In my Tumblr blog I mentioned how some movies go too far, a subject I have mentioned here too, and I think it’s a subject worth exploring further. To see what I said there go here – Chris’s Tumbr.
For everyone there is a line, a sort of psychological place where we will not cross. It’s a mixture of morals and societal politeness, and it’s a place we rarely dare tread because we don’t like the look of the place. Now, it’s often things like dark horror that people color as the proverbial bad side of town, which is a shame. In horror we are able to face things that in normal fictions (art, literature, music, etc.) we cannot and dare not examine. With Freddy Krueger we can examine the idea of sins of the paste returning, the suburban fear of a child molester and kidnapper, and the fear of our children becoming teens then adults. There is so much richness in horror, even the awful stuff. In the other blog I mention the ‘rape/revenge’ subgenre as one that has turned my stomach of late, and that’s true, because as little as I liked the movies to begin with, when you take the humanity out of the films then they lose their power altogether. Then it’s just a freak show and you’re just seeing how much you can take.
Humanity is key. Give people human characters, and give them consequence and you can get away with anything.
Case in point – the film Irreversible, a film both lauded and hated at once but not forgotten. The film is played backward and shows the effects of a night gone horribly wrong, beginning with the consequences of it all and ending with how it all began, an ‘ending’ that is far more shocking in the context of the film. Now this is film that is largely about a sexual assault but its the brutality of the assault, mixed with the wonderful characters, and then added to the horrible consequences of it all that makes it so powerful of a film. It is the actions that we are focused on, and the tragedy. The acts of violence have their impact because we care so much about the woman that they happen to. In lesser hands this is a lurid film that sensationalizes the violence and makes it (or attempts to) sexual. That is the difference to me in so many of the modern works that try to be so shocking – in trying so hard to shock you they forget that what is truly shocking is when awful things happen to people, not characters.
I saw George Carlin once and he said this, to paraphrase – rape isn’t funny, but if it’s Porky Pig raping Daffy Duck, that’s funny. He is saying that the act has no power until you add the details. The act is the setting for whatever you want it to be. Same goes for any story, visual or otherwise. The great Art that we love we love because we feel a connection. That’s the power of it.
Anyone can create tragedy and horror, but with nothing behind those acts, they are just that, acts. They are window dressing for an empty store. Too many works see the horrific act and have nothing to tie it to, so they emphasize the act at the cost of the rest of the work. A dog attacks a doll, big deal? A dog attacks a strong man, oh, yikes, but not terrible. A dog attacks an infirm old woman who is a survivor of a distant war? Terrifying. Why? Because the more we gave you to work with the more you personalized it. Why do we care about Harry Potter or the vampires and werewolves as much as we do? Because they are real to us, thus, their perils are real. Make something real and you can do anything.
I reached the age a while ago where I stopped being shocked at the images people can conjure up for people to gawk at. There’s a point where even if you haven’t seen it all, you have seen enough. Sure, you can shock me, but that doesn’t mean you got to me, or pried into my mind. It means you momentarily disrupted the norm. Heck, bad peas can do that. If you want to make an impact you have to see beyond the gore, beyond the shock, and to the core of what you are trying to say and say that. If you can say it through people and things that affect us then you have created Art. You have created power.
Otherwise you’re just peeing in the pool where everyone’s swimming. It’s gross. It’s inconvenient. But it’s something you get over. To be effective, you want to make US pee in the pool. Then ya won.