A few days ago I started to watch The Blacklist, one of the more intriguing new dramatic series on broadcast TV, but it turned out to be the straw that broke the camel's back. I turned it off and I doubt that I'll be watching it or shows like it again.
The reason: the first few minutes were dedicated to showing a man drugging a woman, kidnapping her, and, when she wakes up tied to a make-shift operating table in his home, telling her in detail how he was going to torture her. As he started to do it, I switched off. She was in mid-scream.
I've written thriller scripts in which people get killed. I know that violence and death are staples of drama going back to the Greeks (and there's plenty of both in the Bible, for that matter). What bothers me is that broadcast television series are getting more and more graphic. So many plots are driven by the hunt for a serial killer that the writers try to figure out ever more grotesque ways for the killers to torture and murder their victims. The producers and the networks are fine with showing these acts in lurid detail.
Does seeing this stuff several times a week (and for heavy viewers, several times a night) have no effect? I'm not suggesting that a well-adjusted person suddenly is going to turn into a sadistic murderer but I have a hard time believing it doesn't affect us at all. There are plenty of kids absorbing this every night. I wonder what it's doing to their brains.
Of course there are plenty of alternatives, including the "off" switch. That's the one I turned the other night and I have a feeling my life is going to be richer for it.