Thursday, February 22, 2007

Less Torture in "24"

We used to watch "24" every week but a couple of years ago we stopped because of the torture scenes. I just don't enjoy watching programs where people are tortured. Once or twice might be okay but it was getting to the point where every show had a scene where someone was tortured.

We weren't alone. Quite a few of our friends also stopped watching. It's not that we're opposed to violence on television—far from it. I think there's lot of shows where violence is quite appropriate and good entertainment. (I feel the same way about sex, by the way.) But I don't have to watch if I don't like it and I choose not to watch "24".

Gail Shister now reports in the Philadelphia Inquirer ['24' tamps down the torture] that the show is cutting back on the violence.
Fox's 24 will become less torturous, but not because the U.S. military, human rights groups and children's advocates want it to....

The decision to cut back on torture is driven by creativity, not criticism, according to Gordon. In its sixth season, 24 has become so torture-heavy that it borders on cliche, he says.

"What was once an extraordinary or exceptional moment is starting to feel a little trite. The idea of physical coercion or torture is no longer a novelty or surprise.

"It's not something that we, as writers, want to use as a crutch. We'd like to find other ways for Jack to get information out of suspects," says Gordon. "Our appetite has decreased. Personally, I think the audience may be tiring of it as well. My wife says it's too much."
"Cliché?" That's a strange word to use. The audience that I know hasn't gotten "tired" of torture. We've gotten disgusted by it.

I hope they stick to their promise. If they really are going to cut back on the torture (but not necessarily other violence) then I'll start watching again.


  1. The whole swing towards more torture in 24 was doubtless just crass commercial pandering, a reaction to the popularity of movies like Saw and Hostel. Remember this is the entertainment business. There's no need to attribute anything they do to anything other than the almighty dollar.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Made a weird typo in the original. Fixed

    The thing is though, the torture in the original Saw was much more cerebral and psychological than what is seen typically. That movie was far less graphically violent than the majority of horror/thriller flicks of the time, but it ended up much more effective because of the mind games the approach allowed the writers to play.

    The torture used in more typical fair like 24, and even getting into the later movies in the Saw series, were just sensationalist in nature, intended to capture viewers on shock value alone, and that is the problem with the 24 approach: it's uncreative and limiting, and keeps the viewer at an emotional distance.

  4. Heather Mallick wrote a column about this issue earlier this week. She gives some revealing background on the politics of the show's creator, Joel Surnow. Guy sounds like a real piece of work (and an example of today's column by Neil MacDonald).

    Me, I've watched exactly one episode, sans torture.

  5. I don't think it had much to do with movies like Saw and Hostel, and more a like they said, becoming a writing crutch; an easy device to move the story forward. I personally love the show, but I was beginning to roll my eyes with every new torture scene. It's going to be interesting seeing how a character they've established as not having too much of problem with it in seasons past suddenly has a crisis of conscience and backs off of it. We've seen a little bit of that so far this season, but they've got a ways to go.