How Much Violence Can You Take?

When I first began to write GIRL IN THE ARENA, my answer to that question was always: Not much. But how do you write a book about a girl who lives in a violent culture, whose own family is at the heart of that violence, and keep turning your head away? So I began to watch movies I might not have watched before. And I didn’t turn away as much on some news items on TV. I began to see that if a movie involved large scale explosions in which jumbo portions of cities were being taken out, that I could sit back and watch the whole thing as special effects, makeup, the use of miniatures, and computer manipulation. melonsBut when it was a violence in which one person brings all of his or her power and cruelty and wrath to bear over another person–in which victimization is central–as in Let There Be Blood, I walked away feeling nauseous and shaken, despite or because of Daniel Day Lewis’s remarkable performance and those horrible (read good) sound effects. I kept telling myself, imagine someone off set, cracking open watermelons and cantalopes but it just didn’t work–I could hear only heads smashing. Of course there are many shades on the violence spectrum. I’ve started watching True Blood this year. Though sometimes it’s riotously funny, and holds up many fascinating social mirrors, there are moments when it’s simply over the top. Maybe that’s when I start to wonder if my willingness to explore a dark topic has created some fundamental shift that I had carefully resisted. And if, as a culture, we have been making a steady shift in the last couple of decades, and if children tend to shift along with us, without giving this much thought, because it is just life as they know it.

essay copyright, lise haines

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  1. RKCharron says:

    Hi :)
    Thanks for an interesting blog post.
    I think Nietzsche said it best, that if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you. Also, the abyss doesn’t change but you do. I think it is true that people can become inured to violence through constant exposure.
    I look forward to reading GIRL IN THE ARENA, it sounds terrific.
    All the best,
    twitter: @RKCharron