Last week I was watching a German thriller ” Soundless” ,(about a hit man who spares a girl and then falls in love with her), when it occurred to me how much less bloody and violent the movie was when compared to similar Hollywood films. There was hardly any graphic violence. Even when people were getting bumped off , the camera cut away quickly and viewers got only a glimpse of the carnage , just enough to show what had happened and no more.
This is the way it used to be here too but “Dirty Harry” changed all that circa 1971. That Clint Eastwood starrer was the first , I think ,to show graphic violence , to linger on scenes of mayhem and carnage . Since then , the trend has continued and accelerated as Hollywood continues to push the envelope , searching for ever bloodier and more horrifying scenes to sustain viewer interest. Shows like “CSI” ( all the different versions ) and “Bones” with their multiple shots of decaying bodies and their clinical discussions of the decomposition process and how people were murdered are now commonplace . I can’t stand such scenes and don’t watch those shows but a lot of people do , judging by the ratings and by the fact that criminal forensics is an increasingly popular major among college students .
I wonder what this does to our sensibilities , to our culture. Does repeated watching of murderous violence and its effects harden us , make us more prone to violence ? Does it brutalize us ? Is it part of the reason that the U.S has many , many more serial killers than all of Europe combined ? I don’t know and I don’t think there is any way of finding out but I can’t help feeling that it is.
Some years ago , I was watching an episode of ” Cops” where a British policeman was attempting to reason with an unruly drunk. For several minutes, he tried unsuccessfully to calm the man down. Only after all efforts had failed did he collar the man and lead him away. Without resistance , I might add. By chance , the next show that I watched showed a similar situation in the U.S. Here , after very little talk, two police officers jumped the man and wrestled him to the ground , twisting his arms most painfully as they subdued and cuffed him . I know that officers here have to be more careful because of the ever-present danger of guns but I couldn’t help noticing how differently the two situations were handled…
It’s funny that , here in the U.S, we are so prudish about even partial nudity even as we tolerate gratuitous scenes of violence. I remember what a big brouhaha there was when Janet Jackson had her ” wardrobe malfunction ” ,courtesy of Justin Timberlake , at the Super Bowl halftime show. That split second baring of her breast was the stuff of headlines and letters of outrage for days on end. In Europe , where nudity in magazine ads and on TV is commonplace , it would hardly have occasioned any comment.
Given a choice between nudity on the one hand and violence and murder on the other , which would you rather choose ?
I know what I’d want. Less blood and violence please.