When I was a boy growing up in Edmonton, mom’s rules were predicated on one simple principle when it came to how us three Simpson boys entertained ourselves.
Violence isn’t entertainment.
For the most part, we acquiesced. Star Wars was OK, although mom didn’t like all the space guns. G.I. Joe was definitely out, as was Rambo. And while all our friends at the lake regaled us with gory tales from popular horror movies of the day like Friday the 13th, Halloween and Child’s Play, those were movies we didn’t dare pop into our VCR at home. Ever.
Even wrestling was touchy. All of us boys loved it but we knew better to have it on when mom was around.
That was in the 1980s, in the heyday of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone flicks, movies that are considered tame by today’s standards. These days, Arnie, Sly, Chucky and Jason have nothing on new characters the likes of the Governor, the Mountain, the Hound and Negan.
Rather than simply shooting the bad guys – like the good ol’ days – these new, nastier characters bash their enemies’ brains in with a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire. They squeeze their heads until their eyeballs pop out of their faces. They thrust an axe into their crotch and watch their testicles spill out onto the ground.
Clearly, there are people who work in the television and film industry who weren’t raised by my mom’s standards.
Regardless of your upbringing, I don’t think anyone could argue with the statement that violence on today’s screens – big and small – is needless and disgusting.
No longer used as a storytelling tool, violence has become a filmmaker’s game of which scene can top the last, which show can crank up the gore to the next level.
And no longer is the violence implied, it is raw, graphic and detailed in all its HD glory.
But what I find even more shocking is how we react to it – and where we draw the line.
After watching the first 10 minutes of Sunday’s ultra-violent season premiere of Walking Dead, I turned it off in disgust and reached for my phone to check Twitter. (You can click here to watch some of it, just so you know I'm not exaggerating...)
When I opened my Twitter app, I was sure I would find that others were as disgusted as I was.
I was wrong.
People ate it up. They loved it.
Writers commended the show for its risk-taking and shocking storytelling. Tweeters praised the show’s skill in expertly detailing characters’ gruesome demises.
Check it out:
— Pete (@GaulPete) October 27, 2016
#walkingdead comes back w such intensity! Applaud for great actin and writing!!
— Samanu (@emmanuelkasese) October 27, 2016
— Patrick Tamisiea (@copybomb) October 27, 2016
#WalkingDead has its many problems but if you give up on the show now, just when they started taking risks then you're a fool to me.
— Chay Sorkin (@ChaySorkin) October 27, 2016
To be fair, there was a bit of a backlash in the days that followed – a bit. And I did find a few tweets from people who said are fans of such shows but say the violence has gone too far and will no longer watch them.
But without getting into a debate of what television violence does to our psyche, I can’t help but ask myself a simple question.
How much is too much?
What if it was a dog that was pounded to a pulp in front of our eyes? Or a kitten? Or a child?
In an effort to constantly shock us, will those things be next?
We live in a society that is outraged by the sight of a woman’s nipple at a SuperBowl half-time show, or a woman breastfeeding her baby in public. And we are outraged when a director “white-washes” his movie or show, hiring mainly white people as actors.
On Sunday night’s aftershow, called Talking Dead, fans and actors dicussed the episode. A few guests cursed and hilariously, the bad words were all bleeped out.
So just to be clear – it’s OK to pound characters’ heads to mush – as long as one of them is Asian? Taking a bat to man’s head is fair game – as long as he doesn’t swear when his eyeball pops out of his socket?
Seems legit, right mom?
Beau Simpson is editor of the Now newspaper in Surrey. You can reach him by email at email@example.com.
— The Now Newspaper (@TheNowNewspaper) October 27, 2016