Despite reading all of the available books in the Song of Ice and Fire series, I’ve never watched an episode of Game of Thrones. Despite watching every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation as a kid and adult, I haven’t seen a single episode of Star Trek: Picard. And despite enjoying many fantasy stories and films, I haven’t felt any desire to check out The Witcher. Something is wrong.
Sex, Violence, and Depression
I’m sure these shows have plenty of artistic merit, amazing special effects, and solid acting, but I can’t get past their more grotesque qualities. It’s one thing to read about a man’s head being crushed by another man’s bare hands in a battle to the death, and it’s something else entirely to see it play out in graphic detail on screen. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the stomach for that kind of thing. It’s funny because when I see blood and gore in real life, I tend to numb myself to it quickly and react dispassionately. But seeing a fictional character suffer in a horrifying manner when there’s nothing I can do about it makes me squirm and wish to turn away.
I don’t want to see beloved and even unsavory characters from old Star Trek shows be tortured and brutalized in Star Trek: Picard. Nor do I wish to see an optimistic future replaced by a cynical one, even if the aim is one of redemption. They already did that with Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. It worked brilliantly because it managed to capture the feelings of a hopeful time when longtime barriers were falling, new freedoms were being introduced, and old enemies were being reconciled. Kirk, Valeris, Gorkon, and other characters embodied the fear and hope of change, and the way they each dealt with such a scary transition gave the audience a chance to evaluate our own worries and prejudices. I don’t think Star Trek: Picard has the same intentions, even though it’s also a final sendoff for many of the characters we grew to love in the old TV show. It just looks depressing and off-putting to me.
The Witcher is the one I’ve heard the least about. I never read the books or played the video games, so the hype surrounding the TV show took me by surprise. But the talk of disembowelment and other unpleasantness in that show ensured I wouldn’t be checking it out anytime soon. I don’t mind descriptions of violent or even sexual acts in books because it’s all in my imagination, and it washes off me easily. Something about a visual medium changes the nature of the work so that I can’t so easily filter out what I don’t care to focus on.
The Exception Is Now the Rule
I don’t want to come across as a puritan or anything like that, demanding that entertainment live up to the highest moral standards for me to enjoy it. The original RoboCop is one of my favorite films, even though it’s filled with over-the-top violence and foul language. The thing is, the violence in that movie was used to convey very specific feelings of either empathy or comedy. The scene where Kenny gets shot by ED-209 by a ridiculous number of bullets is genuinely funny while the scene where Murphy gets his hand and arm blown off before getting bombarded with bullet after bullet until being shot in the head is unsettling and tragic. Watching RoboCop violently punch and shoot criminals the rest of the movie feels like righteous retribution for the injustice committed against him.
Also, I’ve seen every episode of Breaking Bad and Band of Brothers, despite them being hard to watch at times because of the intense emotions, situations, and subject matter they deal with. So I’m not blind to the fact that there are compelling reasons to dispense with the usual rules of decency in a TV show or miniseries. But it seems like the exception has become the rule.
I Feel Like Ralph
I know that the three examples I gave at the start don’t represent all TV shows. But there sure are a lot of them. The Boys, Westworld, The Walking Dead, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, American Horror Story, and Rick and Morty are all mainly about degeneracy and shock value. I find myself asking: when did TV become so violent and disgusting? Much like Wreck-It Ralph when he visits a first-person shooter:
Ralph is used to his old NES-style video, so it’s shocking to him to see what modern video games have become. Their graphics are much more realistic, they’re faster-paced, and they’re scary as all get-out. I don’t know if I’m a coward, I haven’t kept up with the times, or if what passes for entertainment on the small screen is just absurdly detestable, but whatever the case may be, I just know that when it comes to most TV shows, they make me want to ralph.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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