Carnivale is a great show but it is constantly pushing the boundaries of what I am OK with watching. I have rarely had to stop looking at a TV show becuase I’m too upset, but Carnivale forces me to do that every second episode or so. It really goes to show how fantastic this show is that I keep watching it, even though it upsets me.
I think it’s also a testament to how much desensitizing works that it’s not the punch-ups or the people falling to their deaths that bothers me. It’s the things I’ve never seen before that really freak me out.
This entry will be a kind of catalogue of things I can’t stand to watch, but have seen. I am making this list to see how other people react to it and also to get it out of my head in the hopes that I’ll feel a bit better.
Slightly Spoilerific for Carnivale (both seasons), The Piano Teacher, Kill Bill Vol. 2 and The Gift
Last night in Carnivale we watched an episode in which a character is tarred and feathered. Now, obviously I knew that this is something that has happened in the world, but I’ve only ever seen it in a cartoon context, as a joke. It never occured to me that when it’s done “in real life” the tar would of course, need to be hot. It was boiling hot…so it burned the skin. Then the character yelled something at the people torturing him and they put the brush of boiling tar in his mouth. At that point completely on their own my arms leaped up to shield my face, I shouted “Oh My God!” and I refused to look for the duration of the scene.
It was a purely physical reaction that I had no control over. I couldn’t stand Lee to talk about what was happening and I could barely deal with the subsequent scenes with that character. As I said to Lee last night “For some reason this really bothers me. Please don’t talk about it.” This morning I was relating this all to C and I felt very emotional, almost as if I’d start crying.
This is the first time I’ve had such a very extreme reaction, but this show has upset me before. As in Kill Bill Vol. 2 there is a scene of someone being buried alive that I couldn’t cope with. In Kill Bill I hated QT for making us really experience that along with the Bride character. Some things I never want to experience!
Another Carnivale incident was with ‘the mask maker’. He drugs the main character and makes a ‘death mask’ of him while he is awake, but paralysed. Obviously this doesn’t kill him but the scene of the plaster being spread onto the face with no breathing holes was very upsetting. It was a fantastic episode though, and very well made.
A few years ago I saw The Piano Teacher, going in I knew the main character was a sado-masochist so I thought I knew what to expect. What they didn’t warn you of was that she was also a sociopath. I went to this movie with my soon-to-be-Mother-in-Law because she wanted to hear the fantastic music and we were both very shell shocked after it. A lot of people left the screening and one woman had some kind of panic attack. The scene I found the most upsetting and the one that haunts me still involves the main character cutting her own vagina with razor blades. Some things are so horrendous that you never even conceive of them.
(I just realised I’m going to get some weird search term matches after this entry.)
Sometimes it’s not a specific action but the quality of the violence that really squicks me out. I like a certain kind of action movie: the ones were the violence is stylized/super-cool/jokey. One of the main problems I had with the Bourne Identity was that I felt the fist fights were very realistic. Same with The Gift, it includes a scene of torture which I found to be just too believable, like watching a documentary. It was too realistic and so I couldn’t watch. To this day I can’t say that The Gift is a good movie, because that one scene disturbed me too much.
These images and the descriptions I’ve made here cause me to react physically. My teeth clench, I get stomach cramps, my eyes close and I feel updet like I might cry. These feelings are the same as those caused in me by stress.
I guess it’s good that images of torture upset me, and I guess what I’ve just described can be lumped together under that category I just wish I never had to see these things in the first place.