Pete's Blog

Friends in High Places

You can find apologists for media violence at the highest levels of the critical establishment. The New York Times raved about the recent HBO series "Elizabeth." At least, I think that's what it was called. Helen Mirren! Jeremy Irons! A fresh, iconoclastic sensibility! And (as Mister Jelly Roll would say) so forth and so on. I watched it once and it was nothing but a parade of hideously graphic torture scenes, dressed up with a few overpaid Brits tastefully chewing the scenery while wearing tights. Apologists for this kind of thing (most in the pay of the corporate entertainment industry in one way or another) talk about Shakespeare and the Greeks. Where would these geniuses have been if narrow-minded people and so forth and so on. Two differences: First, when Oedipus puts out his own eyes for the crime of having killed his father and married his mother he does it OFFSTAGE. That's the original definition of the word "obscene" - actions that take place "off scene." Second, if somebody in Elizabethan England wanted to see Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus" (a real gorefest) he put on his best clothes, got in a carriage, went to the Globe Theatre, and watched the action framed by an arch, on a stage, set apart, using all the rituals of stagecraft and storytelling, in a place of adult pleasures and sensibilities. My two children (and everyone else's today) have grown up with graphic violence part of ordinary reality every day of the year, available whenever they want at the flick of a switch, presented with the most sophisticated techniques of psychological behaviour modification. The corporate apologists say "television doesn't change behaviour." Bullshit. If television didn't change behaviour there would be no commercials.

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