That’s Heavy, Yo
September 6, 2011 § 1 Comment
Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing when I tackle big, heavy topics. This question becomes particularly thorny when I encounter violence, because in this case, society and I share a shameful, shameful secret:
We are both fascinated by violence.
I have the flimsy excuse that I do history which includes violence, but that doesn’t answer why I generally prefer media that includes violent conflict. It’s not always conscious, and it’s best when it’s understood and taken within reason. Take Carnivale. People fight and occasionally die, but violence is not the key element in the show. But let’s compare this with, say, Shogun 2: Total War, which among other things (namely, having “war” in the title), has an achievement for “defeating” (killing and beheading, if we’re talking historical Japan) 10,000 enemies.
Technically, if we’re talking tiny, electronic versions of Japan, I am a monster. Sometimes I wonder about this question, but I’m sort of cheating because I have always been fascinated by warrior societies, so to make the logical step to being enamoured by violence isn’t that strange. But real violence…isn’t fun.
One of the books I had to read for my Masters was called Imperial Reckoning. It tells the story of the Kikuyu “rebellion” (not to suggest it wasn’t, but it’s a difficult concept to encapsulate in one word. “Resistance” is probably better, or “rejection”) and the horrifying, terrible British response. Let me put it this way. It got so bad that one time, when I was reading it in the library, I had to put it down and bite back tears. In electronic Japan, I am a howling berserker that kills thousands of men. When confronted with real life violence, it becomes very hard to face it.
Yet I cannot look away, and if you look at what society enjoys, I am more than confident in saying neither can everyone else. Proof? Three words: Modern. Warfare. Two. It’s tricky, neh? Because from my martial arts background (oh god that sounds so pretentious), the training was always explicitly focused on controlling violence. It has a time, a place, and a function. To be angry in the dojo was essentially suicide, as was being upset or unfocused. You would have been kicked out, because you had to control yourself, and then you could control the sword/fist/gun/Giant mecha.
Like I said, heavy, yo. But that’s how I think media should approach violence, with an emphasis on control. For all you artists out there, controlled does not always mean restrained. To drag Carnivale back into it, the final episode of the 1st season has one of the characters making a choice between who lives and who dies (in this case, a violent death). In this case, the violence has a definite point and a definite function: the character must ask himself whether he wants to be the one to make that choice or not.
Compare this to Crossed. I like to describe Crossed as “Garth Ennis masturbating for 12 issues”, because not only do I find the story (your standard zombie-esque tripe) shallow and, well, bad (the characters are forgettable, the plague nonsensical, the story lame, and where it’s not ridiculous it’s trashy), the violence that is liberally smeared throughout the series serves no point. It is murder porn, to use that charming phrase.
Don’t believe me? Check this out. It is highly NSFW, and rather disturbing, but those are just the covers. It gets worse. I’m not going to harp on Ennis for including all the violence because I want to be able to, even if I never would. But at the same time, I argue the violence doesn’t add to the story. I don’t feel more for the characters because they could have their organs torn out at any time.
I just…don’t care. But when I read the story of Molly Wairimu, and how her child was stomped to death by British auxiliaries…
I just also can’t look away.
This has been your happiness chaser. And have a happy song: