Thoughts and other Miscellany


So The Physicist, Musician, Resident Cousin and I were discussing on the way home from amazing Chinese food the other night… Why is it that some people (TRC and myself) have no problem with really quite graphically violent books (eg. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) and cannot stand violent films (I won’t watch anything that’s 18/R-rated and I usually have misgivings about 15/MA ratings)? And vice versa?

The Physicist was arguing that in a film, you can look away. You can tell from the soundtrack when the bodies have been dragged away/gunfire has stopped/evil aliens have stopped mutating, whereas in a book you just have to keep reading the gory details. I disagree – you can read with more or less attentiveness and you can always skip a few pages.

My theory is that my brain just can’t conjure the images, so when, as in my current read, a woman with a gunshot wound to the head is dragged out of the Hudson attached brutally and graphically to a ladder, my brain says “ladder, woman, gunshot” in quite an abstract, disengaged way. Show me that on a screen and there’s no getting away from someone else’s visualisation of it. Plus if you look away in the scary bIts, you miss loads of salient plot details!

What do you think?


8 thoughts on “Gruesomeness”

  1. I haven’t read all that many books with gruesome detail that I can remember, but in any case reading about it usually doesn’t bother me. When I watch something gruesome or violent in a movie I know it’s a special effect and I’m more curious to know how they achieved it and try to watch closely in a disattached manner to try to figure it out and marvel how real it is. I do find it disturbing to watch actual footage of real instances of violence or gruesomeness.

    Tossing It Out

  2. I completely agree with you. It often amazes me how I can handle brutality and gore described in novels while I have no interest in the same on film. I think you are right about it being how the information is stored in our brains – a picture versus objective data.

  3. Also, with reading, if things are getting a bit graphic/gruesome I can put my finger between the pages, think about rainbows and new shoes for a minute until my heart rate calms down, and then continue to read. In a movie you are forced to experience it in real time (unless you shut your eyes and mute it, which I’ve been known to do). And once you see those images, they are stuck in your mind. Whereas when reading, I’m like you Yvann – my mind just doesn’t have the stock images to visually recreate the gore, so I just get the facts (ladder, woman, gunshot) and move on.

  4. See, I’m the other way around. Maybe it’s the time and emotion invested in a book, so it feels more like it’s happening to me/someone I care about? Whereas in a film it’s clearly a stranger. That said I don’t do full-on schlock horror like Saw. But most thriller/horror films I love.

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