Posted by: Paul | 04/08/2010

Less is More

Fans of the classic TV show “M*A*S*H” know you don’t hear the show’s infamous laugh track whenever there’s an operating-room scene. Something else you don’t get? A lot of blood and guts.

That struck me recently as I watched the second-season episode “Dear Dad Three.” Hawkeye and Col. Blake have to remove an unexploded grenade from a wounded soldier. We see their worried faces filled with intense concentration. We see their arms tensed as they work. But that’s about it. No zoom shots of the wound, no spurting blood, etc. — the kind of thing we now routinely get in CSI-type forensics shows.

And you know what? You really don’t miss it. The emotion of the scene is intact, and that’s what matters. Indeed, the fact that television standards at the time M*A*S*H aired didn’t allow graphic violence actually made it necessary for directors and producers to be more inventive and more creative at telling the story. Graphic violence doesn’t merely repel — it becomes a visual crutch, a lazy way of conveying information.

I’m not saying there aren’t times and places when screen violence benefits from being a bit more “in your face.” But to have to greatest impact, graphic violence shouldn’t be the norm. More often than not, less is more.

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