Remembering torture-porn

I’m not easily scared, but I have a hard time watching torture.

In movies and TV shows, that is.  I’m pretty sure I’d be driven balls-to-the-wall insane by watching the real thing.

I stopped watching “Ozarks” when torture entered the picture.

I still haven’t watched the scene in “The Tudors” where the court baker is boiled alive or Francis Dereham is hanged, drawn, and quartered (both taken from history).

When I rewatch “Syriana,” I skip the scene where George Clooney’s character is tortured.

I’ve never watched “Wolf Creek,” most installments of the “Saw” franchise (although “Saw” is big on auto-torture) and definitely none of the “Hostel” movies …

… but out of a gruesome curiosity, I did watch a WatchMojo youtube video of top movie scenes you wish you could unsee but can’t.  A particularly nasty scene from “Hostel” was on there, and I followed that rabbit hole to view some of the high points of “Hostel.”  I skipped around a lot, though.  I can’t take that.

 

Strangely, I watched the HDQ execution scene of “Braveheart,” one of my favorite movies, from an early age and didn’t freak out.  I think it helped that I didn’t know a lot of the details of the execution, no blood was shown, there’s that great soothing music, and the movie itself was so strong.  (A lot about that scene, and the whole movie, was historically inaccurate.)

 

I also did fine with the waterboarding scenes in “Zero Dark Thirty.”  I think it’s because it was just water.  I’m more upset and traumatized by images of flesh mutilation … though the scuttlebutt is that water torture is awful and deeply traumatic.

 

It’s hard for me to cope with the idea that many of these tortures are historical – that people actually did these things to one another.  Yuval Harari points out in his book “Sapiens” that people from early animist, theist, or dualist backgrounds thought that crimes upset some sort of natural or divine order, and any torture that could be inflicted on the perpetrator was justified in the name of restoring that order; otherwise, the ensuing chaos could put anyone at risk.  (Or, some brutal king just wanted to make an example to scare people, and could give the order without having to carry out or even witness the grisly deed.)  The liberal and humanist societies that followed in the scientific and modern ages postulated the notion of “human rights,” setting human well-being above any kind of “natural order” and leading to more humane treatment of each other (on average).

There’s a darker truth behind all of this, though.  Harari also points out that while abroad on Crusade, the famous English King Richard I (the Lionheart) met his fate by means of a superficial arrow wound to the shoulder.  The would became gangrenous, could not be amputated because … well, it’s a shoulder.  In the pre-antibiotic and pre-anesthetic age, gangrene was a very, very painful death sentence.  It was over a century before the Lionheart’s third-generation successor, Edward the Longshanks, invented hanging, drawing, and quartering … but the Lionheart’s own death by gangrene could scarcely have been less brutal and painful.

In the pre-medical age, almost every human died in agony, the same way almost every animal currently living (with the exception of euthanized pets) dies in agony – either eaten alive or killed by untreated infected injuries or disease, same as our early ancestors.

Makes me wonder if we’ll ever have a post-scientific age.  I guess that’s what The Walking Dead is about.

What do you have a hard time watching?

 

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One Reply to “Remembering torture-porn”

  1. Torture freaks me out as well. I couldn’t watch Reservoir Dogs because of the 8mpending torture by razor blade. On the other hand, The Walking Dead killings of zombies don’t bother me, but I could not watch Neegan use Lucille to kill members of Rick’s crew. Go figure!

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