Recently, television programs have pushed the limits of graphic violence and psychological affliction. Any Game of Thrones fan will tell you that this a new sort of never-before-seen entertainment. George R.R. Martin’s authorship of what has come to be known as “the Red Wedding” stands as a prime example. The television series based off of Martin’s novels brought to television what might be revolutionary in the film industry. Conan O’Brien described the “Red Wedding” as “the most stunning thing many of us have seen on television.” Since the “Red Wedding’s” screened debut, I have seen a few scenes in film which seem to attempt to shock their audience as much as Game of Thrones did. Although violence, death, and psychological thrill have long been found within the world of fiction and motion pictures, it is only recently that graphics have come so close, nearly indistinguishable from reality.
Everyday, makeup and computer technology help to close the gap between the worlds on both sides of the TV screen. In fact, this seemed to be the sort of generating principle behind one of Netflix’s recent Black Mirror episodes, in which a man volunteers to test out a new virtual reality videogame. The episode takes an unexpected turn and before you know it, you’re watching a depiction of a man in a nightmarish hell, for lack of a better term. With perhaps the top makeup and computer enhancement, and no obvious shortage of funding, Netflix delivers a powerful illustration of what can be described as nothing less than horrifying, brought right to the comfort of your home.
My concern is that these things, these depictions of violence, death, and emotional turmoil, have a potentially traumatic element in them. As committed viewers, we develop an emotional attachment to many of these fictional characters. Some of these shows, such as AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” air for six, seven, eight seasons, spanning six, seven, eight years. Over these years, fans fall in love with these characters. Although they are not real, quality acting and skillful portrayal allow the audience to feel as if they have come to know these characters as real people. That’s the goal of acting. But with the trends in recent television programming it is becoming increasingly common for writers, after five years of getting their audience to know and fall in love with their characters, to create scenes in which long-loved stars are brutalized and killed in the most disturbing and graphic of ways.
I am all for freedom of expression. Anyone should be able to create any fictional world they want, no matter how dark, and adult viewers should be able to consume whatever fiction they please, but with these limits being pushed, with never-before-seen depictions of violence and emotional extremes that look eerily close to the real thing, the ‘R’ and ‘TVMA’ rating warnings given before a show begins should be taken more seriously as time goes on. Perhaps the effects of these scenes on our psyches should be studied, and it should be further emphasized that these programs are almost certainly not suitable for people under a certain age.
Photo Credit: Sony Pictures