Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Baffling Conundrum of Human Existence: Part I

Over the past couple of days, I've been thinking extensively about two extraordinarily offensive things. The first, which will be the topic of today's post, is torture porn.

Torture porn is the genre of film that deals pretty much exclusively with scenes of horrific torture violence, typically propagated against one human being by another human being for no real discernible reason. There tends to be very little else in the way of plot.

I have several questions regarding the torture porn genre. The first, that I think I've given the most thought to, is this: what possible need could watching horrific violence fulfill for normal, well-adjusted people? 

The name "torture porn" comes from the idea that, like regular porn is mostly sex scenes linked together by a typically fairly tenuous plot, these films are mostly scenes of torture linked together by some half-baked construct of a so-called plot. Like sex is the driving force behind porn, human pain and humiliation is the driving force behind torture porn.

I understand the appeal of regular porn. To me, it makes a lot of sense that pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs qualifies sexual gratification as among a person's most basic needs, putting it on the same level as food and sleep. However, sexual intimacy is qualified as a much less basic need. With that particular distinction in mind, I fully understand why so many people use pornography. 

Further, I understand the appeal of the horror movie genre, in which scary things happen and violence gets committed. The thing about horror movies, though, is that the violence is rarely graphic or excessively prolonged. There's a certain thrill that comes with being startled and experiencing an adrenaline rush. My experience says that the reaction that tends to accompany prolonged graphic violence tends to be horror and nausea. I'm not a big fan of either. 

The need to commit random acts violence against another human being, or to watch others commit random acts of violence does not appear anywhere on any hierarchy of needs, as far as I am aware. Granted, I'm not a trained psychologist, so I could be wrong. Indeed, the fact that this genre of movies is so prevalent now makes me think that either a huge portion of the population is horrifically disturbed, or there really is something about human nature that makes us want to see other members of our species get hurt. 

It might make more sense to me if these movies made more of an effort to dehumanize the victims. Slaves fighting large, starving animals was an entertainment staple in ancient Rome. No one thought of the slaves as human beings, so it's a little bit easier for me to understand how no one thought it was a bad idea. The idea that animals can feel is relatively recent; for most of history, it didn't occur to anyone that the animals they were making fight to the death were in pain. Slaves were placed on par with animals, and humanity as a whole has never had a problem victimizing sub-humans. 

The thing about torture porn that I find so baffling is that there is no effort made to dehumanize the victims. Quite the opposite, in fact. The audience watches as extraordinarily frail and humanized victims are senselessly and brutally tortured and murdered. The audience sees every second of pain and terror. 

An argument that is commonly made in defense of the genre is that it isn't real, and because no one is actually getting injured, it shouldn't be a big deal. 

I'm not disturbed by torture porn because I think that what happening onscreen is real. I went to film school. I'm aware that unless it's a documentary, what we are seeing is staged. I'm not here out of concern for the actors, consenting adults who knew what they were getting into, who knew that they would not actually get hurt, and who got paid enormous sums of money. 

I'm disturbed by the fact that people are willing to pay to watch it. Even though it isn't real, and everyone watching knows it isn't real, I fail to see the entertainment value. I don't get the appeal. It LOOKS real. As far as anyone watching knows, it could be real. It might as well be real. I don't know about anyone else, but when I watch a movie that contains any kind of graphic violence or gore, I don't have a terrifically positive reaction.

Maybe I'm a "wimp." That's the word that usually gets thrown around in those sorts of scenarios, isn't it? Wimp? Someone doesn't like graphic torture violence, and that makes them a wimp, implying that enjoying scenes of torture is synonymous with strength and masculinity. 

Enjoying scenes of torture is not strength. Enjoying scenes of torture is sick. 

I read an article once, several years ago, postulating that by 2050, people would be fighting to the death on Pay-Per-View. For the sake of our society, I sincerely hope not. 

No comments:

Post a Comment