Sunday, October 15, 2006

Body Parts

The ad says it, and quotes a reviewer: "There's hardly a body part that isn't mangled or lopped off, ground up or sliced through." I'm not sure whether the reviewer liked the movie, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre The Beginning, from the quote. It might have been written from disgust. It probably tells you all you need to know about this flick.

I saw the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre years ago, and even though it was made 33 years ago, you'd really have to amp up the violence to beat the original's mix of sadism and horror. Once strictly reserved for movies, the kind of graphic violence in movies like Texas Chainsaw has moved to the home screen.

The other night I watched an episode of CSI:NY, a series I don’t normally watch. The story was about the discovery of a headless female corpse. She was not only headless, she was hanging upside down from a light fixture. As the story progressed we found out she'd been decapitated by an acetylene torch. Several shots showed her neck, with emphasis on the scorched flesh.

Later in the story her head was found in the park under a rock. More gore shown.

This is all real Grand Guignol. Stories designed to shock and disgust. During the program, forensic scientists do their business with detachment. After a while, even the audience becomes detached.

My friend told me once, "I couldn't watch the stuff you do." In this blog I have talked about shows I like. I once couldn't watch the stuff I do now. I got desensitized. There are still subjects I'll run a mile to avoid: I don't like programs that show danger to children, for instance. But like most everyone else, including fans of the CSI franchise, I've almost gotten used to the gore and violence that is getting to be routine on those shows. I say "almost," because my stomach can still be turned. I wonder when someone will step in and say that enough is enough.

We're in a couple of wars, so we get pictures on the news of bodies strewn around from car bombs and suicide bombers. After the news we get primetime programs where gruesome murder is presented as a scientific puzzle, or police procedural.

You get a whiff of sex in one of these programs and the religious right is all over it with indignation, but headless corpses hanging upside down? No problem.

The FCC gets involved when a bare breast with a pasty covering the nipple is shown during the Super Bowl, but doesn't have any sort of penalty for showing dead bodies, mutilations, murder, and all of the violence that goes along with them.

One of my coworkers said to me once, about an R-rated movie he saw: "I couldn't figure out why it was rated R. It didn't have any sex in it, just guys getting shot." It is a really big double standard.


It seems this is a week for thinking about mortality. In the past five days I've seen obituaries for a former high school teacher of mine, a friend's 36-year-old son, and another friend's wife.

The teacher's obit surprised me, because she was only seven years older than me, which meant she taught me during what was probably her first year of teaching. She looked older than that to me, but when you're 17 everyone over 21 looks pretty old.

The 36-year-old son of a friend died of what started out as cancer of the mouth. This is the basic unfairness of life: He never smoked, never used tobacco in any form.

Any death seems unfair to us, though. Except when it's on TV as entertainment.

No comments: