Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

I Love Me Some Filmic Violence

So a few days ago, one of my favorite local columnists Rochelle Riley wrote an article calling out The Walking Dead and television violence in general. And the then the local alternative newspaper, The Metro Times wrote a response article....

Okay then...

So first off I dislike The Metro Times article. Rochelle Riley is one of the best writers in Detroit and I kind of felt she deserved more respect than lumping her in with all the other reactionary think of the children types, but the article she wrote is the article she wrote.


So my biggest least abstract disagreement with Riley's article is that she suggests the FCC should take on a bigger role in regulating cable broadcast decency standards. And I fundamentally disagree that that is the FCCs role or at least the one they should be taking.

While we Americans like to pretend otherwise government has had a profound role on both media and the speech it represents.

We like to pretend there is this giant wall between the two but there isn't. What concerns me more than pretending that that wall doesn't exist is eaking out how in a society that benefits in multiple ways from an environment of free exchange of ideas the government helps facilitate it.

This is what I feel the role of the FCC is and should continue to be in this regard.

There is very limited regulation in the United States in most forms of media but broadcast television is different.  Why because the spectrum is a public resource. And the job of FCC is to manage the use of that public resource.

While I do believe the government should have a light touch I also don't have much of a problem with it attaching some strings to the use of public airwaves for the sake of the public good.

Especially in the world where these rules developed where there were so few television and radio outlets.

Media Fragmentation
But cable and more importantly to me the internet developed in a fundamentally different way which while flawed I think does serve its own purpose. These spaces allow for more diversity and that diversity is facilitated if not created by how laissez faire the government has been in terms of how and what content is created. If it can be funded and or made profitable nothing is completely off the table.

How else do I get a series about a bunch of "nerdy ass voice actors playing D&D"

Not For You
Specifically, the thing I love about the internet is that creators have to worry less about making content "for everybody" one of the things that annoys me most about writing on the internet is when somebody complains that they don't get something or another that I say and wants me to  remove content.

And in those instances, I want to yell out and scream. I didn't write it FOR YOU. Internet creators can write to specific audiences in a way regular broadcasters can't. And dear god I love it. There is more freedom to make fewer creative sacrifices for the sake of broadness.

Which is to say I like that I have the opportunity to consume and perhaps even make content that was specifically tailored with me in mind or people like me. The same goes for everybody else.

And I'd be lying if I also didn't admit race didn't have anything to do with that.

I've heard some stories on that one.

The Line Between Distasteful and Non-Existant

And now I can actually get to the point at hand. There is a line between saying something is distasteful and saying it shouldn't exist. And getting government involved leans more on the latter than the former.

Like I said, I'm not going to pretend like government doesn't have anything to do with regulating speech or art or whatever but with a few exceptions which I am not getting into but you can probably guess, the government shouldn't be in the business of saying this or that form of speech shouldn't exist period and regulating decency standards on cable is close to that and the internet is definitely that.

While the use of violence in media should be scrutinized and discussed I don't exactly trust the government or rather law to do it. Law has to work on rules, on algorithms and those don't do nuance well.

Finally, Let's Talk About Violence

First off I haven't seen the episode in question and I'm probably not going to. I watched the first season and a half of The Walking Dead and while I don't hate it never made it the level of compulsory watching for me. And I'm not going to watch the episode in question now because the Walking Dead is one of those types of shows. The new breed of tv shows which are in essence filmic novels.  I would have metaphorically skipped 2/3 of the book.

That being said I do try to pay attention and the conversation around the episode in question is just one more instance of a much bigger discussion on how media uses violence, a subject you could write an entire book on.

Over the past 15 years there has been this push for more character-driven television shows and The Walking Dead has been trying to do it's darnedest to balance that and the general conventions of of both post-apocalyptic fiction and zombie fiction.

Shotguns and chainsaws. 

The argument I've been hearing has been more nuanced than "decency". Specifically I've been hearing that The Walking Dead and a lot shows like it have been using violence for cheap shock value at the expense interesting story opportunities and character continuity.


I also want to state that any real criticism of media violence needs to take into account for what I call language. There are differences, for instance, between artistic (visual) violencecomedic violence, kinetic violence,  invasive violence/body horror and dramatic violence,  or symbolic violence and all of these serve different functions within a narrative.

Specifically shows like The Walking Dead to balance between all of these different types of violence which serve different purposes  and have different rules and techniques.

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