Put her out of her misery

  • Dec. 4th, 2006 at 12:28 PM
my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (kick ass)
I've been watching Deadwood. And loving it. I love the coarseness of the cruel world portrayed in not-yet-American South Dakota. I love Ian McShane and Timothy Olyphant and Trixie the whore and Calamity Jane. I love the non-conformity to episodic storytelling, in that events happen as they do rather than craming a single message into a single hour of film.

But my husband won't watch it.

We all have different threshholds for the coarseness of the entertainment we partake of. Some people can't stand blood, or needles, or dismemberment, or (if you're me) teeth or eyes being smashed. For some, it's based on realism of the violence portrayed. For others, it's perceived intent. Does the violence serve some storytelling or philosophical purpose? Are we shown something to titillate us or to demonstrate that death isn't clean and instant—it is grotesque and barbarous and not like a video game. Is someone “getting off” on this? Then, of course, you have to judge what the intent of the makers might be, if that's important to you.

There's one scene in particular, in the middle of season 1 of Deadwood, that brought this into focus for me. cut for spoilers )I knew I'd have to keep my husband from the room should he emerge from the study while it was on. I was repulsed and horrified. But here's the difference; I'm not going to stop watching. Because I love the show, and I love the characters, and I'm invested in them enough not to particularly care what the director wanted out of that scene. Whatever it was, it was done really well in the sense that it was realistic. However, it didn't have to be like that. Same point could have been gotten across any number of ways. On the one hand, it's refreshing (in a sense) to see death dealt with as something other than a comic book. But do we need it forced in our faces?

Mostly what I'm wondering if what the moral element is, here. Granted, there isn't just one. My husband won't watch this show because from the episode he did see, the first one, he guessed that it was the sort of program that did not shy away from graphic violence and, in his estimation, embarked upon that course for the titillation/shock/what have you of its viewers rather than some thematic purpose. As he argues the violence of many David Lynch productions does. Part of him, sure, doesn't want those images burned into his brain, but another part is reacting morally.

So my question for you is this: What will make you stop watching something that offends/disgusts you? Is the point, if there is one, one of squeamishness or moral outrage? I'm curious about the process by which you make your decisions about violence in entertainment; what are they based on? If you don't have any “limits,” why? Do you have a philosophy about it, or just a strong stomach? This isn't so much about me and my husband and our Deadwood experience but about what that experience has prompted. What's your take?

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