SouthFlorida.com
Make every weekend epic with our free Weekender newsletter. Sign up today!

Orlando, other bloodshed no threat to bull market for violent entertainment

"Order your man to step aside or there will be violence," Lancel Lannister said.

Cersei Lannister responded quietly, "I choose violence."

Maybe on an ordinary Sunday night, the confrontation following that exchange on HBO's hugely popular "Game of Thrones" last weekend — climaxing in one man ripping off the head of another — might be a fine diversion.

With the queasy horror and heartache of the Orlando nightclub massacre still fresh, some of us found even the hint of bloodshed like teasing an open wound.

Sensitivities heightened and momentarily hyperaware of just how much violence pervades entertainment, one could only marvel in a coals-to-Newcastle way just how TV, movies and even video games consistently manage to sell us something that we see far more than we need for free.

Our collective appetite for blood and new ways it may be rendered hasn't been sated by real life and current events.

Then again, we tend not to even notice how deeply we're immersed except when nerves are freshly rubbed raw and exposed by the latest calamity.

Only in that narrow window of time and frame of mind does it perhaps occur to us that, say, the fireballs and bullets in ads for the coming movie "Suicide Squad" aren't all that cartoonish.

Would-be blockbuster movies over the years have tended to embrace violence at least in part because, anticipating global box office, it's something primal that translates across every language and culture. Action trumps dialogue. Everyone everywhere intuitively should understand the stakes.

More interesting is that the sale of U.S. video and computer games was a $5.2 billion business in 2015 and, according to Statista, the single most popular genre was "shooter," accounting for 24.5 percent of all games sold. That's the point of view we choose.

Some will tell you dramatized violence is cathartic for the audience, and has been since time immemorial. It's been theorized the gory original versions of most fairy tales were to teach young people that surviving horrible situations requires keeping their wits about them.

Others insist entertainment violence numbs the audience to real ramifications of such actions, makes unlikely scenarios seem plausible, and even emboldens the unsteady among us to do heinous things.

Not all violence on screen is equal, however.

Not all comes across as gratuitous. Context can be important, too.

Had there not been a nightclub shooting in Orlando, TNT would not have postponed last Sunday's scheduled season debut of the post-apocalyptic drama "The Last Ship" because its story included a nightclub shooting. A week later, apparently, the palate is cleansed.

Popular as "Game of Thrones" is, the fantasy drama can give off the vibe of an abattoir to those not wholly in its thrall in any given week. It's proof a single show, in the space of an hour, can have flying dragons in it and still seem too realistic to a segment of the population.

What turns off some can seduce others.

"All I ask is to be immersed in a world that allows me to forget about my real life, develop a few crushes on some fictional characters, and watch a few beheadings," a TV Guide reviewer wrote of Sunday's episode. "Mission accomplished."

Flip from HBO to AMC on Sunday, and there was the cult comic adaptation "Preacher" with guns and blood, people getting run over and, per the requisite warning, "violent content that may be too intense for some viewers."

The Hollywood Reporter last month said "Preacher" executive producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg were not expecting to be able to include as much explicit content in their adaptation of this supernatural comic series "in which characters shoot each other's limbs off, others are decapitated (and) eyeballs are removed by holy entities."

"If anything, I'm surprised at what we can do," Rogen said, adding that AMC's earlier success with "The Walking Dead" "has given us a lot of precedent to do a lot of stuff that we might not have otherwise been able to do. … Pretty much every time, we've gotten to do everything we've wanted."

Over on CBS, the Tony Award coronation of Broadway's "Hamilton" included the cast's performance depicting the Revolutionary War's Battle of Yorktown. Notably absent, making a statement on Orlando, were the customary prop muskets. It didn't change the choreography.

But the musical based on the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton, who was fatally wounded in a duel with then-Vice President Aaron Burr, can hardly eschew firearms in its regular performances. Nor should it.

In its first issue after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, The Onion struck just the right satirical note with a funny-because-it's-true jab. It observed shellshocked Americans' surprise and dismay to find "life has come to resemble a bad Jerry Bruckheimer-produced action/disaster movie" not nearly as "silly and escapist" as depicted on screen.

We were indeed numb and dazed and wounded. But time passed and it didn't take long to get back to wanting what we want. It never does.

We choose violence.

philrosenthal@tribpub.com

Twitter @phil_rosenthal

Copyright © 2017, South Florida
80°