Saturday, October 28, 2017

Violence and Blood on the Scaffold and on BBC TV

The BBC miniseries on the Gunpowder Plot has upset some viewers from the start because it depicts two gruesome executions: a woman, like St. Margaret Clitherow, being crushed to death, and a young Catholic priest, like Saint Alexander Brian or St. Ralph Sherwin, being hanged, and drawn, and quartered. These were brutal, bloody, and horrific sights and in the dramatization, Robert Catesby and Anne Vaux witness these executions.

BBC News reports that audiences were shocked:

A BBC drama about the gunpowder plot has drawn criticism for its violence.

One viewer labelled an execution scene in Gunpowder "grotesque and completely unnecessary", while another called it "one of the most painful things I've ever witnessed on TV".

The drama, starring Game of Thrones' Kit Harington, tells of the 1605 plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament.

The BBC said the offending scenes were "grounded in historical fact" and reflected what took place at the time.

The first episode, shown on Saturday, showed a woman being pressed to death and a priest being disembowelled.

"I'd been really looking forward to #Gunpowder but just had to turn off during the first episode," tweeted one viewer.

But another Twitter user said the drama had to be "graphic & gory... for us to understand the depth of persecution, and why [Robert] Catesby & co did what they did".

It's always interesting to think of what violence people can tolerate; so many action style movies have a great deal of violence. I watched about 30 minutes of a Transformers movie recently and was stunned at the pace, the action, and the violence--but of course most of that is machines attacking each other!

The reason the violence of a woman being stripped and pressed to death or a young man been choked until barely conscious and then being eviscerated and beheaded while still alive is so shocking is that these are victims, enduring this suffering without recourse or resistance. I would presume that these images would be as hard to look at as the scenes of the scourging and crucifixion were in The Passion of Christ, Mel Gibson's movie: the blood, the brutality, the helplessness of the victim are too much for us to bear. Because of modern movie special effects magic, the blood can seem to spurt, the bones to snap, and we can see and hear it to a remarkable degree of verisimilitude.

If the BBC drama shows the executions of the plotters in the last episodes of the series, I wonder if viewers will be just as repelled, knowing what they had planned for their victims: burning to death or being blown up.

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