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Author Topic: Why Do We Enjoy Watching Violence?
KnightEnder
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And will we always be this way?

KE

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OpsanusTau
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I don't. At all.

I don't know about the rest of you.

[Wink]

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Gina
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Violence is a part of dramatic situations.

I once had a discussion on another board about "women who like war movies." Besides the beefcake factor [Smile] we agreed that it is not the violence that is the point but the human drama as people face crises.

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Individual Persona
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I don't enjoy watching gore. I don't enjoy watching shock value violence, such as an example I brought up in a thread long ago, concerning a scene in Reservoir Dogs with Mr. Blonde.

I do enjoy martial arts films, especially if the choreography has that special rhythm and flair. Jackie Chan has a way of choreographing his fight scenes with humor and creativity, and I enjoy those. If you've ever seen the movie Iron Monkey, I recall many of the fight scenes in that movie as having a particular upbeat rhythm and grace.It's almost like watching dance scenes with a little more oomph.

I don't enjoy watching battle scenes like that in the movies We Were Soldiers and Saving Private Ryan, but I watch them unflinchingly to remind myself what past generations have gone through for us today. While the film may be poor substitute for the actual experience, it's a mental experience that I feel important, especially if it's something that really happened, it's not fake...Normandy was really stormed, Vietnam was really that atrocious.

Violence as part of a story is important. As in the movie 300, or Denzel Washington's character in Man on Fire. The violence is a central element in the story, a story about the few against the many standing for what's right, (and also the honor and glory of death in battle, which I don't agree with, but as I said is part of the story). Denzel Washington's character did some horrific things in that movie, but he was also pretty emotionally torn over what was done to him as well as those he cared for.

My mom watches the Lifetime channel, and without fail I can enter the room to see her watching some movie about an abusive father/husband or a cancer victim dying needlessly and sadly. I don't enjoy those movies at all. My mom watches them constantly, and I avoid them completely. These stories are no less real and should not be ignored any more or less than war or violence, but are on my list of movies I will consciously skip. Perhaps it's because I don't see the point in subjecting myself to such plotlines that would make me sad or, God forbid, cry. At least in battles and fights there is a struggle, someone is fighting back and doing something about it. A physical opponent is a problem that can be solved, a problem where you won't necessarily feel helpless. Watching a movie about the last 4 weeks in a person's life is maddeningly certain and final.

Or maybe it's just me.

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OpsanusTau
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I enjoy human drama, but (perhaps as someone who has a closer-than-average experience of real gore, I don't know) I strongly object (a visceral objection, if you will) to the use of such things for entertainment.

I can't help but think when I see horrible things in movies that someone sat there and thought of that. Probably a creative team - they sat there and storyboarded it out and enjoyed the creation of those images, and moreover got paid to do it.
And that I find disgusting.

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JoshCrow
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As a fan of horror movies (many of them depicting quite horrific things) I can speculate on my own motives... I think it's a kind of morbid curiosity about our own mortality. If one is able to keep a safe-distance emotionally from what is transpiring from the screen, then it is nothing more than a sounding board for all the unanswered questions one can have about a very taboo subject - your own body, and all the horrible things that could happen to it.

On the other hand, I am extremely turned-off by the latest generation of "torture-porn" movies that pass themselves off as horror. These movies are another breed entirely. I enjoy watching struggle and conflict and yes, even death (to those characters who were acting foolishly anyhow, which is an important element of a horror movie) - but not suffering. I think a line was crossed recently in the making of these films and creative conflicts and situations have been tossed aside in favor of hopelessness and misery - and what is the point of getting you to feel bad about what happens to the characters? I don't watch a horror movie to feel bad (nobody does), but I think the people who enjoy this new kind of film are indeed sick - they don't even feel bad watching someone experiencing hopeless pain for 90 minutes, and even a horror-hound like me thinks that's a serious problem.

[ December 14, 2008, 08:42 AM: Message edited by: JoshCrow ]

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cperry
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This may shed a little light, KE:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070725152040.htm

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The Drake
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Movies:

1. Make person care about protagonist
2. Put protagonist in some sort of peril
3. Protagonist overcomes peril

The most visceral peril involves threat of death or serious injury. Since you need an antagonist, they are usually threatening the hero with violence.

Now, you can imply this without showing it, but that weakens the drama.

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JoshCrow
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quote:
Originally posted by The Drake:

Now, you can imply this without showing it, but that weakens the drama.

Oh wow, Hitchcock doesn't agree with this at all. Maybe brain-dead teenagers want to see the monster in the first reel, but those with more experience know that what transpires off-screen can be the most terrifying part of a movie.
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cperry
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Yeah, one of my fave professors explained these critical elements of good horror. I think they also have some role here.

