When Violence is Good


Stay away

I watched Episode 5 of The Missing (Series 2, BBC One). The episode is fast becoming known for its violent ending. The series, which focuses on investigations into missing children, does not often feature violence so this episode came as a hammer blow. Some have criticised the violence shown but I think that this is one of those rare occasions when violence is good.

When it comes to violence in TV and films I’m a big wuss. I’m squeamish and I can’t watch anything too graphic, certainly not The Walking Dead. Generally, I hate seeing violence on screen (or anywhere else) and in most cases I regard it as unnecessary and cheap. But in The Missing I think it was completely justified. For me it falls into the same category as the violence in Psycho, Hitchcock’s movie masterpiece. Firstly, in both cases, the violence arises naturally from the story and characters. Secondly, it comes as a shock to the audience at a point when shock is essential. In both The Missing and Psycho the early stages of the story have been all about relationships and emotional drama, lulling viewers into thinking that they know what they’re in for. The sudden violence tells us that anything could happen; vital to maximise suspense in later scenes. Thirdly, we only think we see extreme violence. In reality we have seen very little; most of the violence we have created for ourselves in our own minds. This is all down to exceptional writing and directing. (For The Missing; Harry and Jack Williams and Tom Shankland. For Psycho; Robert Bloch and Alfred Hitchcock).

In both of these cases the violence is utterly shocking and this is when violence in drama is good. Violence is supposed to be shocking. In real life, it’s always shocking. If we ever get to the point where real life violence is no longer shocking then we’re in big trouble. Equally violence in drama is not good when it’s not shocking. It’s not good when it’s casual, when it’s glamorous, when it’s cool, when it’s easy. When it’s Miami Vice.






Published by Jon Kenna

Author of two novels; 'Ghost Road' and 'Mr. Mad' plus 'Susan Shocks' a book of stories for children. All available from amazon.co.uk

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