GUEST BLOG: Julia Madeleine – The Seduction of Violence

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The Seduction of Violence By Julia Madeleine

I like violence. I like it in movies, on my TV and in books. I like MMA fighting. It gives me an adrenaline rush, increases my heart rate, has me holding my breath, my entire body tensing. I like Jason Statham, old marital arts movies with Bruce Lee, Steven Segal, Jackie Chan. I like watching women kick ass. My favourite move fight scene was the one in True Romance where Patricia Arquette’s character is getting the crap beat out of her by some thug played by James Gandolfini, and she’s standing there with blood pouring down her face, barley conscious and she laughs at him and gives him the finger. It was a primal and bloody David and Goliath moment where she eventually takes him down with a corkscrew to the foot and then beats him to death. Fantastic!

I like shows about serial killers. The Dexter series is brilliant. I like Hannibal “The Cannibal”. The scene in Red Dragon where The Tooth Fairy sets his victim on fire and sends him hurdling down the street in a wheel chair was crazy. The Spartacus series is another favourite TV series with all its sex, blood and extreme gore. The episode where the guy got his face sliced off and his brain slid out blew me away. I thought that was amazing.

I like writing violent scenes in my stories, torturing my characters, and hopefully, my readers a little bit. At least evoking emotion from my readers–anger, horror, dread, empathy, etc. I’ve had people say strange things to me after reading one of my stories like how they wouldn’t want to get on my bad side, somehow confusing me, the writer, with my character. Yet, I’m not a violent person. I’m peaceful. I would never intentionally hurt anyone, even if they’d wronged me and would have deserved a good pounding. I’d simply set them on fire in a story to purge any anger, and then I’d meditate, working on forgiveness and understanding.

Violence for me has very clear cut boundaries with well drawn lines of what I find appealing and what I find horrifying or traumatic in a bad way, as I think it does with most people. While I enjoy combat sports like MMA, it’s more about watching two skilled and highly trained fighters battle for supremacy. Witnessing a fight on the street or in a bar for instance, I find upsetting.

In stories and in movies, for me, violence needs to have a purpose. If it’s just violence for its own sake, for the entertainment of it, then I find it a turn off. I didn’t see Hostel and I never watched any of the Saw movies. Had no interest in seeing them. Torture as entertainment seems too much like a snuff film for me. Maybe the Saw movies really aren’t like that, I wouldn’t know because I’ve never seen them. It’s just the impression I get from hearing about them. I didn’t see The Passion Of The Christ. No thanks. I don’t need to watch him being tortured, chunks of his flesh ripped out with hooks. I watched the Ted Bundy movie and after I wished I could have unwatched it. The violence done to young innocent women was stomach turning for me. It left me with a feeling of disgust.

A century ago, and as recent as 1962, we had public hangings in Canada. Families would travel hours to witness it, picnicking with their children. I couldn’t image seeing something like that and not being disturbed by it, in a bad way. Violence involving animals sickens me. I could never watch a bull fight, or a dog fight, don’t agree with the seal hunt, or killing whales for sport. I wouldn’t go to a rodeo, even horse racing has me worried about the welfare of the animals. I won’t eat veal.

I suspect the reason we are so seduced by violence is because we like to be shocked and excited, gripping the edge of our seat, holding our breath, our heart pounding, waiting for what’s coming next. That adrenaline rush can be addictive too. In fact there’s actually a twelve step program for Adrenaline Addiction. Seeing violence might appeal to a very primal part of us somehow; humans it seems have always had a lust for blood, and violence has always been a part of the human experience. If you look at the history of humans, the days of the Romans with their gladiator games, feeding people to lions for sport, the Aztecs with their human sacrifices on the steps of their temples, the bloody Inquisition of the Catholic church. It’s always been with us.

I think we must like to see (in the movies) and read about things that we don’t want to do ourselves or experience in our own lives, yet we want to know about them, learn from them. We like to see people triumph over adversity and we live vicariously through that experience, imagining what we might do in the same situation. And perhaps we need these stories, these violent depictions, to witness good triumphing over evil, to remind us which side we’re on. Or to remind us which side we should be on.


  1. K. A. Laity says:

    I know what you mean; I’ve only been writing crime for a short time, but I started my career in horror many years ago. I can find it dazzling in writing — sliding along that edge, how much is too much, how much has an operatic flair — but in real life I am easily sickened. I think when I went to my first horror con and found all the other writers happy, funny people I discovered that many channel all the rage and violence in their hearts onto the page end up being much healthier. It’s a good thing.

  2. Fantastic scene, one of the best. Love how Alabama unbalances him by laughing maniacally and (when he asks what’s so funny) saying “you look ridiculous!” Desperate, ironic, pretty much perfect.

  3. Nerd of Noir says:

    Give HOSTEL a shot. Yeah, it has some gruesome scenes but it’s a much more interesting horror movie than people assume it to be. It’s got a great first act twist, some strong jokes and suspense and is also roughly four different genres packed into one movie w/o really feeling schizophrenic or tonally off-beat. HOSTELL II is also good but a lot more gross. Neither movie should be lumped in with the SAW franchise. I’m not against torture porn for the sake of torture porn but the SAW movies can’t even do the genre at above a C- level.

  4. Julia: I don’t have a problem with violence in movies/books/etc, but I don’t get a thrill from it. THE WILD BUNCH is a favorite movie, but I’m attracted by the story, acting, and imagery. I prefer the suggestion and subtlety of violence (Mitchum attacking and raping the young woman in the original CAPE FEAR), but I see your point. Good article.