How much violence is too much violence?
Entertainment has been littered with violence from the very beginning, with some joking the first entertaining thing ever performed was one caveman bonking another in the head with a club.
The race to shock audiences in a heavily populated television market, however, may have taken a gruesome turn with AMC’s seventh season premiere of The Walking Dead Sunday night. In fact, one conservative television advocacy group has suggested to The Hollywood Reporter it’s time television ratings go beyond the strong TV-MA.
Tim Winter, the president of the Parents Television Council, says for The Walking Dead, grabbing the remote and turning off the television is just not enough anymore. While AMC earns most of its money from advertisers, there is still a significant revenue that comes from cable subscribers, who are ultimately adding money to support episodes like Sunday’s.
“Last night’s season premiere of The Walking Dead was one of the most graphically violent shows we’ve ever seen on television, comparable to the most violent programs found on premium cable networks. It’s not enough to ‘change the channel,’ as some people like to advocate, because cable subscribers regardless of whether they want AMC or watch its programming are still forced to subsidize violent content.
“This brutally explicit show is a powerful demonstration of why families should have greater control over the TV networks they purchase from their cable and satellite providers.”
The PTC is an off-shoot of Media Research Center, a content analysis group founded by L. Brent Bozell III in 1989. It gained prominence in the early 1990s when it attacked what was then an unknown show on the new and fledgling Fox television network.
That show, Married … With Children, would instantly become a huge hit, thanks in part of the negative publicity created by the PTC, launching the careers of Ed O’Neill, Katey Sagal and Christina Applegate.
Winter later told the trade publication the Walking Dead episode earned a TV-MA only because that was the highest AMC could go. But it still wasn’t enough.
“When you look at (the) definition of ‘MA’ and what (the) content of the show is, it’s unquestionable they chose what best represented the content. This certainly raises (the) question of if there should be an even more severe rating than TV-MA.”
Walking Dead executive producer Greg Nicotero, who directed the Season 7 premiere, told THR in a separate interview that the violence was important from a storytelling perspective. It was necessary to show how bad of a villain Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan is, while still honoring the comic book material it’s sourced from.
“This is by far the most despicable villain we’ve ever encountered. He’s doing all of this to prove a point and show that ‘this is my world, these are my rules.’
“We felt it was important to launch us into the season to show what Negan was capable of doing. That drives so much of where the series is going from here on in.
“Yeah, it’s graphic and horrible.”
“I understand violence is inherent to the storytelling here, but the manner in which the depictions were made … it crossed the line. With The Walking Dead, the creative team has resorted to the graphic violence as a crutch for what used to be better storytelling. When you can’t figure out what lines to write, you put something in easier, which is a graphic description.
“To me, it’s too much.”
The story has to be disturbing sometimes to ensure the messages sink home, Nicotero said. And for him, there was something far more disturbing than watching one character get hit so hard, it popped an eyeball out of its socket.
“The violence and brutality are a part of it, but I think there’s a helplessness. Seeing our hero completely crushed in front of us is more disturbing than the actual violence to me.”
The Walking Dead, crushing violence and all, airs Sundays on AMC.
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