1) Less is more. The less you see of the scary thing, the scarier it is.
2) Betrayal of a trusted person/thing/institution (run home to parents, but they are zombies too; run to cops, but they can't help against the Terminator; run to car, but it won't start
3) Cassandra Syndrome. Remember Cassandra? Given the gift of prophecy and the curse that no one will believe her. (In the Terminator, Kyle Reese has a great Cassandra case -- they all think he's crazy.)
4) Evil. This comes in two forms: Pure or true evil vs. wounded evil. Pure evil is better (think Hannibal Lecter prior to Hannibal; he was much scarier when we didn't understand him). (refer back to #1, less is more)

In addition, the best evil cannot be stopped (which is why dead bad guys always come back to life, while dead good guys are just...dead).


There actually may be another one (I always forget ...), but anyway, just something to chew on.

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rightleft22
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I was just thinking about the same thing.

While watching a trailer Clint Eastwood’s movie Gran Torino I had a visceral response as I wanted to see the gang members get theirs. I wanted to see the gang members hurt. I suspect it has something to do with control.

Everyday it seems were force to recognise our powerlessness and injustices of our world and here is a “hero” hitting back. In the movies it justice even the right thing to do and it feels good.

Am I some kind of animal that could take pleasure in someone else’s pain even if, in my view, deserve it? It seems I am.

That realisation used to scare me now I just recognise it for what it is. We all have a shadow side to our nature. Perhaps the real danger is denying that part of our selves so that it shows up in unexpected ways?

I have heard that the movie violence allows the viewer a kind of catharsis, a safe way to experience their darker sides without giving into it.

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Jordan
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I can watch well-choreographed fight scenes when there's not much blood or gore, but nasty, bloody fighting always turns me off. Brain surgery? I can watch that just fine. Flesh being viciously rended even a little? Ick. Boxing in particular makes me cringe.

I'm with Gina on what makes war films watchable: if it doesn't have hunky guys, a decent plot and some actual human drama, there's no way I'll sit still through it when I could be off reading a book, or taking a walk, or submitting to unnecessary dental work.

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Clark
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"Now, you can imply this without showing it, but that weakens the drama."

For poor or average film makers (producers/directors/actors/writers) this is true. Excellent films, however, don't suffer at all from lack of violence. Like Josh, Hitchcock was the first person I thought of.

Violence, (just like explosions and sex) should be used like a spice in cooking. The right (small) amount in the right places is all you need to make an excellent product. But some people these days think you should just try and cram as much in as possible.

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Funean
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Why? Because free adrenaline is fun. Same reason people like rollercoasters.

I agree with the spice analogy, btw. Constant, sustained adrenaline isn't nearly as much fun the a build-up and release method. Our glands like surprises, it seems. [Smile]

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KnightEnder
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I'm probably asking the wrong crowd. 99% of people enjoy watching violence. Whether it is boxing, movies, karate, wrestling, cock fighting, football, hockey, fist fights, or whatever or going back to the days of the Roman Coliseum. People – enjoy – watching – fighting. (I’ll skip the death pare and pretend we are more civilized than we used to be. Let’s just concentrate on fighting and violence.) What is it in our minds and makeup that makes us enjoy fighting.

And people DO like to watch violence.

There is no question about that. I'm just wondering why?

And will we, as a species, ever grow out of our desire to watch violence? (Maybe with drugs. Zoloft sure has helped me.)

KE

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scifibum
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I think Funean hit on it. Adrenaline. We get a little when observing dangerous situations, and the danger is never clearer than when violence is being done. To some extent we're picturing ourselves either as the aggressor or the victim, and either way there's a little adrenaline kick. The "why" is the fight or flight response which we're tricked into tickling through the miracle of modern media.
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0Megabyte
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KE - give me a great sword fighting scene. Or a martial arts scene, or a war scene. Especially one at a strategic level, seeing larger forces clash in clever ways and leaders making mistakes... okay, I like to watch the generals at least as much as the actual fighting.

I like a lot of violence, when there's a purpose. A lot of movies are just boring. A lot of violence is just boring. Now, instead, if you have truly dramatic situations, with true, emotional stakes, people you care about, and situations where you dread the outcome, then you've got me.

I really wanted to see Rocky beat Apollo Creed... and then he failed! That's violence done right. Or Empire Strikes Back, where Luke battles Vader and in the end, learns the truth after her's sorely beaten. That's the sort of thing that's enjoyable.

Violence without context is pointless. Violence with a reason? Well, the increased stakes makes it even more interesting.

