American network TV: Violence vs. Profanity

I live in the UK, and I’ve recently started watching Hannibal. It’s a good show, but my God…the violence is absolutely extraordinary! It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen on TV. So far, I’ve seen

[li] Naked women impaled by deer antlers.[/li][li] A woman getting her eyes gouged out, her corpse mutilated to look like Wound Man (Google it…or don’t)[/li][li] A couple flayed, with the skin of their backs spread out like angel wings.[/li][li] A man with his throat opened exposing the vocal chords, and the neck of a cello jammed into the throat so the victim could literally be ‘played’.[/ul][/li]

All filmed in luscious, almost pornographic detail. But you know what I haven’t seen? A single word of profanity. What’s up with that?

I mean, if you haven’t seen the show then take my word for it; Hannibal is violent and sadistic beyond belief. I’ve never before turned off a show because I literally couldn’t bear what I was seeing, but Hannibal got me to do it on episode 2! But at no point do any of the characters do the one thing I would expect anyone to do in these awful situations and say 'What the fuck is that?!?"

Why is U.S. network TV so blasé about violence but so reluctant to show swearing? It can’t possibly be because the latter is more offensive than the former. Hannibal’s violence is just far too extreme for that to be a possibility, and the lack of swearing detracts from the realism. Anyone got any ideas about this?

A few points:
Hannibal isn’t about realism. It’s much more fairy tale/mythic. Swearing wouldn’t fit the tone the show goes for.
It’s unusually graphic for a network show, most people I know who talk about it compare it to cable/premium shows.
FCC is full of crazy people. IIRC, ‘PG-13’ (13 and up) movies are allowed precisely one ‘fuck’, anything over that is ‘R’ (17 and up) territory.

Lastly, do you even Utopia?

The FCC doesn’t regulate movies. That’s the MPAA.

I knew I was getting something wrong, thanks.

I’m guessing the point is more about violence being beautifully photgraphed pornography …

I have to say I was surprised at the level of gore and violence, and I’ve lived in America my whole life.

Gore sells. Violence sells. And it becomes a race to escalate it, as people become jaded (“only a beheading? Feh.”).

And the FCC responds more to complaints about sexual elements than violent ones. I suspect that a grotesque killing generates more complaints than the use of an obscenity.

It “sells” if you’re young and/or inmature.

Other people prefer being treated like adults.

My excellent wife, bless her heart, loves certain shows that have a degree of gore and violence that turns me away – Bones and Criminal Minds. She reacts negatively, though, to violence and gore in other shows…and I think I know why. On both those favorites, the bad guys eventually are apprehended and punished. She knows that will happen. In other shows with which she is unfamiliar, not knowing the outcome, she is upset that someone is getting away with such monstrous crimes. ??? Maybe?

I’ve always thought that it’s because overprotective parents are afraid of their kids imitating things they’ve seen on TV. Most kids and teens aren’t tempted to do pretty much any of the violent acts they’ve seen on TV, so it’s not as much of a worry for parents. But kids can and will curse, and that can be upsetting for certain parents.

I think it’s the same with sex. Helicopter parents aren’t worried as much about their children becoming a serial killer like a character on Hannibal, but they are worried about them having sex lives, so violence isn’t as big of a deal but sex scenes are. This is of course ignoring the fact that teens don’t need to be inspired by TV in order to want sex, but I think that’s where some of the fear is coming from.

The number of swears thing is a myth, too. There are no set guidelines for exactly what each rating entails, it’s entirely up to whoever in the MPAA is doing the rating for that particular movie. That’s what makes it sometimes seem quite ridiculous.

As for Hannibal, it’s not a good example for American TV violence in general. It’s way more graphic than a typical show. At least for broadcast TV. Cable, and especially premium channels don’t answer to the FCC and are only limited in what they show by the channel’s own standards department. And swearing has gotten really common on cable, even nongraphic shows tend to throw all sorts of “shits” in now.

I’ve often thought that TV and movies (and video games, too) could benefit enormously from having an RSAC-type system. For those who don’t know, the Recreational Software Advisory Council was a competitor (if you can call it that) to the ESRB, the board that rates video games. RSAC ratings were divided into several categories- violence, sex, language, and drugs, I think- and each had four levels, ranging from ‘basically none’ to ‘excessive’; it was a simple, objective system that had very little potential for the kind of wild abuses the MPAA routinely engages in. The FCC content warnings on TV ratings are a step in the right direction- but only a step.