"It is death that is spinning the globe."
Death is our common companion. The well-meaning protectors are misguided in their reasoning for removing cinematic death and violence from theater and television. They wrongly seek to preserve innocent minds as they would fine china, never letting them out into the world to acquire a few scratches. But although the rationale of the protectors is off, their ends should probably be met. For the scripted and acted deaths are miles from reality.
While I'm sure I had seen a hundred 'deaths' on television before then, those of knights, cowboys, and space-invaders, it was the deaths of my grandmothers that first exposed mortality to me. The first grandmother I saw made up artificially and surrounded by flowers in her casket. The second grandmother I saw frozen, twisted and real in her hospital bed. These are two images I will never be able to get out of my head, nor should I even try.
These are not the images we see from our living room sofas or reserved-in-advance recliner-style AMC movie theater seats. Here final words of encouragement for the living are uttered by an actor holding the wound in their chest before their head droops as if for a nap. Here the blood of the anonymous conquered is splattered upwards, and the camera pan follows to show the gnarled, dark face of the antagonist or the handsome, white-toothed face of the protagonist. The slumped actor is a minor plot point, and the death of the extra is an insignificant blink; a quickly snuffed candle. While the film crew, whether HBO or CNN, packs up to follow the fighting down the road, human beings lay moaning or silenced in open fields and shell-pocked streets. Whether they are portrayed in our fiction or our non-fiction as the good dead guys or the bad dead guys matters nil to the weeping families, the families that must mourn them if they died, or tend to their emotional and physical damage if they lived.
What sympathy these scenes would build if, indeed, that were the goal. The sad truth of it all is an elephant that has been stomping about the room unacknowledged for centuries. Building sympathy for the redemptive hero is not and has never been the goal. Tug on the high-cheek boned face of the knight whose armor shines through mud and blood and you will find his tan-but-not-too-tan skin peels off under your fingers. Gasp when you look up and see the sweaty, disheveled beard, hideous scars and wild, black eyes staring at you. For your hero and your villain are the same man. They are both yours, and they are you.
For in the two hours that The Joker holds an entire city at his mercy, we ride shotgun and feel that power vicariously. While Popeye fumbles for a can of spinach, we project on Bluto the Rapist "our own repressed anger, violence, rebelliousness or lust" and revel in the evil of it all. For fifty eight minutes in a Game of Thrones episode we indulge in the slaughter of the extras, before Jon Snow sends the baddies retreating until next week. He suppresses the evil we created in the first fifty eight, and in the final two minutes we have room to repress again our inner tendencies.
He who went outside the power structure in greed and lust (the criminal), is pushed back by he that went outside the power structure for more noble aims (the vigilante). Credits roll before we have a second to ponder how we got there. The lights come back up before we can consider how the villain was created, why we tune in every week for the slaughter, or an alternative way to fight evil beyond the violent methods that evil naturally prefers.
(quotes from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and The Myth of Redemptive Violence)