6 TV Showrunners Open Up About On-Screen Violence in an Emmy Roundtable Discussion
On-screen violence is a touchy and controversial topic -- even for a veteran indie filmmaking maverick like Quentin Tarantino. However, 6 drama writer/creators, Alex Gansa, (Homeland), Aaron Sorkin (The Newsroom), D.B. Weiss (Game of Thrones), Beau Willimon (House of Cards), Kevin Williamson (The Following), and Matthew Weiner (Mad Men) sit down for a roundtable discussion for The Hollywood Reporter to talk openly and candidly about the subject of TV violence, as well as what it's like to run some of the most popular shows on television.
There are plenty of sentiments, beliefs, and opinions surrounding the pervasion of violence on TV and film -- where it comes from, what effect it has on viewers, and who is ultimately held responsible when the fictional violence becomes real? This Hollywood Reporter interview gives viewers an inside look at what the creators of not only the shows, but the scripted violence as well, think about what goes on-screen. It's an interesting opportunity to peer through the exclusive point of view of a showrunner. Check out this snippet about television violence from the interview below:
There are several points made here, one being that some TV shows are just not made for young viewers and it is the parents' responsibility to regulate what their children are watching or not watching. Williamson explains,
When children watch violent television -- there are tests and studies about it -- it makes them more aggressive. So, it is really up to adults to monitor their children's viewing habits. The Following is not for children. Parents should turn the TV off or turn the channel.
Sorkin adds an interesting dimension by discussing Hollywood's influence on the culture. Through writers and creators of media, the mythology that glamorized some violent events in our history, like WWII, was created. Weiner questions the validity of the claim that TV violence makes people violent who aren't naturally violent. In a rather tongue-in-cheek yet astute example, he brings up the fact that those involved in the Crusades had only "plays and stained-glass windows" to entertain them.
Willamon mentions the double standard he sees in opinions of violence against humans versus animals by stating,
People had no problem seeing on House of Cards some of the ways people behaved emotionally or physically violent to one another. But we killed a dog in the first 30 seconds and people freaked out. You can kill as many human beings as you want in 30 seconds and no one gives a crap. But you kill an animal -- you don't even show it on-screen and people flip out.
We all know it's difficult to talk about these issues -- especially violence in media. When we experience, witness, or hear about violence, television, film, music, and video games are easy scapegoats. However, it's important to look at all aspects of our culture that may be affecting children and the rest of society negatively.
To hear more from these showrunners about violence in television as well as how changes in showrunners affects shows and what it's like to work in television, check out the full interview below.
What do you think about this controversial topic? How much responsibility should filmmakers, TV show creators, and writers take for the violence in their work? Do you think media is used as a scapegoat, or do you think that media is partially (or completely) to blame for violence in our culture?