Happy New Year, dear friends.
In the course of my daily perusing (i.e., wasting time), I came across this article discussing a Russian reality show called, “Game2: Winter.” Essentially, the concept is to dump thirty contestants in Siberia for months and whoever emerges alive at the end of the show being awarded a cash prize. It is being touted by its producer as a show where anything goes. From the advert for contestants:
“Each contestant gives consent that they could be maimed, even killed,” reads an advert. “2000 cameras, 900 hectares and 30 lives. Everything is allowed. Fighting, alcohol, murder, rape, smoking, anything.”
I did chuckle that they placed smoking on the same moral plane as rape and murder.
The show offers the disclaimer that it still takes place on the territory of the Russian Federation and all crimes are prosecutable as such under Russian law. The show simply says all contestants will sign a waiver not to hold the show responsible for any harm that may befall them, up to and including death.
It may turn out to be nothing. Still, the idea that it is even being advertised is a pretty far down the road to honest-to-God gladitorial games. Trust the Russians.
(Muse: Westerners must be crazy to keep fucking around with these people. They’re nuts.)
You don’t have to convince me. I think it must have something to do with the cold. The Vikings and Mongols came from cold climates and they seemed perpetually pissed off too.
Anyway, this got me thinking about sex and violence (and sexy violence and violent sex) as forms of entertainment. What is it about this that appeals to people?
At the baseline, I think is has something to do with the most visceral elements of our collective sub-conscious. I think I’ve said before on this blog that humans are less fallen angels and more risen apes. At our core, we’re animals and try as society might, some of those based animal instincts are very hard to overcome.
(I believe those instincts also are at the root of racist tendencies but that’s beyond the scope of this entry. Maybe later.)
Sex and violence are very powerful forces in nature–fundamental, in fact. In the animal kingdom, most issues are solved with one or the other. I don’t think we just left it behind when we, *ahem*, evolved.
(Muse: You give yourself a lot of credit, knuckle-dragger.)
Society puts limits on humanities sex and violence, since unrestrained, either could end society as a whole. Because there are limits, I think we seek surrogates, whether directly or subconsciously. I know more than one person who, while stating they are angry enough to kill someone, wouldn’t really do it. Those violent tendencies are part of all our nature and they can’t be completely suppressed.
Enter public violence.
Public displays of violence have been mainstreamed for centuries. Call it gladiator games, knightly tournaments, human sacrifice on Mesoamerican altars, or the Chinese torture of lingchi (Death of a Thousand Cuts)…the end result is that people historically found ways to participate, in a spectator sense, in violence. I believe that in some ways, being able to cheer on those acts in some way satisfies our own bloodthirsty hearts.
(There also those who say they are angry enough to kill someone who I believe would actually do it, if they could. That is a darker aspect of society, that I will have to tackle in another entry.)
We like these bloodsports because they call back to our primitive nature, to the parts we’ve suppressed as part of being part of “civilization.” In a way. they are societies safety valves, much the way an engine has an exhaust, to bleed off excess thirsts for violence before it becomes a societal problem.
As for sex…well, they don’t call it the world’s oldest profession for nothing. Most societies have tolerated prostitution to some extent since the dawn time, because the alternative is trying to cap a force that just isn’t cap-able. And before you think that I am slamming just the men for being driven by their hormones, I will say that if there were a sudden shortage in men, women would be as bad or worse in finding male hookers…they simply generally enjoy being on the right side of the supply-demand situation right now.
(There is a widespread belief that after the adult male population in Paraguay was all but wiped out in the War of the Triple Alliance (1870-ish), that polygamy became the de facto rule for a few years, if not the legal one, because of the shortage of men. This PDF references it (on page 15) but I was too lazy to track it to the source material.)
(Muse: Is that your way of saying you’d welcome a war so you could get more wives?)
Hell no. The ideal number of wives is zero or one.
These bleeds over into writing in spec fiction. Even though I have heard that the market for grimdark is saturated, I see no shortage in people gobbling it up, along with all the gore and semi-porn contained within. (Of course, the success of things like A Song of Fire and Ice have encouraged even more of it.)
(Muse: So what about you?)
Well, I try to subscribe to the Anton Chehkov theory of “Remove everything that has no relevance to the story.” In other words, if a scene with gratuitous sex or violence doesn’t need to be in there, I don’t include it. Or try not to.
(Muse: Chekhov’s gun?)
Not quite, though I like the technique and am a loose adherent. Just more that if you want to have sex and violence in your story, they should be relative and contextual for the setting and characters. Tossing them in for gratuitous action is boring. At the same time, I would be equally critical for someone cutting it out for the sake of squeamishness over story integrity.
Those are my rambling thoughts on the matter. I don’t think I’ll bother with the Russian reality show. I suspect the hype will be more than the reality.
But it wouldn’t surprise me to see something akin to Battle Royale / Hunger Games in my lifetime. Just because we’re apes. And sometimes, we want to see a little blood spilled.
Until next time, friends.