From action movies to tragedies, violence is an essential plot point, a cliffhanger, a shock value tool, and it is deeply rooted in stories because it was and is so prevalent in real life. Even when it isn’t something you see every day, it is ongoing and in varying levels of brutality and horror. And that is the reason why I think its misrepresentation and misuse in media is incredibly dangerous.
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Constant death, violence, and abuse that is presented through storytelling should leave a sense of terror, despair, or any other feeling that would equate to at least a fraction of what seeing it in real life would. However, almost most consumers of media have become desensitized to these events because of its repetitive nature, but very importantly, because of the little value it is given. There is an essay that compares the filmography and philosophy of David Lynch with constant media violence, which illustrates how the victims of such violence are often reduced to story elements. Uncaring, surface-level treatment of violence in media results in the dehumanization of characters and maybe even real people.
The Hunger Games has this issue, but it also addresses it in a way I think is appropriate. Multiple characters are killed off for the sake of tension elevation and world-building, such as the first child victims at the start of the games or the violent death by bees of one of Katniss’s opponents. However, even these instances remind of the overarching theme of the books, which meditates on the kind of catastrophe poverty, state power, societal paranoia, and the ingrained interplay of violence and entertainment can lead to. Additionally, there are deaths that are treated seriously and in a way that is closer to life. The character of Roo dying does not only impact Katniss but the audience too. It reminds us that being desensitized to the death of others is unnatural and maybe even harmful to our well-being in society. This is especially interesting in a time where we are able to ignore the deaths of millions of children due to war, poverty, dangerous immigration, and a multitude of other reasons that we chose to be desensitized to on a daily basis.