A few decades ago, two actors in a TV show couldn’t share a bed because it was considered too racy for public television, whereas nowadays, it’s safe to say the rules have changed a bit. We’ve gone from TV censors having to bring the hammer down on renegade producers who decided to put two fully clothed human beings under the same bed sheet to having the classic suburban family share a blanket and settle down with a plate of veggies and tzatziki (and maybe a bag of low salt, brand-less potato chips for the kids on a special occasion) to watch a zombie have it’s head relocated by means of a blade or blunt object. This dramatic shift is made extremely apparent by Atwood in Oryx and Crake, particularly the scenes in which Jimmy and Crake enjoy a night of watching beheadings and child pornography, as one does in their free time.
What takes everyone aback is that it is made so readily available to the viewing public in this fictional world either on television or the internet and the fact that Jimmy and Crake seem to enjoy it in the same way that you or I would enjoy a Jackass movie- the whole movie is violent and crude, but some of the things you see in the movie pale in comparison to some of the more dangerous scenes in terms of how we react to them. Some of the more violent and grotesque scenes make the other, more mildly disturbing scenes seem as though they’re child’s play, so to speak.
For the record they’re in a shopping cart going down hill at about a 25 – 30 degree angle and being shot at by cannons loaded with bricks. Can you tell me with 100% honesty that you don’t want to see how that ends? Well I did, and it was amazing.
My point is that we as a society have become so desensitized to things that would have abhorred those born only a generation or two before us by the television and movie producers that continue to push the boundaries of what they can put on screen but the thing is, we encourage it because we enjoy it. We’ve all heard the analogy “It’s like a train wreck, it’s awful but you can’t look away”. Something animalistic within us allows us to enjoy a level of violence and taboo that would be considered awful under normal circumstances. The more we, as a society, satisfy this craving for the most appalling thing we can endure, the more a mature subject matter of a lesser degree becomes normalized.
Some food for thought: Think of something that used to make your stomach turn when you were a child like extreme violence or sex, and compare it to what you think about it now. If you’ve watched and thoroughly enjoyed The Walking Dead and/or 50 Shades of Grey , you’ve already got your answer.