repeated across the decades. They all show the same results. Those with no past prior predisposition to violence were encouraged to act aggressively after viewing violent images. The majority can differentiate between fiction and reality. Gory TV, excessive or not, is not damaging to the public.

What about general audience consensus on gory TV? The most commonly accused purveyors of excess by the outraged are Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy. There are some noted similarities between the shows. They are all American. They are all on mainstream network TV. They all have massive viewing figures and they are all critically acclaimed. Now, if the affects theory proposed by the moralizers is correct, then Dragon, Zombie and Katy Segal related deaths should have skyrocketed over the course of their broadcast years.

The Walking Dead - regular targeted by the clean TV crusaders . Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and 'Lucilie'. Image:IMDB

Are there TV shows that are too violent? It depends on the show. In the above mentioned shows the violence fits the overall tone of the shows. If, suddenly, Peppa Pig took up a career as a gun slinging psychopath – it would make for an awesome show – but, yes then the violence would be excessive and out of place. There are also some shows where the violence causes even the desensitised to avert their eyes. This is most often due to the duration and tension of the scene involved. TV makers know this and know to only use these moments at key points that are vital to overall story arcs. If this is repeated too often, they risk losing many viewers.

So, no. TV is not too gory because audiences have not stopped watching. Besides, most of the shows who have the finger pointed at them use violence as a tool within a wider narrative construct to engender passions and raise the stakes between protagonist and antagonist. If a show comes along that uses frequent, graphic violence for no other purpose than to sort of dare the audience to keep looking, then these shows will be cast aside as primitive and most will not survive. Whereas masterpieces like Game of Thrones will continue to be enjoyed by millions from all sorts of genders, ages, races and cultures. If you disagree with me and find shows you’re watching too graphic than please just change the channel and get on with your life, rather than sending off an angry tweet that will forever go unread and forgotten.


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