Gratuitous or realistic; the blood and guts, and downright bloody violent scenes shown in TV crime drama’s and written down in crime novels in today’s world?
You may think I have an opinion from the tone of the question but I’m not sure I do just yet. But I am wondering at what point we as a society think it’s time to stop, that the line has been crossed.
I have sat at several crime writing panels where the level of violence used in novels is defended. (And I’m not saying either way how much is or will be in any of mine. I’m opening a discussion.) Where already published authors have said that it is not gratuitous but in tone with the book and exactly how real crimes look.
Yes, real crimes look that way, but usually only the cops and fellow emergency service staff get to see that nasty side of life, not civilians in their safe homes. So why do they have this need to get so up close and personal with a post-mortem for instance? To see the knife go in and the skin peel back, the body cavity open and the secrets spill out? What is it that drives normal people who don’t have to see this for a living need to attempt to vicariously see it through fiction? Because I can assure you, those who see it up close for real, sure as hell don’t just put the book down when the story is over and forget what they’ve seen.
This has been a gradual change in society, like the raising of a girls skirt from a Victorian era full length modesty covering skirt to the Sixties mini. Crime shows like the original Hawaii 5-0, Quincy, The Sweeney and The Professionals along with writers like Agatha Christie didn’t show all. They cut away when it came to the nasty stuff. Left it to the imagination. They didn’t feel they needed the detail, or blood and gore, to tell a good story. Yet now we have shows such as Bones, Hannibal is particularly bad and I had to stop watching the second series, Criminal Minds (notice I go a lot for US-based drama?) and Silent Witness to name just a few. And with authors, there are many who describe the violence or the blood or body or details of post-mortem.
This is probably a sociology type post on how times have changed and what has become acceptable. But my question is this then, if we have moved so far in what we now find acceptable, granted it was gradual in say a forty-year period, how far will we be willing to go for the sake of entertainment, or reality in entertainment in future years to come? Because that’s what fiction is: entertainment. We’re not writing sociology papers, we’re not starting debates on topical social issues, we’re writing entertainment – maybe about topical social issues, but you really don’t hear of fiction starting a good debate, especially for change in any area.
What are your thoughts on this subject? How much further can we go and with each generation finding it that bit more acceptable and “current” for the sake of “true art”.