Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Sex and violence

I'm a huge fan of the HBO TV series Rome, for its superb look, brilliant performances and compelling plots. I was thoroughly immersed in both series and was sadly disappointed when sheer expense brought an end to it after 22 episodes. Purely because of this and a few favourable reviews, I bought the Blu-ray of the initial series Spartacus: blood and sand. I don't subscribe to any cable or satellite channels, so hadn't seen it until I got the discs.

Rome it ain't. Yes, the plot becomes compelling after a while, but the scripts and performances are just not in the same league. Then there's the violence. Rome has some extremely violent scenes, but these almost always seem to grow out of the plot, and rarely seem gratuitous. The violence in Spartacus: BAS seems to be there almost for its own sake, and I'm disturbed that some people seem to like it for that reason alone.

I used to be accused of being weird or sick for being a fan of horror films. To clarify, it's the ghost stories like The haunting, old Hammer horror films and their predecessors that I like - adult fairy tales that try to create an atmosphere, that often rely on scaring audiences rather than revolting them, and that (despite the criticism they got on initial release) are nowhere near as violent or gory as modern horrors. I've stopped watching horror films in general, certainly if they are anything like The descent - one that got rave reviews but, to me, showed just how it shouldn't be done: particularly disappointing since the same director's Dog soldiers wasn't bad.

I digress. I do feel there's a place for violence in all genres and yes, the violence in Spartacus is sometimes so over-the-top that it loses its impact. Maybe we're meant to laugh at it but I can't, just as I saw nothing funny - or remotely watchable - in the OTT The evil dead. (Sam Raimi went on to make some much better films like The gift, but I'm digressing again.) I just don't like to watch violence for its own sake. At the risk of sounding like Mary Whitehouse, I can't help wondering if extreme violence in the media is really so harmless, as it clearly has the potential to desensitise audiences to that kind of material and might be difficult to handle for those with a tenuous grip on reality. It's ironic that the sex in Spartacus is always less explicit than the violence. I would like to see this turned the other way round! I'm certainly not in favour of censorship - just a little more taste and restraint.