VIEWPOINTS: Is the portrayal of torture in movies/TV neutral entertainment?

Torture in movies is everywhere, and it's nothing new. 

Someone's always getting strapped to a chair and being interrogated and slapped around or worse. 

It's even in children's movies. Consider the water-powered, life-sucking Machine in The Princess Bride or the electricution scene in The Incredibles. Or the most brutal torture scenes in Reservoir Dogs or Casino Royale or the Jason Bourne movies. 

A new debate about torture on the silver screen has arisen even before the release of “Zero Dark Thirty about the CIA's work to capture Osama bin Laden. The movie was widely released last weekend.

Amnesty International protests dotted the country as people reacted to the graphic scenes in the first 45 minutes of the movie.

Though Sony filmmakers say the film does not advocate torture, others say its graphic depictions were over the top at a time when the U.S. is still reeling from the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. 

Though Zero Dark Thirty is a story based in fact, aren't most movies including the depiction of torture fully fictional?

But does it say about us – Americans or anyone who sits through a movie full of torture scenes? 

The question: Is the portrayal of torture in movies/TV neutral entertainment? What do you think?





3 Responses to “VIEWPOINTS: Is the portrayal of torture in movies/TV neutral entertainment?”

  1. Bonny Logsdon Burns

    I do not believe that depiction of torture is neutral entertainment. But, one movie you failed to list is the Passion of the Christ. It’s one thing to let the words of the gospels take shape in your mind, but it’s another to view it. I had an even deeper gratitude for my salvation after watching the Passion. When I have witnessed torture scenes in military-type movies, it makes me more sensitive to what our military/espionage personnel are undergoing. I do not enjoy it.

    I wish it were left out of our children’s movies, such as the Incredibles. I would shield my children from it at all costs. Once those visions are within the neural synapses of our brains, there is no taking them out. But, if you are an adult, paying money to see a movie which has torture scenes, it’s your informed choice to do so.

  2. Amanda Greene

    That’s an interesting point about the Passion. Somehow we don’t always consider death by cross torture, but it was. I saw that movie multiple times for reviews when it first came out and can tell you I was traumatized each time. While it did give me a sense of Jesus’ mortal pain, I don’t know if I was a better person for having watched it. Just reading the scripture was enough for me.

  3. Elizabeth Terry

    It is important to state up front that I love watching television and movies.

    Asking whether images of violence and torture “neutral” or if we have become desensitized to these images are important questions for a world with a 24- hour news cycle and a culture fascinated with guns.

    The arts have always been part of how we learn about life, the people around us, and other cultures.

    However, I am sure that I am not alone in continuing to experience images of violence long after the house lights have come up or the remote has been used to change the channel.

    It is good that we have a wide range of entertainment options. However it is important for me to remember that what I see, hear and experience is part of my daily spiritually practice.

    Graphic, violent words and images hinder my serenity and peace of mind.

    I pray that I never become desensitized to another’s suffering.


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