Oh, violence! Violence!

I rented a movie called Cannibal Holocaust recently.  It is a semi-famous horror movie that I had never even heard of which is rare.  I only found out about it because I did some research in compiling my best horror movie list and it was on many best lists.  I rented it not knowing anything about the plot.  I am not generally a fan of doing that, often looking up spoilers and plot synopses.  So I do a little research before watching the movie and find that it is widely considered the most violent movie ever made. It is also the most widely banned movie in the world because of this violence.  What makes the violence so bad is not necessarily because of the amount of it (there's quite a lot) but the fact that all the many animal killings are actually real.  Monkeys, a pig, snakes and a turtle (my favorite reptile) all get hacked up.  In addition to that, people get dismembered and there are a couple of rape and torture scenes.

This film is not for the squeamish.  However, I can't help but feel that it wasn't as violent as people were professing.  Maybe I only feel that way because all I read said that anyone and everyone would be appalled at how extremely and graphically violent a movie it is.  It's kinda like when someone goes on and on about how good a movie is making you inherently disappointed from the high expectations.

That got me thinking about violence in film/music/literature.  I am not usually phased by it while it upsets many others.  I guess it has something to do with being exposed to violence very early in my childhood.  My mother would take me to the movies because she did not want to go alone so we would watch mostly what she wanted.  What she wanted was big budget, blow 'em away, Michael Bay type action movies.  Also, I was curious about horror movies and she would let me rent pretty much anything I wanted.  I don't know if I ever was offended by the violence in these films.  I can't really think of a time when violence was even noticeable to me.

As I began to meet more and more people from different backgrounds, I realized that I was the minority.  Other people's parents did not even allow them to watch MTV let alone violent movies.  I never even noticed MTV was at all violent sans a Nine Inch Nails video or two.  When I mention many of the films I enjoy that aren't even in the horror genre these people say that they could not take the violence.  These same people can watch movies like 300 which is on every top 10 list of most violent films I could find.  What is the deal?  Reservoir Dogs made them cringe but Sin City was fun.  More people die in Sin City.  The villains are completely depraved.  There are grizzly images of women with chopped off heads and a guy/demon getting eaten by a wolf.  I'll admit that Reservoir Dogs has a lot of blood and people get shot.  The ear removal torture scene is a lot to take in.  But I think that Saving Private Ryan- which is universally liked- is just as much if not more violent.

So what makes a movie violent?  Body count?  The graphic nature of the killings?  These people who are averse to violence justify their preferences saying that movies like Kill Bill, Sin City and 300 are "cartoony violence."  While it may be gruesome, there is no vestige of emotion towards the characters that are getting whacked.  It is disconnected.  It is the in your face very personal violence that bothers them.  Gritty torture scenes are certainly not for everyone.  I understand why they would turn people off.  It is the humanization of the victims that are being killed that they say really bothers them.  But is that even okay?  People are still shown being killed but it is fine because it is done in a cartoonish way or they are not major characters.  Something to think about.

The one movie that really bothered me with its violence was The Passion of the Christ.  It is very graphic and personal, seeing Jesus' hands nailed to the cross and seeing the wounds on his body being created by whips.  It's a bloody and very gory movie, much more so than any of the horror movies I've ever seen.  I understand Jesus was tortured severely but do we have to see scene after scene after scene of it.  Over two hours of increasingly brutal images!  I get it already!  Please move the camera away and at least give me a break from Jesus getting the crap kicked out of him.

I guess I am desensitized.  Nothing really phases me anymore and I'm not sure if that is good thing.


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