Oh the Horror
Throughout the past several months, the horror film Captivity has been released country-by-country around the world (as of today, the film has yet to secure a release date in Australia). This past Friday, July 13th, the movie finally saw its US release and was greeted with a resounding chorus of critics panning the movie as distasteful, disgusting, and demented.
For those of you unfamiliar with Captivity, the film follows the recent trend of shock and torture films that has given birth to the Saw movies, Hostel, and an endless number of gruesome remakes of Hollywood horror classics.
I must admit, although I have seen the first two Saw movies, I am not a fan of this genre. I don't like watching an overt amount of blood and gore in my films, and my preference in the crime and horror genre remains with The X-Files' subtlety and CSI's after-the-fact crime solving. It saddens me that filmmakers are resorting to such gimmicks in crafting horror films, hoping to draw in viewers by promising to push the envelope further than any film before. And although I have made it clear that I am not happy with the amount of violence in the media, I do not believe that censorship is the route to take in rectifying the situation.
As I have been reading reviews of the films in question, as well as commentaries on the genre in general, I have noticed the coining of a new term for this gratuitously violent genre: torture porn.
That offends me.
What the media and critics have done by forcing the phrase "torture porn" into the world's collective consciousness is to kill two birds with one stone. On the one hand, the phrase conjures up images of gratuitous, realistic violence. On the other hand, they are slyly condemning pornography as being as unbearable to watch as any one of these horror films that have proven to be such money-makers. The phrase also implies that all pornography contains some level of violence, equal to or exceeding the amount in these horror films.
What is interesting is how sex negative conservatives have redefined the word "porn" from meaning a sexually explicit genre into one that signifies any gruesome or obscene film. They have created such a panic over the exploitation of porn actors (especially women), child porn (which is unavailable in almost every adult bookstore in the US), and snuff films (which have never even been proven to be a substantial portion of the pornographic market) that the mainstream media and public at large not only believe that all porn is bad, but watching consenting adults engaging in sexual acts on film is no different than watching a fictionalised, gruesome murder. So much so that no one questions what is meant when a journalist or critic uses the phrase, "torture porn."
The implementation of "torture porn," in my mind, runs concurrent to the abundant use of the phrase "that's so gay," or calling someone a "slut" or "whore." As conservatives noticed a proliferation of sexually explicit imagery outside the pornographic realm, the coining of such a term reminds everyone that no matter how socially acceptable porn might seem to be, it is still condemnable and disgusting and you should be ashamed of watching it.