The Dark Violence Rises

Over the past twenty years the film industry has witnessed a powerful development in the amount of violence that has become acceptable on our screens. The films of the past deemed to be “violent” and “gruesome” would not so much as catch the attention of the average fifteen year old now. An extra terrestrial bursting out of John Hurt’s stomach in Alien is almost comical compared to the grotesque ordeal of films such as the Saw franchise; why is this? Additionally if we are accepting that the level of visually explicit violence has risen in our films, the next questions to ask are does this have a direct link to the attacks we witness in America, has our society become de-sensitised to violence, and furthermore are we glamorising violence, in a somewhat worrying way, to our younger generation?

Films have undoubtedly become more violent. On its release the Terminator franchise was rated as an 18 and seen by many as a very violent film. However compared to The Hostel franchise, or even films such as Gladiator or 300, Arnold Swarzenegger looks more like his character in Twins, than he does a futuristic killing machine. The film industry has decided to make violence within films far more explicit. This could be in order to appeal to what they perceive as their changing audience. Conversely the film industry could have changed naturally attempting to create new exciting story lines and as such more violence has become deemed as “cool”.

There used to be suggested scenes where the camera conveniently flicked away at the last gory minute. With the wonders of modern technology, the audience is now party to the full act, in all its gruesome glory.  It appears that certain film genres, in an attempt to keep a captive audience, are exchanging strong story telling with guns, explosions and fighting. Without doubt, the use of violence within films can be utilized as a powerful method in cinematography. However currently filmmakers appear to be over relying upon its use to appeal to its audience. The concerns then turn to the impact this is having on the audience and society in general.

It appears that a whole generations’ idea of entertainment is intertwined with violence. From the games we play on consoles, to the films and TV series we watch, violence seems to be an inescapable factor which surfaces through all these different types of media. Many now argue that this has led to a de-sensitisation of violence; people are just not as effected by violent scenes as they perhaps once were. Clearly we watch far more violent scenes that we ever used to, and these violent scenes are now becoming available to a younger and younger age. However, importantly they remain part of a fictional world. If I were to witness in real life, some of the images we watch on our screens, I would feel disgusted, and as such I feel I am not de-sensitised to violence within the real world. There is a difference between the real world, and the fictional world we involve ourselves in. This distinction needs to remain, and worryingly at times the lines appear to be smudging and blending together. Violence is becoming glamourized in certain instances and almost praised. This can never have positive effects if the lines between fiction and reality are becoming closer.

In one such ordeal, these lines over lapped and led to the deaths of twelve people as well as the injuries of fifty-eight more. The Auroro Shootings happened during a midnight showing of the new Batman movie with the supposed perpetrator claiming his name was The Joker. For this individual the fictional and real worlds had blended to disastrous consequences. This was a freak incident, happening in a country where accessibility to fire arms is particularly easy.

The increase of violence in our movies has not led to teenage shooting throughout the Western world, and that illustrates an important point. James Eagen Holmes is clearly in need of psychological help and had received none. In this instance the Batman franchise perhaps did have a detrimental impact upon him and contributed to the actions, which he has supposedly undertaken. However, instead of laying the blame solely at the door of the film industry, should we not instead be asking why this young man got to the stage where he thought those actions were acceptable? With the most recent shooting in America as a prime example, yes they need to be discussing the fire arms laws, but of equal importance is why these young adults are not receiving the help they so desperately need.

We have become more accepting of violence within our films and this has perhaps led to us becoming de-sensitised to it, within these fictional worlds. If this were to begin to have an impact upon our reactions to violence within the real world, then it would be of real concern. In certain cases this can be said to have happened and has led to horrific consequences. Furthermore many seem to be content to allow our younger generation to watch more and more violent scenes at a younger and younger age. There is a fine balance between opening a child’s eyes to the world, and blinding their vision of it with graphic, unrealistic examples. Currently the media industry is tipped towards allowing more violence to a younger age. Although, for the vast majority, this will not lead to horrendous incidences like those witnessed in America, we should be concerned about the levels violence our younger generations are exposed to. It is a debate that will rumble on, and evoke strong reactions from both sides. Indeed at times, the storyteller requires violence in order to express the desired effect. But let us tailor what we show, when and to whom. There is something important about the innocence of a child, and that should not be ruined by violence that is unjustified and inappropriate to the audience. There is a joint responsibility of both the film industry and societies around the world to change the current situation for the better. May the force be with us all!