Media Literacy

X-Rated Tor Gruesome

Delaney Ruston, MD
July 26, 2022
3 teen girls watching a scary movie, hiding their eyes

These days, an important topic regarding media offerings is the intensity of gore and shockingly disturbing violence in popular shows. We know that kids are often freaked out by gore, but they become increasingly accustomed to it with age. For many teens, it can be quite appealing.  

So today, I’m interested in looking at where we are at this moment in time when it comes to violence in shows. I also want to dig into the future of violence in shows. When our kids have kids (if they do), will these gory shows be as easy to access as they are now? Will they be 10% more intense? 50%?

Take the two most popular Netflix series of all time. Can you guess what they are? "Squid Game" is number one, and "Stranger Things" falls not too far behind.  

Like millions of others, my daughter excitedly tuned in to the first episode of the fourth season of "Stranger Things" this summer. When she reemerged from watching, I asked how it was. She said she was disappointed because it was way more violent and gruesome than in previous seasons and just not as good as before. My son, also a fan of the show, didn't notice a significant change. He told me about the gruesome death scenes and said he closed his eyes during them.

When Squid Game first came out, my heart sank. No part of me could watch a show with scenes of human torture. Seeing adults in agony from being humiliated and psychologically tortured or forced to kill people they care about is too intense for me. I watched some non-violent moments of the series to understand the draw and saw that its suspense and drama were well done.

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Millions of people love "Squid Games," which tells us something about the human brain and our emotions. There is something very primal about seeing others undergoing worst-case scenarios. We know this is fiction and our brains can enjoy witnessing horrific scenarios because we know it’s all made up. Of course, many viewers come for the suspense and drama and are only putting up with the super intense gory scenes. 

Scary and gory shows come at a price. I remember when my son was at a friend’s house, and they watched a gruesome horror film together, and he was upset for several days. He told me he couldn’t get the images out of his head. 

Some youth tell me how they walk away from peers when watching something they don’t want to see. Some tell me how they look away. I ask them, “Do you plug your ears?” I hope they say "yes," and I remind them to do so if they don't.

I will be the first to say that I am on the far side of the bell curve regarding sensitivity to violence and gore in shows. I am glad I have learned to be very intentional about what I watch. I’ll always leave the room if something on TV makes me upset.

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I remember sneaking into the horror movie “Halloween" as a tween. However, I always regretted doing that because when I was alone, images from the film circulated through my mind, and things like babysitting became much less enjoyable — (Was that the wind? Erg, what was that???).

While my kids were growing up, I talked about the risks of watching these shows. As parents, we limited access to violent content as best we could, but we also knew that at a certain age, our kids would find this content themselves, whether at a friend’s house or online. It became important to teach them to be mindful and choose their media consumption for themselves. They learned to ask themselves what is worth watching and what might cause more harm than good.

Shows and movies now are more intense than ever before. When discussing these types of shows the other day with a group of friends, I asked, “When are we going to have an X-Rating for Gruesome?”

Questions to get the conversation started:

  1. In 10 years from now, how much more intense, in terms of violence and gore, do you think shows will be?
  2. What might explain why watching violent and scary things can appeal to so many of us?
  3. Have you seen films or shows that you wish you hadn't? What, if any, violent images stick in your head? 
  4. Fortunately, the power of scary scenes tends to fade with time. Can we think of any examples of this we’ve experienced?
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Media Literacy

X-Rated Tor Gruesome

Delaney Ruston, MD
July 26, 2022
3 teen girls watching a scary movie, hiding their eyes

These days, an important topic regarding media offerings is the intensity of gore and shockingly disturbing violence in popular shows. We know that kids are often freaked out by gore, but they become increasingly accustomed to it with age. For many teens, it can be quite appealing.  

So today, I’m interested in looking at where we are at this moment in time when it comes to violence in shows. I also want to dig into the future of violence in shows. When our kids have kids (if they do), will these gory shows be as easy to access as they are now? Will they be 10% more intense? 50%?

Take the two most popular Netflix series of all time. Can you guess what they are? "Squid Game" is number one, and "Stranger Things" falls not too far behind.  

Like millions of others, my daughter excitedly tuned in to the first episode of the fourth season of "Stranger Things" this summer. When she reemerged from watching, I asked how it was. She said she was disappointed because it was way more violent and gruesome than in previous seasons and just not as good as before. My son, also a fan of the show, didn't notice a significant change. He told me about the gruesome death scenes and said he closed his eyes during them.

When Squid Game first came out, my heart sank. No part of me could watch a show with scenes of human torture. Seeing adults in agony from being humiliated and psychologically tortured or forced to kill people they care about is too intense for me. I watched some non-violent moments of the series to understand the draw and saw that its suspense and drama were well done.

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