Has Media Violence Finally Reached Its Tipping Point?

“Downton Abbey” trouncesRambo: Last Blood” and Brad Pitt’s violent epic “Ad Astra” at the Box Office. Are U.S. audiences (finally) weary of violence?

The three monkeys: See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil. (photo: John Snape)

It’s been lightning fast race to the bottom.

On a time, there were limits to the amount of explicit violence that could be shown in a movie. Now however, it is difficult to imagine the film rating panels of the 1970’s giving some of today’s action flicks anything less than a XXX.

That’s NC-17 by today’s standards.

But what does that mean?

There have been exceptionally well-made movies that used explicit violence, but very carefully; Schindler’s List, Hotel Rwanda. These are human tragedies, historically important; there is at some argument for preserving it, upsetting and violent as indeed it is.

The gratuitous, senseless, over-the-top violence of 2019 has rendered even classics like James Bond or Batman movies unwatchable in their levels of squirm-inducing, full-frontal violence. Even Star Wars requires a girding of one’s loins; these days, everyone dies.

It’s “The Departed” ending. In a Disney Movie.

Gone is the pan away, the closed door, the scary music, the leering look. Contextual clues are for filmmakers who are not in an endless competition to out-Tarantino each other.

At least Quentin Tarantino was the first to bring truly shocking violence into the modern mainstream. Everyone since then has just been busily one-upping. It’s not innovative.

Even Tarantino used black and white in “Kill Bill” to help cut the gore factor.

Is it any wonder audiences are tired of it? Watching a movie has become less of a relaxing escape and more of a torturous murder-fest you can’t wait to escape. It’s exhausting. And upsetting.

The original “Rambo: First Blood” wasn’t the Care Bears Movie or anything, but you didn’t need a nap after. The last Rambo movie was unwatchable unless you like watching entire villages of children being mowed down by machine guns in living color.

Is the newest “Rambo: Last Blood” any better? Some of us will never know. Movies and television shows have proven so violent, so gut-wrenching, more and more households are tuning out, staying home.

Perhaps U.S. audiences, facing an onslaught of almost weekly incidents of real-life mass violence have lost their taste for it in entertainment. Shoot ’em up movies, no matter how glamorous the leading men or how heavy the ordinance, still involve watching people die by gun violence.

It may have occurred to certain sections of the U.S. population that it is strange to consider gun violence entertaining considering its real life counterpart.

Not even Rambo’s original creator liked the newest movie, saying it left him feeling “degraded and dehumanized.”

“The film is typical of ultra-violent 1970’s exploitation ‘grind-house’ films, the technique of which Rambo: Last Blood resembles.” — David Morrell, creator of Rambo.

Movie producers and directors may think audiences are tuning out because they each have failed to deliver that ultimate violent gut-punch no one has landed in a good long while. No one has been making a splash lately.

This might not be true.

The success and huge following of programs like Downton Abbey, originally produced by the BBC, tell a different story.

Perhaps viewers would prefer a return to the more light-hearted, the kinder-gentler experience at the movie theatre, than, let’s say, the recent Jennifer Lawrence movie “Mother”.

There should be a support group for people who make it all the way through that movie.

Hollywood should take note.

Downton Abbey may indeed be nothing more than a soppy, bourgeois, soap-opera with better clothes and posh accents. It is not be making any serious statements about how terrible is the world at large.

But at least it won’t ruin your weekend.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)