We live in a world that can be exceedingly beautiful or appallingly harsh, and everything in between. And as art reflects one's experiences, emotions and questions about this world, it's unavoidable that both the themes of amazing beauty and the themes of absolute terror, disgust and horror will surface in it. From the abstract to the very concrete, even when it comes to terrible things, art can, does, and will reflect both the beauty and the terror.
There's no limit to how extreme you can go with beauty. We all love looking at, reading and experiencing beautiful things.
But what about the terror, the harshness, the horror? How far can you go in your art when depicting that? How far should you go?
There is no single answer, and I'm not going to try and dictate one with this newspost. But I do want to explore it with you.
There is a great approach floating around out there in the cyber-ethers, about how you should go about certain themes in your narrative (be it a novel or a comic or a movie or a webcomic) that are extremely harsh, toxic or traumatic, in the form of a list of questions:
1. What am I trying to do with this scene where something absolutely terrible, horrific and traumatic is being displayed? What is its function?
2. Is this scene (or sequence) necessary to the plot? If I take it away and swap it with something that is still terrible and horrific but on a smaller level, will my plot fall apart? Will my story lose impact?
3. What will this story focus on and in what way- the victim or the perpetrator? Who will be the one the audience will be called to co-exist in the course of this story? In the end, who will end up being glorified as superior to the other?
These are wonderful questions, and they don't get to elicit the same answers across the gamut of stories and contexts in which those stories unfold. Some stories warrant the harsh extreme. Some stories don't, and come across as some kind of porn or exploitation of the premise of that extreme harshness.
Themes like suicide, rape, child murder, child abuse (sexual and/or otherwise), torture, genocide, ethnic cleansing, lynching, and so on are harsh even if depicted off screen or off stage. The human imagination will fill in the blanks (and often even more harshly than with an actual representation center stage). So even touching upon them should be done with caution and extreme respect and only when absolutely necessary.
And sometimes such themes are absolutely essential to the story we are trying to tell, to the message we're trying to convey and to the impact we need to make.
But very often they aren't, and they are casually used as dressing to make a story that is rather shallow appear as serious, powerful or ‘gloves off’ and therefore ‘edgy’.
The line that is drawn is very thin, and it's very easy to simply go overboard when it's unnecessary, or not go where one should when it IS necessary.
The questions I listed above are a good compass, and while some may argue that some things are off limits no matter what, I don't think that is the case. Everything needs to be communicated, everything needs to be explored no matter how harsh, no matter how traumatic- but in the proper context so that it won't be trivialized, fetishized or glorified in a manner that it should never be.
I have purposefully avoided to give examples in this brief discussion because I would like you to do that in the comments. What are some works, from movies to webcomics to novels, that have done it well and what are some that were more hit and miss? Why do you think so?
We'd love to know!
DON'T FORGET TO SIGN UP FOR YOUR #TWITTER_FEATURE! PQ ME AND BOOK YOUR SUNDAY!
Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, July 14, 2018
©2011 WOWIO, Inc. All Rights Reserved Google+