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Down the rabbit hole of violence

Sean Black's picture

So for my final blog about broadcast I thought it would be interesting to look at the history of broadcast standards, and how they have affected the broadcast medium as a whole, and, in particular, journalism.

Down the rabbit hole
Without getting too technical, when contemporary audiences look at films from the golden age of Hollywood, like those of Alfred Hitchcock, it is easy to see how broadcast standards and principles have changed.
That famous shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho is testament to that idea. During the 1960s, it was considered extremely graphic – with the combination of a semi-nude actress and her murder – Hitchcock had trouble getting it past the motion picture production code – if his 2012 biopic is anything to go by.
Janet Leigh, the actress herself even said that she was so affected by the scene, when she saw it, that she no longer took showers unless she absolutely had to; she would lock all the doors and windows and would leave the bathroom and shower door open.
If contemporary audiences were to watch the scene for the first time, now -- after the type of content that we have been exposed to -- the scene would be laughable. And Psycho wouldn’t have a difficult time getting a PG rating.
That is quite interesting for the medium of journalism because it showcases what could and could not be shown in the mainstream media. Clearly murder and other violent crime happened but what matters is the way it was shown and represented.
Murder and violent crime is ubiquitous on the news nowadays and that has to do with the weird kind of predisposition that humans have with violence and violent behaviour. That susceptibility is used to sell news.
We humans are fascinated with death and public violence. That shows the calloused mentality of contemporary audiences compared to those of old. And the ubiquity of violence in a medium like journalism (and news) means the callous will only get thicker.
The mentality of modern audiences seems to be increasingly more obsessed with seeing violence, which is why the shower scene in Psycho would be absurd nowadays.

Hitchcock's infamous shower scene; Psycho
Subtle and implied violence has no affect anymore; film and broadcast constantly have to push boundaries of what is controversial – particularly in the horror genre.
It is undeniable the effect that film and other broadcast media influences journalism. I think it is interesting the way film, indeed, influences how journalism is presented but also how journalism can influence cinema and film.
As murder and violence becomes more pervasive on the news, available all the time, and watched by audiences – young and old – the type of content that is relevant, and which resonates with audiences falls further down the ‘violence rabbit hole.’ 

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