The Brutal We

It’s hard to see where things took the turn, but turn they have.

There’s a sort of casual brutality that has become like a skip in a record and we’ve yet to pick the needle up, as if we like the monotonous drone more than the tune itself.

And this doesn’t come from someone who says all of this casually. I am a dyed in the wool fan of horror – books, radio shows, podcasts, music, movies, comics, all of it – and I get the allure of filmed violence. As a teen I adored special effects artists and wanted to do that as a career. I knew how the deaths were done, at least how they COULD be done, so I focused on that, on the gore. I loved it. The gorier the better. And in books I loved the language used and how it all still held together within a story. To this day I still love gory movies and books, though I don’t necessarily seek them out as I used to. Not because my stomach has soured as much as my empathy has grown.

It’s hard to watch people be brutalized and kill, even in fiction, and that’s a good thing. It means that we still have that empathetic response to others and that we appreciate that this is horrible. And it also means that the creators did their job well because we cared enough to be upset.

The problem though is that so many things are becoming all about the brutal ‘punchline’ and not about the rest. The characters are puppets to be pushed this way and that and always towards a nasty end. Sometimes this works, as is the case of many slasher films and stories, though it’s a very thin line to walk. It’s about intent, investment, and outcome. I go into a slasher film with little investment in the characters, I know they want to gross me out, and I don’t feel bad about it. But if I watch something like a television show that I have invested countless hours in and they kill off someone brutally it’s upsetting because I was invested, to some degree in that person as well as their journey. It ‘hurts’. And again, that’s powerful. But brutality for its own sake is little more than junkfood and nourishes in the same way. Yeah, junkfood is fun, and it can hit the spot, but it doesn’t nourish you. It doesn’t give you anything long term.

Yet with each year we are pushing more and more towards this ‘junkfood diet’. And it’s not about watching ‘GOOD’ television and films and reading ‘GOOD’ books because that’s all subjective and personal, no, it’s about watching and investing yourself into things that reward you for it and not punish you. It’s spending time and money on things that treats you and the work fairly. It’s not about pushing boundaries to push them because boundaries are often written in sand, no, it’s about pushing the story. Sometimes the stories have to go to dark places, brutal places, but the creators should have a reason WHY it goes there beyond ‘because’. That’s not a reason.

I absolutely admit to loving gory films but I also take umbrage with a series like SAW that spent seven films showing the worst of Man and ended with a final message of – sorry, there’s no redemption, only suffering. Even if that’s the story they wanted to tell it’s a crap way to do it because investing that many hours into something to come up with that is not ‘artistic’, it’s cruel. Which is the thin line that franchises walk. You have to be true to the story but also be true to the fans. Don’t placate or kowtow to the fans but play them fair. Don’t drag me through several movies and make me care about people and things and then pee on my shoes. And that’s not to say that I expect a happy ending, no, but I expect you to be fair to me and not make me regret the investment. I expect you to be fair to the story and, if it has to go dark, give me a reason and a why and some answers. One of the cruelest films I have seen is Irreversible and it’s cruel because in the end, by telling that story in reverse, it’s beauty that cuts the deepest, not brutality, though it is a brutal film. A film like SERBIAN FILM is utterly cruel and brutal but it’s one film. If I had to sit through a series then I’d be mad as heck. If I invest myself into a television of film or book series I want the creators to follow the story but to at least give thought to me, the audience, as they play out their hands. Yeah, you can go brutal, it’s the easiest thing to do, but sometimes restraint is not just more impactful but more heart-wrenching. You can show a beloved tree sawed down and it’s sad but if you watch the family watching helplessly as it is, seeing the emotion on their face, that makes it worse. Now, the decision though comes with how the rest of things played out – if it was a show about cruelty and brutality then playing something that is utterly cruel with more finesse throws people off. Sure, some will get mad that it wasn’t more ‘hardcore’ but most folks, who are invested in the characters and show itself, will feel that sting of emotion more deeply. Yeah, revulsion has its place but it isn’t a feeling that you can overplay without people simply tuning out.

And they will tune out.

