There appears to be a trend in television shows over the past few years as they try to outdo one another with graphic violence and sex scenes. I can’t help but wonder, are they really necessary?
by Jamie Campbell
Graphic scenes aren’t my thing, I’ll admit that up front. Some people might be really into seeing a horse’s head cut off, but not me (Thanks Game of Thrones for that visual I can never un-see). Call me crazy, but I believe you can achieve the same desired emotions from a viewer without that level of visual violence.
Take a moment from Homeland for example. Last season they had a ten minute scene that was just two characters in an empty room with nothing but a table between them. The conversation danced back and forth as they tried to wear each other down to get to the truth. They each wanted something from the other and neither was going to leave the room without getting it. Oh, and one couldn’t, considering he was a suspected terrorist.
So the scene went on and you didn’t even realise how long it was with only the faces of these two characters to keep your attention. Was it gripping? Yep. Was it dramatic? Yep. Was there any graphic violence or sex scenes? Nope. They could have beaten up each other, they could have shot one another, and I might have had the same reaction but they were smart about it instead. They didn’t have to resort to shocking the audience with a cheap trick.
They didn’t have to resort to shocking the audience with a cheap trick.
Of course, Homeland is also a graphically violent show at times but there is enough drama in there to keep me watching. There is a difference between doing something purely to shock the audience and doing something because the story line warrants it. The line is thin but Homeland seems to straddle it quite well.
So do you have to compete with shows like Game of Thrones and put an orgy into every episode? Yes, I know I’m exaggerating but you get the point. To be successful and to get viewers, must I write like a ninja and throw in scenes for their shock value?
Hart of Dixie has just returned for a third season, a show with no violence and no graphic sex scenes. It is the kind of show you can watch as a family and not have to cover your eyes every five minutes.
Based around a New York City doctor moving to a tiny little town, the show is full of charming characters in situations that are a little odd but so full of heart. Every time I watch this show, I can’t help but smile. I’m just as much hooked into the story as Homeland or Game of Thrones, but without any cheap shots. I care about these characters, it’s what every writer wants for their audience.
I care about these characters, it’s what every writer wants for their audience.
Elementary is the same. Bringing back the old story of Sherlock Holmes and Watson, they could have chosen to turn up the shock value in the show in order to put a new spin on the franchise.
But they didn’t. Instead, they have created a quirky and socially awkward Holmes with a slightly damaged Watson to keep him company. They have made the story about the characters and their relationships instead of the grisly murders they investigate. The show and the characters are charming. There is very little violence and no graphic sex scenes, the closest we come is Johnny Lee Miller taking his shirt off.
So, as a writer, what do you want to achieve with your story? If you want to shock people, then that is your creative choice. If you want to invoke a certain type of emotion, then work out the best way to do that. It might not be to cut off the horse’s head – seriously, please don’t do that. Instead of going with the obvious, challenge yourself and see other ways of achieving the same result. I for one wish there was way more charm than shock on the screen.
Jamie Campbell is an author, screenwriter, and television addict.
Jamie is proud to be an Editor for The Story Department.
Her latest paranomal mystery The Aron Angels Series is out now.
Photo Credits: Graphic Stock