We can’t hush voices of reason on violence
By Susan Frick Carlman firstname.lastname@example.org January 24, 2013 10:56PM
Susan_Carlman_01 Jonathan Miano / Staff Photographer Sun Publications 2009-02-09
Updated: February 26, 2013 6:13AM
It was probably that creepy Charlotte who was to blame.
Surely Dad couldn’t have known that a movie with such an innocuous-sounding title was anything but harmless. I mean, really, “Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte” — how bad could it be?
True, this was a way-back era, decades ago, when parents could not yet peek at online trailers to decide what constitutes wholesome family viewing before piling everybody into the station wagon on a Sunday afternoon. Dad meant well, always. But it was a dark and inescapable theater, so there I sat, trembling quietly so my older siblings wouldn’t know how freaked out this 6-year-old was when the opening scene featured a philandering young husband being beheaded — and relieved of one hand, to boot — by his axe-wielding, jilted wife. Truth is, they were pretty terrified, too.
Dad, of course, felt pretty awful about the whole thing.
Even if I’d managed to get a wink of sleep over the following several weeks, I would probably still be repulsed by gore and guts on the big screen. The small one, too.
So yes, it’s confession time: I’ve never seen “Pulp Fiction.” And that’s almost entirely because I’ve heard about that scene. You know the one, with the accidental blowing off of some poor guy’s face in the back seat of a car.
I’ve also taken a pass on all of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” flicks, and called it quits after viewing the first “Halloween” movie. That was enough, even for my brazen 20-something self.
It may be that I comprise an itty-bitty minority in my utter aversion to gratuitous bloodshed. Sorry, I just don’t find entertainment value in it.
Clearly there are plenty of folks who do, though. Some of them I honestly like quite well — my lovely and gentle neighbor who loves nothing better than a good slasher flick, my sweet former coworker and splendid photographer, now a new mom, for whom the more gore, the better. These aren’t deranged folks who will get ideas from serial slaughter.
Nor, I suspect, are friends who never, ever miss an episode of “Criminal Minds” or “Dexter,” if they can help it. These shows seem firmly rooted in our morbid fascination with all things grisly and gruesome.
Sure, this genre has its defenders. It’s only pretend, after all — far less frightening than the evening news. An escape. And the stupendously sick villains who arise from these productions have an odd knack for uniting us in revulsion. Even I know who Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers are.
Still, I can’t help but ponder the ubiquity of fictional blood-and-guts and think it has to deaden our sensitivity to unprovoked extreme violence, be it real or imagined. It may not be so that watching violence leads directly to committing the unthinkable, but surely one’s rightful disgust over torture and dismemberment lessens after the fortieth or fiftieth viewing of such spectacular carnage.
This is all, of course, part of the current conversation about the enormous number of gun deaths in the U.S., relative to all other countries, and what we’re going to do about it. Is it the fault of the guns? The neglect of the needs of the mentally ill? A society that has grown accustomed to seeing representations of extreme violence? The stunning spilling of blood in video games? A potentially epic clash between the titanic First and Second Amendments?
What we can no longer allow is a refusal to talk about these things.
Yes, all of them.