Recently, at the grocery store, stocking up on healthy snacks for my youngest, I got a hankering for a little self-indulgence. There was an on-sale display of Dove lotion. I should immediately have thought of their inspirational Campaign for Real Beauty. Instead, a creepy voice in my head said, “It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.” Thanks, Hollywood.
I’m generally all in favor of creative expression, but there are images that infest my subconscious and surface with disturbing regularity. Ever seen the movie The Human Centipede? I haven’t, but I read a review of it once. Now I feel nauseated whenever I see a centipede, a caterpillar, or even a Very Hungry Caterpillar. Ever read The Exorcist? There are things—and this may be difficult to accept—that were too horrible to include in the movie. And a jaw-dropping couple hours spent with the film Seven means I can never look at a little tree air freshener without shuddering.
I want to propose some sort of gentlewoman’s agreement about such images, but I know where that can lead. Our generation is terrible at censorship (witness Facebook’s willingness to show beheadings but not breastfeeding).
If we fail to show the terrible impact of humanitarian crises—such as the gassing of Syrian children or the effects of Typhoon Haiyan—we might delay or deny a helpful response. And one of the most haunting images in my psyche is from Elie Wiesel’s factual account of the horrors of the Holocaust in his book Night. We know what happens to those who forget their history.
It seems to me that we’ve all become a bit coarser in our sensibilities, and I fear that the more extreme the images we see or read in fiction, the less we want to respond to the real horrors that plague our world. Or maybe I’m just a big, fat chicken.
Photo: Alexey Klementiev/PhotoXpress