I saw Stephen Chow's new film Kung Fu Hustle this weekend. I knew it would be more violent than Shaolin Soccer (Hustle has an R rating), but I still wasn't quite prepared for the level of graphic violence in the movie. It did not serve the plot well, in my opinion.
I've seen much worse, but it got me thinking about violence in film and TV. I assume that tolerance for violence lies on a continuum. There must be some people who can't easily stomach watching the movies I love, like Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Battle of Britain. The Battle of Britain has a lot of blood, but very little gore. The movie gives you a sense of what RAF and Luftwaffe pilots endured through the summer of 1940, but the gore and horror are fairly minimal. The final climactic scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark was a bit gratuitous, but it was fairly tame by today's standards.
I find at least one thing reassuring: I'm not getting desensitized to extreme violence, so perhaps others aren't getting immunized either. I sometimes wonder whether I could desensitize myself if I really tried. I suspect that no matter how I suppressed it, my revulsion would eventually leak to the surface of my personality in unexpected ways.
So why do people watch this stuff? Are they testing themselves? Is it morbid curiosity? Or do they not have any psychic reaction to what they're watching? Do they see actors and special effects where I see the real thing? Do they abhor violence, and think realistic movie depictions are a disincentive to the real thing? All of the above?