The Image of Violence

      Violence and graphic content are simply natural in the world of media, TV, and film. Netflix recently released Adam Wingard’s Death Note, a story based an anime wherein the main protagonists goal is to kill/murder/punish the criminals of the Earth and become a god among those still living. HBO’s Game of Thrones’ Season 7 finale featured armies set on fire, and decapitation, yet it received mostly positive reviews. Should violence and graphic content have a place in the media world?

      The depiction of violence in film could not only advance a plot, but also be used as a story motif. In The French Connection, Popeye Doyle, like the drug addicts he ridicules and eliminates, needs his fix of violence. By the film’s conclusion, Popeye only cares about taking down his man, and disregards anyone who gets in his path.

      A protagonist can also avoid violence. In Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge Private Desmond Doss is a WWII conscientious objector who will not carry a gun, because God’s word says it is a sin to take another life. Instead he joins his brothers on the battlefield as a medic, and he saves the lives of 75 American and Japanese soldiers.

      There are, however, films which depict graphic violence as something which should be sought after and is worthy of praise. In Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, insomniac Travis Bickle trains himself to become a cold blooded killer to purge his steam filled streets of dogs and criminals. In the film’s climax, Travis shoots off a man’s fingers, murders three others, and rescues his lover, Iris. Surprisingly, the newspapers hail his actions as heroic, and Iris’ family thanks him for his bravery.

      The avoidance of violence can also be shown as a detriment. In Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now Captain Willard begins the film wallowing in misery, yearning for another chance to get back to the jungles of Vietnam. When arrives back in the jungles and begins taking life again, the color slowly returns to his face and his mind quiets.

      All of these films are rated R for depicting violence and graphic content, yet they are also revered pieces of cinema. Each one of these films clearly demonstrates that not only does violence and graphic content have a place in the media world, but it can also be used to create great cinematic art. In this case, perhaps a better question is, “concerning graphic content and violence in media, how far is too far?”

      This is a personal preference. Some people can see gallons of fake blood in one movie and still have room for seconds, while others cannot stand watching a slap fight in a family film. The morally minded viewer will use their mind, and observe what lessons the motif teaches.

      The French Connection shows violence as a downward spiral that only leads to suffering. Hacksaw Ridge illustrates violence as an unnecessary means, when compassion is a far stronger action. Taxi Driver reveres graphic and disturbing murder, mirroring audience’s dark internal desires. Apocalypse Now submerges viewers into a horrifying world of bloodshed and genocide, illustrating devastating souls without morals or conscience. From a moralistic view, these films illustrate violence as an inhumane, and self destructing desire. They employ graphic violence in fiction to fight against it in reality.

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