Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her father forty whacks. When the job was nicely done she gave her mother forty- one.
We have a fascination with the gruesome. Zombies, murderers, paranormal hauntings and all of it, …well, gruesome. The more blood that sprays into the 3D audiences or splatters against the wall, the better. It makes me wonder whether people have become so removed from one another that our empathy level has decayed.
We can watch the television or have YouTube show us visions of the wars or the sick minded lunatics cutting off people’s heads and the audience numbers are remarkably high. We even flock to see stories of medieval battles between hundreds of sword and ax bearing behemoths and the more blood the better. Even scenes of naval battles What is it about horror that’s so attracting to us?
I wonder if maybe it’s because pain isn’t very well represented. The handsome Navy seal overcomes the bullet holes in his leg and abdomen to limp into position to support his team. As if his body might allow that. Sure, there can be a honeymoon period of a few minutes where the trauma of the wounds short circuits the pain. But then there is little a person can do besides lay there, trying not to move because to do so is too excruciating to describe. Many can only lay there and scream until someone injects them with morphine.
I know that the pain I have experienced because of my cancer has been bad enough to scramble my thoughts and freeze me in place because any motion in any direction flares the pain. Think about having an abscessed tooth drilled through the nerves without benefit of anesthetic and then multiply the agony. Pain is nothing like the way that it’s portrayed. A man suffer a battlefield amputation of an arm and then take up his weapon in the other hand to finish off his opponent. Those with pain tolerance may lay with gritted teeth, growling. But the others lay there screaming until they bleed out or the pain knocks them unconscious.
And we flock to screens to watch this. I grant that I have watched some of these movies, but the more time goes by and the more I have my own pain to deal with, the less tolerance I have to watch people suffering. I would guess that my own experience has raised my level of empathy to the point I will get nauseous watching blood spraying injuries inflicted on people.
The thing is, I can’t understand the fascination in general. I can watch a thriller in which people get shot. Somewhere there is a limit to what I can experience before I’m ready to move on to something more pleasant. I didn’t feel like this when Die Hard came out. But my stomach crawled as Bruce Willis moved barefoot through the broken glass strewn across the floor leaving bloody footprints. I guess it’s natural to try and raise the bar so that newer films don’t suffer from desensitizing and keep the audience coming.
I can still be wowed by violent movies. It’s just that there is a line they can’t cross before it’s just too grotesque or just too fake to keep my attention. And zombies. Wasn’t their being killed once enough we have to kill them again, and in horrific ways?
As it is, there is tremendous suffering all over the world. It takes many faces and perhaps those faces are too bland to be attractive or exciting. Or perhaps we are becoming desensitized to suffering and that’s why millions get invested in the depiction of agony and real life pain goes begging.