Friday, May 2, 2008

Comments About a TV Show You Don't Watch

You ever notice how you sort of "discover" a new cable channel?  One that you never watched before, but then, all of a sudden, you find yourself watching everything on it?  Over the years, I've done that with A&E, Bravo, Discovery, and, most recently BBC America.

And as part of my ongoing "What?  There's a series on BBC America I don't watch?" kick, I took a look at a show called "Wire in the Blood."

It follows a psychologist who gets himself attached to a police department because of his ability to profile bad guys by really getting into their heads based on the evidence of their crimes alone.  (In some ways, the protagonist falls into the same camp as House and Monk -- in that he, like them, bears a resemblance to Sherlock Holmes in his quite nifty ability to make apparently amazing deductions from what he sees, and also has some level of social awkwardness which apparently goes along for the ride when you're carrying that sort of brilliance.) 

I digress.  "Wire in the Blood."  Psychologist cop.  Profiling bad guys.  Generally, serial bad guys (because what's the use of profiling a one-time-only killer?)

I discover that I'm jumping into this show in its fifth season, and it's good enough for me to add the first few seasons to my Netflix queue.

And here's where we get to the reason for this particular journal entry:  The customer reviews of this thing, particularly the first episode of the first season, all have one thing in common.  They say the show is "graphic."  Some of them like the show; some of them would like the show were it not for the graphic depictions of violence.  But like it or hate it, everyone says it is hard-core.  I give you a few select quotes:  "It was much more graphically disgusting than I wanted."  "Other series have handled these types of plots without lingering shots of the brutal acts."  " ... it may cross over the edge for some viewers."  "Yes, it is graphic at times."  "If you don't like Graphic, you won't like this."  "British sense of graphic depiction ...."  And that's just culled from the first page of reviews.

I got a little worried.  I mean, nice taut thrillers are one thing, but I don't really dig graphic depictions of violence.  Films in the same genre as, say, "Saw" or "Hostel" are way not for me.  I realize some people go in for that sort of thing, but ... no.  So, with the netflix community all telling me that this was going to be (to quote the first review one reads) "hardcore" and "could make one vomit," it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I added this thing to my queue.  The DVD arrived and I made of point of watching it with the lights on.

Result:  Not graphic.  Not remotely graphic.  Actually went out of its way to be not at all graphic, considering the subject matter.  For a minute there, I was wondering if I'd received some "edited for wussy American viewers" disc, but no.

Let me explain.  Our first serial killer likes to torture people.  And I'm using the word "torture" in an "old school" sort of way.  Rack.  Judas Chair.  That sort of thing.  These are items which are, by their very nature, unpleasant.  Seriously.  Just reading a description of how these devices worked makes you really question humans as a species, given that we could come up with these sorts of ideas as things to do to our fellow humans. 

Thing is -- what you get on the show is, for lack of a better phrase, a visual description of said items.  You see the killer building the Judas Chair.  You see the killer putting his victim in said chair.  You see a close-up of the victim's face as he screams.  You ultimately see the victim's body when discovered dumped thereafter.  What do you not see?  The graphic depiction of the Judas Chair in action.  In fact, our serial killer videotapes his victims and sends the tapes to the police.  So, you're watching the tape of the victim as the killer prepares to torture him, but right when it's going to pull back from his face and actually show you the guy being tortured, it actually (I am not making this up) replaces the image with a digitized green line-drawing computer simulation of a dude being tortured, rather than the actual dude being tortured.

Don't get me wrong, it's not like I felt cheated by not having to watch a guy being tortured.  But when everyone warned me of "graphic" depictions of violence, I really don't think they were referring to "computer graphic" depictions of violence.

Point is:  The people making this show went to an awful lot of effort to not show me blood spurting, bonesbreaking, limbs dislocating, bodies being mutilated, and all the other disgusting things that go along with someone being tortured to death -- and yet, it seems like nearly everyone who watches it thinks they saw it anyway.

I find this remarkable.  (Which is why I'm remarking on it.)  Watch a killer slowly build a torture device, cut to the victim's face as he screams and your mind fills in the blanks for you.  You're no idiot.  You know what's going on without seeing it, and your brain is so grossed out by the very concept, you walk away thinking that you've seen the imagery itself, although you really haven't.  You're an active participant in freaking yourself out. 

And the fact that so many viewers are so sure that they saw lingering graphic depictions of brutality when they really didn't is testament to how freakin' brilliant "Wire in the Blood" is as the thriller it's meant to be.  Not to mention a fairly accurate demonstration of its thesis of how damn powerful a tool the mind really is.

1 comment:

rdautumnsage said...

Love the write up you gave this show, I'm definitely going to check it out sometime, for the very reason people seem to be put off by it. It sounds like they did a brilliant job of helping you image what goes on. (Hugs) Indigo