The Midnight Rider (sabinelagrande) wrote,
The Midnight Rider

The Last Five Years (Or: That Violence Post)

It started with The Hunger Games.

2010-2011 was a pretty rough time for me, mentally speaking. I spent a lot of it as an anxious wreck, and even though I was medicated, it was only working so well. For a while, it felt like literally anything could trigger a panic attack for me, but nothing was as sure-fire as depictions of violence. Didn't matter if they were fictional or real; if it involved people being hurt, I couldn't deal with it.

In early 2011, Mockingjay had been out for a couple months, and things were revving up for the first movie. Friends were recommending it to me, but the idea of a book/movie about a bunch of kids trying to kill each other turned my stomach.

Then I thought to myself, "I could just not."

It's a thought that probably shouldn't have felt like a revelation, but it did. I could just sit it out, let things pass me by, trade missing out on things I might enjoy for not having panic attacks.

Eventually, things changed in my life, and the panic attacks tapered off. I never went back to violence, though; my life was better without it, so I just decided to keep going.

It's important to note that the point of this exercise is not to sit in judgment of all media that crosses my path. The question I ask myself is not so much "is this work violent" as "can I handle this work's content?" I have consumed and enjoyed media with violent elements since I swore off violence, because I can handle different kinds of media to different degrees. For example, right now I'm knee-deep in Critical Role, which has a fair amount of fantasy violence. For whatever reason, I can handle verbal depictions of violence a lot better than visual ones (though even some stuff in Critical Role makes me cringe). I can also handle most superhero-movie-style violence (though Agents of SHIELD has crossed the line for me a few times) or relatively bloodless shoot-em-ups. These are all things I know about myself, not attempts to exhaustively categorize media.

So here are some things I have learned in the past five years:

-Violent media is really popular, especially television. I don't think I realized just how true this is until I gave up violence. I don't know enough about the history of popular television to tell you whether this is a new development, though it is true that TV has more room for violence than in the past (but let us remember that Twin Peaks, popular 90's ABC show, had some seriously fucked up shit in it).

But damn y'all, I have had to skip a lot of popular TV, and that goes double for Netflix. Cast an eye back with me on the last few years of television, and the dramas that are considered some of the best are the ones that are dark and/or violent. Sometimes I don't care; Game of Thrones is the kind of intrigue-y high fantasy that bores me to tears, bloody or not. Sometimes it's genuinely upsetting; I was really excited for Daredevil before I realized just how dark it was gonna go. I'm not sure what it says about us as a viewing conglomerate, that this is what we gravitate to and thus what sells. I'm not going to try to speculate, but here we are.

-It's okay to flinch. It's expected to be hardened to violence, to watch it unblinkingly and express shock or horror only over particularly gruesome bits or things accepted to be worse than average violence (eyeball trauma, etc). But why? Why not let yourself be affected? It's okay not to let your heart become hardened. It's okay to be squishy. If you're freaked out, be freaked out. People may not understand, but your gut reaction is valid. Don't lose sight of that.

-People want to share what they love. They love the thing, and they want you to love it too, because they care about you and what you consume. Unfortunately, this sometimes involves misrepresenting the content of what they love. I can't tell you how many times I've heard "It's really not that bad" over things that are demonstrably super violent. I'm sorry, but oftentimes it really is that bad, and I think on some level people know that. If I am here to tell or ask you anything, it is that you should try to avoid doing this. When someone insists I'd like a thing and I have to turn them down, I still feel like an asshole after all this time. It's okay to like violent things, but don't kid yourself about what you're consuming. I know you want to share the love, but be honest about what you're trying to share.

-Some people do not get it, and they never will. I cannot tell you how many times my dad has asked me why I don't watch Game of Thrones. Each and every time I say that it's too violent for me, and somehow it never sinks in. I couldn't tell you why this is. I get the sense that some people are blind to the violence they consume; my mom gets annoyed when Dad says she likes violent things, but she's also watched every episode of The Sopranos, Dexter, Ray Donovan, Game of Thrones...

So those are some thoughts on violence. If you too are triggered by or simply don't like violence, I recommend trying out a life without it. This doesn't need to be a whole hog thing or a massive lifestyle change; maybe just don't try that show your friend is begging you to watch if you feel like it would gross you out. It's made me happier to be violence-averse, and you may enjoy it too.

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