Pointless violence makes me feel.. negative. It's bothersome, and makes me dislike the world. Cop dramas make me hate this world, and a lot of those stories where bad things happen that hit too close to home upset me. Usually, in the real world, things don't go as wrong as I see in those things. But sometimes fiction bugs me, and disturbs me.

Still. A lot of great movies have violence. And violence isn't inherently bad. But sometimes it can go too far...

And I definitely agree about the torture porn. Not fun. Definitely not.

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Adam Masterman
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An American Lama once told me that, of all the Tibetan Tantric masters he knew, the vast majority of them loved watching really bloody boxing and UFC on t.v. It was basically the only thing they would watch when they were in the west.

I enjoy watching violence. Kill Bill, Princess Mononoke, 300, Braveheart, all good stuff. I like depicting it; you should read my latest comic. I agree that it has to happen within the context of a good story; the Patriot is a good example of a story which exists solely to justify the screen violence, and its a crappy movie. And then there is the Passion, which just assumes you know the story (granted, most do) and proceeds directly to the pointlessly long torture scenes (talk about torture porn). I understand what KE is talking about, and agree that there is some appeal to the violence itself, regardless of context. I suspect it has a lot to do with the elemental nature of it; the taking of life through such blunt, physical means. We rarely think of ourselves as bags of blood and guts, vulnerable to physical aggression, even though we are exactly that. Maybe its edifying to see.

Adam

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Wayward Son
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I just finished reading Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need by Blake Synder, and he lists violence as one of the "primal" motivations that even a caveman can understand. And if even a caveman can be entertained by it, so will the average Joe. [Smile]

Violence speaks to our primal instincts of survival and domination, two factors that served our ancestors well. It's hardwired into us. So we'll always be drawn to such stories. It is one of the important factors of life (Harlan Ellison listed it as one of the top three, along with sex and corporate relationships [Smile] ), and it is something we all need to be ready to deal with, if only because of threat of a tiger in the bushes. So we'll always be interested, at least until it is bred out of us. And I don't see that happening for a few thousand years, at the minimum.

[ December 15, 2008, 10:54 AM: Message edited by: Wayward Son ]

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hobsen
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Traditional sports in Tibet included stone throwing and archery, probably originally intended as a demonstration of hunting skills. Also racing of horses or yaks, plus feats of horsemanship and team sports resembling polo. And an acrobatic display involving sliding down a long rope, exciting because performers sometimes caught on fire from the friction. My impression is that many of these sports were very rough, so the lamas may be merely following national tradition in finding the closest equivalent in the West.
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JoshCrow
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quote:
Originally posted by Wayward Son:
I just finished reading Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need by Blake Synder, and he lists violence as one of the "primal" motivations that even a caveman can understand. And if even a caveman can be entertained by it, so will the average Joe. [Smile]

That's funny, I read the same book last year. Interesting read!

I think violence is part of the pursuit of excellence, which is always achieved through conflicts and adversity. I don't think we'll ever really "outgrow" it, and we should embrace having a medium where we can enjoy our base instincts without actually injuring each other.

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kmbboots
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According to Aristotle, we watch drama to purge or cleanse ourselves of excessive passions.
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TheOtter
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I don't know that I can explain why, but I like watching violence, as long as it's fair. I enjoy watching fighters who have agreed to fight (i.e., for sport), rough sports like hockey or football, and good guy/bad guy fiction. I do not at all enjoy violence where someone is getting beat up by someone stronger or better equipped.

So, brutal scenes in movies where someone is messed up by a thug or whatever - not for me. But two guys who are competing for a title slugging each other? I have to admit I do enjoy that, although not that often.

My mother would probably be shocked... I was the most sensitive, peaceful one in the family.

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RoseAuthor
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KE:

Although I don't watch Gratuitous sex or violence I can say I've watched violence and sex, mildly.

The movie, "Crash," would be a good example. However, it wasn't gratuitous. It gave understanding to the characters and motivation.

The reason I would be moved to such: I could connect with the characters on a personal and intimate level.

I feel that people, in general, want to know they are NOT alone. Their pains are known, their joys, their concerns, and even their indifference.

We watch what is closest to our own experiences; that which we connect to.

I watch war movies because I was army. I watch a lot of police shows because I was law. I watch a lot of comedy because.. well.. hell.... I have to laugh myself out of the insane things I've seen and find something amusing in the middle.

Humans are just exploring their humanity in any way they can.

And.. they could be just escaping the reality of their ineptitude, confines, or boredom. There are just too many reasons we do what we do.

[ December 20, 2008, 02:28 AM: Message edited by: RoseAuthor ]

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