All around us we are becoming surrounded by brutality – politics, religion, economy, social justice, civil justice, art, culture, everything is being infected with brutality. It’s hard not to turn on the television and see politicians speaking towards one another in ways we won’t let our children speak. We can watch as ‘the bad guys’ are blown up remotely during wars. We can look at social media and see how nasty we are to one another and anyone that doesn’t feel, look, sound, or do anything else like we do. We wash our faces in blood in the morning and gargle it before we go to bed.

Enough is enough.

To every teller, a tale, and to every story, an audience.

But there needs to be care taken, in this world we live in now, to not give in to our sometimes cynical ideals. Yes, brutality has its place in art, and it has its power, but if that is the only trick in your bag then you’ll find your bag empty much sooner than you may have anticipated. I love a good gross-out, and appreciate the power of the downbeat, but I also know that without hope, without self-discipline, and without taking an audience into account you’ll end up singing only for yourself, writing only for yourself, and making films only for yourself, and that’s a very lonely audience indeed.

  • Chris Arrr

The Abandoned


I have realized, as I age, that what life does is teach you about loss, early and often. You will learn this lesson whether you like it or not. Life offers no peaceful ends, no graceful goodbyes, and if you dare to love you will have your heart utterly decimated.

But for the friendships, the family, and the love, well, this decimation and inevitable pain is just the cost you pay.

The older you live the harder life will be.

Let us all be so lucky as to have friends and loved ones that can take our hands as we stretch into our later years. Let us all be so loved as to not be forgotten and abandoned and left to die alone.

There is a loneliness to certain hospital wards that is unshakeable and it spreads like a stain to rehab facilities and to homes for the elderly. As the body begins to betray the person and the mind starts to fog too many find themselves surrounded by strangers, many who care, but too many who don’t. This is another patient, another name filed into the Temporary file as they are transient in your life. They may heal, they may worse, and some may die, but they are not permanent.

It’s interesting that we fear death so much, and understandably so, because it is so unknown, but aging we believe we can do gracefully. We hope can do it gracefully. Trusting that our bodies will not fail us, will not betray us, will not be poisoned by a life lead too well or too poorly. Trusting that when we reach the place where the Next Phase begins that we will not have to go alone, and if we do that we will be guided by caring hands and soft voices. We trust that if we can no longer care for ourselves that there will be money left to care for us and that there will be places for us to be cared for at.

Reality is a horror though because while death is a darkened veil, aging is a land of thick fog full of hazards.

It has become shameful the way we have allowed our elderly to become burdens they have never wanted to become. We strip them of their rights. We push them and pull them to and fro, we roll our eyes because many cannot adapt to the fast-moving modern world and many refuse to adapt. We take their aid funding. We allow care facilities to abuse them. We abandon them when they need us the most.

And none of this is to say that it’s easy to care for our elderly.

The financial, physical, and emotional toll on the family and loved ones is great.

It isn’t easy watching people you love decline.

But we can never abandon them.

We can never make them feel like burdens.

They are sailing towards uncharted waters where no guides can help them.

Their moans of pain, confusion, and loneliness echo deep into our hearts and chase us into our dreams.

We can do better.

For a nation that was once the standard bearer for progress in so many ways, our treatment of one another has become beyond regressive. We are so bent on doing for ourselves and ‘gettin’ ours’ that we forget that we are all connected and that without that connection to our past, to our elderly, we lose ourselves. We need to realize that we have to take care of one another. Our future, our children, and our past, our parents and loved ones, are what made us and what keeps us going.

I won’t apologize for the elderly that cling to the past, to regressive ideas and hateful hearts, but we must care for all of them because that is what humanity is about. That is what our culture claims to be about but we spend far too much time pushing one another down and not lifting one another up.

The insurance systems are broken.

The care systems are damaged.

The hospitals are health factories.

We are robbing people of money and aid they earned in the name of profit, war, and kickback.

But what can we do?

What can I do?


Keep caring.

Keep listening.

Keep holding their hands.

Keep trying.

Keep advocating.

Keep laughing.

Keep reminding them that they are alive, they matter, and they are not forgotten.

They are not abandoned.