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The Meaning of Torture Porn Essay

Paper type: Essay Pages: 6 (1366 words)

Views: 439

Stephen King once wrote, in his seminal book on horror, Danse Macabre, “I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I’ll go for the gross-out. I’m not proud” (Kaye 3). From the sequence of horror movies that have flooded the market over the past couple of years, it’s obvious that many of the filmmakers behind him aren’t too proud either.

Horror cinema seems like it has become an ocean of gore, and the current trend has even gotten its own name: torture porn.

The term “torture porn” has little to do with real pornography. There is virtually no sexual activity involved, although the victims are usually nude or partially nude. Torture is defined by Dictionary.com as “the act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty”.

It expresses the idea that its viewers are intensely aroused by the sight of human bodies – usually young and quite often female that are getting torn into bloody chunks in the most awful ways imaginable (Williams 1).

The next part of the term, porn, has nothing do to with what is going on onscreen and when placed alongside torture, has nothing to do with the definition of either word. Porn is a shortened form of pornography, which Dictionary.com defines principally as “…sexually explicit pictures, writings, or other material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal.” Seeing a naked body onscreen isn’t extremely explicit or sexually arousing in many situations, especially if the nude is being hacked to pieces by a fictional serial killer with a prop knife.

In short, the characters in most well-known torture porn films are not usually developed enough to make us feel much sympathy for them; they’re simply, men and women, set up to be sliced apart. “There’s a definite distinction between being grossed out and being terrified and I think many filmmakers have lost sight of that”, says Ryan Rotten, managing editor of the horror Web Site ShockTilYouDrop.com (Kaye 3).

According to Rafe Telsch, an assistant editor of Cinema Blend website:

Almost everyone I know goes to the movies for similar reasons. We go to the movies because they entertain us. In the movies exists a world where the good guys win, hope prevails, and love conquers all. Movies make us feel better about ourselves and the world we live in and sometimes offer that aphorism of wisdom we need to make it through rough times. A horror movie primarily serves to scare or horrify, to haunt someone long after they’ve watched, or terrify them while they are watching it.

However, in recent years, sadly, we are mostly seeing gore, more females, or should I say “hotties”, being tortured for most of the film, beaten, tied up, faces cut off, limbs cut off, legs caught in some kind of traps – and for what? The films serve little or no purpose in storytelling or character development. This is not horror, it does not scare or leave you scared to turn the light off, and the films end usually in an easily predicted way. Our generation is past desensitization after watching countless disgusting mutilations slowly destroy the human bodies onscreen. So, do torture porn movies really serve any purpose, other than to gross the audience out and put them off their food?

I personally cannot reason why movie audiences would find this recently popular sub-genre interesting. Instead of promoting the good in mankind, these movies promote the worst possible traits of the human race. In the real world, we take people who kidnap, torture, mutilate, maim, and kill innocent people and lock them away, even putting some to death. Nowadays, a group of filmmakers want to recreate that same concept in a fictional environment, glorifying sick behavior to sell tickets. Even worse, people are buying those tickets, maintaining the strength of these kinds of films and ensuring more to come.

To be clear, my problem is not with the horror genre as a whole. A lot of horror exemplifies the idea of good versus evil with good eventually saving the day (not always, but frequently). I’ve been a horror fan almost since I could watch movies, which is somewhere around the age of 6. I remember the times when I visited my grandparents with my younger brother during the summer, and we couldn’t wait until 10 o’clock to see a horror movie, since our parents stayed in the city. Our grandparents would always go to bed early, and we knew that on weekends, starting from 10 o’clock most of the channels would show some type of a horror movie. Usually, my brother would ask me to shut off the TV and go to bed as soon as the best part of the movie began (by which I mean the scariest part), but I stayed, even though I had my eyes covered with a pillow for the majority of the movie. As I got older, I no longer needed the pillow.

Most of the American movie-going society is familiar with the Saw films initiated in 2003 by James Wan and Leign Whannell, and with Eli Roth’s two Hostel films (released in 2005 and 2007), which represent the most lucrative horror films of the 21st century and serve as the most prominent examples of torture porn (Sharrett 32). So, when Saw 5 came out in 2008 and my friends dragged me into theater to watch it, I was shocked and sat in astonishment as Jigsaw’s victims were tortured. Jigsaw, the main antagonist of the series, places his victims in death traps that can only be stopped by the murder of another person. That night I left the theater wondering why anyone would ever want to watch torture in a movie when there’s enough of it in the real world. I understand that for some of us horror movies allow us to confront our fears in a safe setting, but it’s a huge difference thinking about that when you’re watching someone torture another human being, in all of its ugliness, on-screen than when you’re watching the nightly news.

If we can gain positive lessons about life from the movies, then what kind of moralistic values are torture porn movies instilling in our culture? As Rafe Telsch asked, “Are we cultivating a crop of sadistic killers by allowing these kinds of movies to be made and shown?”(1).What is even more disturbing about torture films is that while I was watching My Bloody Valentine (2009) in the cinema, people seemed to take great delight in laughing or cheering when an innocent character was injured or murdered. This, again, shows how horror films are moving away from what they originally stood for: the ultimate triumph of good over the worst evils in humanity. Additionally we, as an audience, aren’t supposed to be cheering for the “bad guys”, we’re supposed to want the heroic characters to overcome the evil and survive the horrors.

By now most of you have probably heard about the controversy surrounding Captivity billboards as part of the film’s outdoor ad campaign in Los Angeles and New York. Captivity is a “torture porn” film starring Elisha Cuthbert. The depicted four panels with the headlines “Abduction, Confinement, Torture, Termination” along with the appropriate modern horror florescent lighting color scheme and scary visuals (Brodesser –Arkner 13).

This film outdoor campaign outraged some residents in the Los Angeles area. “Parents went nuts”, said Courtney Solomon, a partner at After Dark Films, a company that has a multi-picture deal with Lionsgate and that were responsible for marketing the film (13). Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez wrote, “I felt like I needed to take a shower just from having been within a hundred feet of it (Brodesser-Arkner 13).” And that’s only two adults expressing their feelings about the billboard. I have never seen Captivity, but based on the pictures I can easily imagine why parents would be concerned while driving with their kids on the highway and seeing this picture.

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The Meaning of Torture Porn. (2017, Feb 12). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-meaning-of-torture-porn-essay

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