MTV is eagerly touting a new series, Room 401, a sort of Punk’d with butcher, or should that be "Kutcher" knives, that attempts to fool people into thinking they are witnessing some real horror straight from the movies–think chain saws and corpses.
Then there is the show Scarred, which is being extended so that viewers can see more of the "gross-out," "hard core," "shocking," "sickest," "pain" and "agony"-producing, "nastiest" (yes, MTV used all those come-ons in its release), viral videos of the "most severe accidents and mishaps."
Oh Joy, it’s almost like being back in driver’s ed during the film festivals. I continue to fight against attempts to crack down on TV violence, but I also continue to be troubled by our appetite for what appears to be real violence.
I know, my generation had the Untouchables and those Civil War cards with that guy impaled on the spike, or the sci-cards with giant ants wreaking havoc on the populace to graphic results. And the generation before had all those eyeball-hanging, crypt-kicking, comics that got Washington’s knickers in a twist. So, maybe this is me at 50 just being the generation that doesn’t get it. Maybe Scarred is just Elvis swivelling his pelvis or Barbara Eden’s belly button.
Still, I am bothered by the extent to which super-realistic violence–rather than charicatured or once-removed violence–like the bubble gum card version of North vs.South–serves for entertainment in out culture.
MTV attempted to pitch Scarred as some sort of intellectual exercise, calling it "a cautionary view of this growing and hugely popular trend." That reminded me of nothing so much as those old X-rated films that, I have been told, started off with a guy with long hair slicked back and carrying a clip board telling viewers they were about to see a sex education film.
MTV then followed up that "cautionary" caveat with the following: "Host Jacoby Shaddix counts down what viewers voted on as the nastiest spills — broken arms, compound fractures, blood loss. This special has got it all."
Senator Sam Brownback is introducing a bill that would give the FCC the power to regulate violence, as it has said it is willing and ready to do. If past is prologue, there will be earnest talk and hearings, and, ultimately, the electronic media and the public will be left to make their own content calls, as it should be.
I just wonder long and hard about some of those calls.
But, hey, maybe it’s just me.
By John Eggerton