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Violence on TV

September 15, 2013


So remember in June when everyone was freaking out about how violent the Game of Thrones episode “The Rains of Castamere” was?  People were losing their damn minds over the show killing off two main characters, several secondary characters (including a pregnant woman getting stabbed in the stomach), and hundreds of extras.

Now, for those of us who read the books, we knew this was coming.  And we watched our friends faces who hadn’t as they saw it happen.  Because we wanted to see them react the same way we did when we read it. It was shocking, and awful, and bloody, and amazing.  George R. R. Martin lost readers when he did that.  HBO lost viewers when they adapted it.  But it was a truly powerful moment in literature and television.

Now, the argument that I don’t understand when people were getting upset about it, is the one where they are deploring the amount of violence depicted on screen. Ok.  yeah, it’s violent and gruesome.  But this is the same network that brings you True Blood, where violence is the standard, week in and week out.  Bloody, bloody, sexy violence.  It’s practically worshipped on that show.  Yet nobody is in an uproar over that when they kill off a bunch of people season after season.

Furthermore, those shows are on a premium channel.  You have to pay extra to see that shit.  You know what you don’t have to pay for? 


These are the channels that bring you Hannibal and The Following.  I’ve talked about both these shows before here and here.  What I didn’t mention was the violence in both. 

In Hannibal, your titular character (Mads Mikkelsen) is a CANNIBAL.  He is eating people every week, on network television.  And we’re watching him do it.  We’re watching him put intestines into a meat grinder.  Fillet a pair of lungs. Sauté a liver. And when the main character, Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), examines a crime scene, he goes into it in great bloody detail in his mind.  Very bloody.  Yet it’s just excepted as a matter of course.

The Following has a similar MO.  You never know who is part of Joe Carroll (James Purefoy)’s cult, and so they could turn and murder someone at any time.  One of the first scenes with a cult member had a woman strip down in a public place and STAB HERSELF IN THE EYE.  And these things happen all the time in this show. 

So, please, tell me.  Why did everyone freak out over ONE act of violence on Game of Thrones when there are so many shows that glorify violence in so many other ways?


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One Comment
  1. “Why did everyone freak out over ONE act of violence on Game of Thrones when there are so many shows that glorify violence in so many other ways?”

    I’m going to theorize that it’s because the violence – and the story overall – on GoT was just done better. I’m a book reader, so I was prepared for the RW episode, and I still cried. The Following? Not so much with the crying. More like by the end of that season I was laughing at all the stabbiness, because it had all just become so ridiculous.

    I think some tv/movie violence you view as a special effect in a story, and it affects you as such, and you judge it on those terms. Whereas some you view as *actual violence.* The difference comes down to how well the story’s being told and, as a result, how real it feels to you. You’re not going to have the same reaction to a pregnant woman being stabbed in the stomach if what you’re seeing is an actress and some fake blood – even if the actress is performing well and the fake blood looks real – as you are if you feel like you’re seeing a real person getting really stabbed.

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