Alright, I’ve reached my limit. I really don’t know what the hell is going on with American TV and decency standards anymore. Like, the disparity between sex/swearing and horrific, brutal, sickening violence has gotten so wide and bizarre, I have to try and really understand it.
This was spurred by Hannibal, of course, which has been doing its best to gross out viewers with gory, elaborate crime scenes for two seasons now. But in recent weeks, the show has moved past bodies full of beehives or killers playing the cello on a corpse’s cut throat, and have moved into more active violence so shocking that I cannot believe is allowed on network TV. Spoilers for the most recent Hannibal episodes follow.
Last week (read David R’s review here), Hannibal finally took down his latest foe, the “rude” meat magnate, Mason Verger (played with gleeful insanity by Michael Pitt). In the episode, Hannibal bests Verger with the help of Will Graham, and then force feeds him hallucinogens that make him immune to pain and open to suggestion. When Graham arrives at his house, he watches Verger CUTTING OFF PIECES OF HIS FACE AND FEEDING THEM TO HIS DOGS at Hannibal’s request.
I’ve seen a lot of violence on TV and in movies, but this was probably one of the most stomach churning things I’ve seen onscreen, possibly ever. Understand my point here. I don’t blame Hannibal for doing this or being as ultra violent as they can be. This Verger plotline is in both the books and Hannibal the film (though we don’t literally see him cutting his face off there, we hear about it after he’s disfigured). It deserves to have its due on the show as well.
That said, even airing Friday nights at 10 PM I’m absolutely stunned that the FCC allows something like this on network TV.
Even though violence is more allowable than other “sins” as a rule on TV, this goes above and beyond even what I’ve seen on FX or HBO. You are watching a man CUT OFF HIS NOSE AND EAT IT. I understood when Hannibal was just gory crime scenes, but now? This? I’m stunned.
And even more outrageous is when you compare it to those other categories, sex and swearing. You’re telling me that you’re allowed to show a man cutting off his nose on TV, but it would just be too “mature” if he said “Fuck that hurts!”? The same goes for sex/nudity. Hannibal is forced to have a PG-13, Twilight-esque love affair with Dr. Bloom, but he can chop a man’s legs off and feed them to him for dinner?
The only way I can explain this away through twisted FCC logic is that the violence is fake while the nudity and swearing would be “real.” Like, any violence that takes place on the show if obviously all special effects and make-up. But boobs are boobs. An f-bomb is an f-bomb. There’s no “pretend” version of either of those.
Still, that’s incredibly stupid. When you’re watching a show, particularly a good one like Hannibal, you’re so engrossed that what’s real and what isn’t no longer matters. The violence IS real in that moment, otherwise it wouldn’t be cringe-inducing and sickening. That’s a really idiotic rationale, and I honestly can’t think of show that better illustrates this bizarre disparity than Hannibal. Do you agree?