chapter  12
26 Pages

Why Is Middle English Romance So Violent? The Literary and Aesthetic Purposes of Violence

Violence reigns in the twenty-first century, as it did in Laundry’s tale. Recent media producers, particularly of TV, movies, and video games, have been accused of offering excessive violence to lure the young and impressionable. Parents throw up their hands in dismay, asking why cartoons or other programming targeted for children, or adults, for that matter, must feature so much violence. Producers sputter back, “Because it sells!” But why does it sell? Perhaps for several reasons: It offers a vicarious experience of danger, and all its heightened emotion, without actual risk. It provides an alternative, stimulating experience without real-world commitment, which can be visited temporarily, and interrupted for dinner. It shocks, disturbs, and upsets in a meta-reality, which can be entered and left at will. If teen horror movies such as the Friday the Thirteenth series are likened to sex in their emotional and physical thrill, as death is likened to sex in its powerful impact, its stimulating but mysterious nature, then vicarious violence, which similarly thrills, scares, revolts, titillates, and fascinates, generally without personal danger, will like-wise sell.2