Violence in film and television: hurting people should never be cute

December 12, 2015

There is a concept in the movie industry stating that audiences desire to watch two things: sex and violence. In light of the increase of gun violence in the United States, the question of how constructive these subjects are arises.

Films influence society. When Fight Club premiered in 1999, fight clubs, organized through Craigslist, sprouted up throughout the country. In the years following Bambi’s release in 1942, deer hunting decreased by 50 percent in the United States.

The issue lies in situations where films negatively impact society, so when a film or television show presents violence, especially when main characters commit violent acts, it affects the viewer. When a film presents violence in a “romantic” manner, this effect intensifies and further convinces an audience that violence is to be ignored.

Romanticization is the act of turning a negative action into something desired through the implication that it will ultimately result in a positive outcome, it is the portrayal of something as ideal.  

In the first season of American Horror Story, a show known for it’s gory effects, interesting story lines and twisted characters, Tate Langdon, the romantic interest throughout the season for Violet Harmon, is a school shooter and a rapist. He enters his school with a gun and shot countless of his classmates. Later in the season, he tricks Violet’s mother into having intercourse with him, and as a result, impregnates her.

All these qualities, however, are taken lightly by the viewers of the show. As opposed to expressing disgust towards the character, fans create videos demonstrating how to apply his infamous “skull” makeup seen in the scene in which he ruthlessly murders his classmates. Fan art and blogs dedicated to the character crop up like daisies. Tate Langdon quotes suddenly appear on t-shirts, such as “normal people scare me.”

The creators of the show, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, continue to shine a sympathetic light onto the character, painting him as a helpless kid in love. His violence remains ignored, thus idealizing the idea of violence to the wide viewership of the show.

Although violence has become increasingly popular in prime time television, it has been a permanent feature in films from Hitchcock’s Psycho to David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows.   

In Oscar-winning film, Silver Linings Playbook, violence is passively addressed.

The protagonist of the film, Pat Solanto, begins the film in a mental institution due to beating his ex-wife’s lover nearly to death. After he is released, Pat continues to stalk his ex-wife and remains in denial about their divorce. He reacts violently to conflict, from getting involved in a physical altercation with his father to throwing a book out of a window.

Ultimately, his volatile personality is written off as “quirks” that can be ignored in the presence of a romantic relationship.

He writes a note to his love interest, Tiffany. The note contains excuses about his inappropriate behavior and writes off his unhealthy relationship with Tiffany as results of his passion.

This movie creates a paradigm for relationships and a model for what effect violence has on human beings. The film essentially ignores the negativity of Pat’s abuse. Instead, it replaces consequences with love and happy endings for a perpetrator of violence. This creates an impression that there are no moral consequences to certain actions, and can even lead to a desired outcome.

I am a fan of both of these stories, and I am the first to admit that violence is integral to films and television because it has the ability to capture audiences quickly and easily, however, the idealization of it is unacceptable.

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