Spoilers for The Walking Dead comic and TV series, Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire.
When I was younger I really like horror movies. Every Halloween I would have a group of friends over and we would watch movies all night long. My favorites were The Nightmare on Elm Street movies, but I liked them all. Start out with a group of characters, whittle them down until only one or two are left, then beat the bad guy.
Pop culture commentator Tara Ariano says that what you get out of these movies is catharsis, and she’s right. You deal with fear, anger, work through it and feel better at the end. That was certainly true for me.
As I got older my tastes in these things grew more selective. I liked the Alien movies, then came Pitch Black which I thought was absolutely astounding.
From here I moved on to other things, my favorite of which was The Walking Dead comic. I loved the revolving cast of characters, the situation, the sense that anyone could die (and did!) at any moment.
However, as time went along, instead of developing a high tolerance for horror, I started to lose my ability to deal with it a little bit, lost the ability to shut out the grimness and enjoy the story. Instead of becoming desensitized, my triggers got a little more sensitive.
And one of those triggers was violence against children. I made it though a mother and a baby being shot to death, an eight-year-old twin murdering his other twin and then being shot in the head by another eight-year-old. What finally did me in was when a little boy who was running from zombies pissed himself, then was eaten while his mother tried to save herself.
That was it for me, I couldn’t deal with the grimness anymore and dropped the series.
Before this, however, came the tv series. At the start I loved it for all the same reasons I’d loved the comic series. All the death didn’t get to me. And then came the plotline where a little girl ran away, was turned into a zombie, and had to be shot in the head. I couldn’t deal with the tv series anymore and dropped it too.
In an ongoing story like this, there is no catharsis, no sense that we’ve pulled through and everything will be ok soon. It’s just one more grim situation after another.
From this, death in stories itself started to bug me more and more.
I love the Song of Ice and Fire series, but all the death there is starting to get to me too. Martin has killed off all the interesting, noble characters and replaced them with those that are much less compelling. I wanted this series to be about the triumph of the Stark family, and now the Starks are (mostly) dead. I understand that good stories don’t necessarily give readers what they think they want, but it would be nice if the good guys could get a win sometime. Then Martin goes and kills who I thought was the main character, the only one left who was fighting the good fight that needed to be fought. Just kills him dead with no warning. And I don’t know if I can deal with this series anymore. Too grim.
From here comes the Game of Thrones TV Series, based on the books. Now I haven’t seen any season 3 episodes because I don’t have HBO and am watching on Blue-Ray a year later. This series has been even more grim than the books, and talk about violence against children. They’ve slaughtered a baby, among others. In many ways the TV series has gone beyond the books in the violence they are willing to portray, but maybe it’s just the difference between reading it and seeing it.
Come this last week’s episode and the red wedding. Like I said, I haven’t seen the episode, but I knew it was coming, and I wondered how they would deal with it. If anything it seems like it goes beyond what happened in the books. They gut a pregnant lady. That did not happen in A Storm of Swords.
So now I don’t know if I can go on with this series either. Too grim. I don’t need more grim in my life. I have enough issues with mental stability as it is.
I know death is necessary in fiction. I killed off a little kid in my first published story. But there needs to be some hope in there, some catharsis, or it just overwhelms. And I don’t need to be overwhelmed by that any more.