Thursday, September 5, 2013
The Anatomy of Violence(with apologies to Adrian Raine)
Customers frequently ask for suggestions with some clarifications or exceptions--which is helpful and totally fair. Customer x might say, "I can't handle anything where bad things happen to animals." Variations of that can include: children, women, anything other than a zombie. I'm perfectly happy with those limits and abide by them. Another customer might say, "I need something without sadness." Again, perfectly fine. We all need escapes from time to time and there are moments when real life takes its toll. However, there is sadness in life. Not to get too heavy but without darkness there is no light. And there is violence in life. All too often all too much of it. And like any art form, writing must reflect what is real in this world. So, yes, violence.
Recently I've heard two things from customers: "Oh, I liked that book but it was quite violent." And, "It looks good. Is it violent?" Of course that's a hard question to answer. Emotional violence, shooting someone point-blank and the violence of war are only a few of possible situations. Then I started to think about other popular art forms. Television, in particular. The Wire, Breaking Bad, Dexter, CSI, Law and Order and Criminal Minds are just a few shows that come to mind. These are shows that are wildly popular in spite of, or partially due to(?), their explicit violent nature. Very rarely have I heard complaints about what they portray.
So is violence the problem? I'm not sure how to answer that. Is it possible that violence that is shown to us is not as real/bad/horrifying as what we read about and therefore must only imagine? Again, I have no answer. I do think that we've become quite tolerant of images via computer/tv/film. Be it violent or crude language. It's the norm. A professor I had long ago told me that one of the reasons the Vietnam War ended was that the American public was tired of seeing body-bags on the nightly news. We don't see that now, for the most part, with Iraq and Afghanistan and Syria soon to come it seems.
I'm not a proponent of violence without reason or meaning. I'm also not averse to it being there because it needs to be. In art, I mean.
What do you think?