Has television become too graphic?

CAUTION: SPOILERS BELOW

“You can breathe. You can blink. You can cry. Hell, you’re all going to be doing that.”

Those were the words said in AMC’s hit-show “The Walking Dead” right before Negan proceeded to beat two characters’ heads in with a barbed wire covered baseball bat he calls Lucille.

“The Walking Dead” villain, Negan, who is portrayed by Jeffrey Dean Morgan – From Flickr Commons

Director of the episode, Greg Nicotero, made sure the camera remained focused on the Abraham and Glenn as Negan’s baseball bat connected with their  heads and forced them to the ground.

Nicotero did not cut away to the other character’s faces and only give the sound of the bat connecting with their skulls. He chose to not hold back on the gore when he showed Glenn’s eye popping out of his head. He chose to not hold back on the brutality and gore of the scene as the Abraham rose back up with blood streaming down his forehead, only to be beaten again by Negan and Lucille.

Again, and again, and again. The process did not stop until there was nothing left but a pool of blood and brains where Abraham and Glenn’s heads once were.

“It was slightly difficult to watch but not too bad,” Hood College senior Mary Milligan said. “I found it to be too graphic when they showed the heads completely smashed and overly gory.”

“The Walking Dead” is the most-watched television show amongst the 18-49 year-old demographic, according to Indiewire.

For the past 50 years, television has been one of the primary sources of entertainment for people of all ages because of the escape from reality it provides. Throughout the years though, expectations and standards have changed due to an ever-evolving society.

For example, in the 1950s, husband and wife, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, slept in two different twin-sized beds on the hit show “I Love Lucy” because it was considered indecent and graphic for them to share a bed. In 2016, however, on ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder,” two friends, Wes and Laurel, took their clothes off and kissed their way down each other’s bodies.

With scenes like Negan’s brutal murder and Wes and Laurel’s steamy sex scene becoming more common, it poses the question if television has become too graphic.

According to a poll of college-aged students and other young adults, 70 percent say that television has not become overly graphic.

Most up-to-date poll results from the question: “Has television become too graphic?” – By: Zack Miller

“If it’s[graphic content] used to further an artistic vision or to express something that is a reality in the show’s universe, the content is justifiable,” The Blue and Grey movie reviewer, Sam Baldwin, said. “It would be an injustice to censor it.”

While there are many reasons directors and writers of television shows decide to use graphic content, most often they do it because it helps further the dramatic elements of a show’s plot, Communication Arts professor and former movie publicist, Katherine Orloff said.

“In order to get to the point where you want the hero to vanquish the villain, you have to make the villain really bad,” Orloff said.

Typically, violence is the form of the graphic content that shows often use to further the dramatic plot since it allows the audience to interpret how they feel about the situation at hand.

“I like the way “The Walking Dead” uses the violence to make you think about the world you live in and what are the choices you make,” Heather Mitchell-Buck, English professor at Hood, said. “It makes you think if the means always just the end and are some things worth any cost.”

While this may be, there still is a large percentage of people that believe television has become too graphic and see it as being pointless and detrimental.

Words used by individuals to describe what comes to mind when someone says “Graphic content” – By: Zack Miller

“We live in a violent generation where people have become almost numb to the content they see on these shows,” Hood College senior Lucas Mestas-Nunez said. “Some people might see the violence on shows like ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘The Walking Dead’ and get ideas.”

The idea of society becoming numb to graphic content is one that is concerning to Orloff and other professors at Hood.

Most popular television shows amongst a poll of 70 individuals – By: Zack Miller

“We don’t even see it,” Hood College communications law professor, Donna Bertazzoni, said. “It is so prevalent that it is not shocking anymore. Something needs to be really, really over the top to get attention.”

By making television scenes too real and graphic, it could cause more harm than ever thought.

“In the 60s and 70s, there was some data that was gathered from convicts that did armed robbery or assault where they wacked someone over the head with the butt of a gun and were surprised when they didn’t get up,” Orloff said. “They said ‘well they get up on TV, why aren’t they getting up now?’”

Despite the beliefs, it is not likely that the way television is regulated will change any time soon. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is reactive, not proactive, and does not have control over extended cable stations, Bertazzoni said.

“Congress would have to give the FCC the power to regulate cable,” Bertazzoni said. “Currently, they have the power to regulate cable in terms of how much cable companies can charge as opposed to content.”

Even though there might not be a change in the content and how it is regulated, there still is a solution out there for those who believe television is too graphic. It just so happens that it is also the simplest solution.

“I think television can be as graphic as the writers and directors want,” Hood College junior Jane Sullivan said. “It’s not like anyone is forcing you to watch certain shows. If you don’t like it, turn it off.”

Do you think that television has become too graphic? Cast your vote in the poll and leave a comment if you would like to share your point of view.

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