The Overkill of 'Bill'
My teenage son and his friend can't stop talking about "Kill Bill," the recent film by Quentin Tarantino. Heads and limbs chopped off by swords, blood splattering all over the screen -- to me, it was overkill. But when we went to see the film, the crowd exploded with joy at such scenes. No doubt there will be a sequel, and scores of people will gladly line up to hand over their $9.50.
I'm no stranger to scenes of gruesome violence. I produce a news show called "Mosaic: News from the Middle East" for Link TV. Since 9/11, I do not recall a peaceful week around the globe. Images of death and destruction are vivid on Arab satellite television networks. Yet here in the United States, our own television networks make exceptional efforts to shelter viewers from such real-life scenes.
Images of a Palestinian infant removed from beneath the rubble of an apartment building flattened by an Israeli missile; pictures of an Israeli bus driver's bloodied torso dangling outside his bus, blown to smithereens by a suicide bomber; the limbless bodies of Chechen rebels and their hostages inside a Russian theatre; dead Iraqi bodies after an errant smart bomb hit their neighborhood -- such scenes are the norm on Arab satellite television networks, where 280 million people in 22 countries tune in on a daily basis.
Here in the United States, close to 3,000 people perished in the World Trade Center terrorist attacks, yet not a single body was shown on American TV. Millions of Americans watched the War on Iraq through the lenses of embedded journalists who gave almost no coverage to the human toll and the suffering that advancing armies left behind. A glorious victory and a sanitized war is what the U.S. media has been projected to its audiences.
For the first time ever, in the second Gulf War, CNN, FOX and all other major networks had to rely on Arab TV network coverage of besieged Iraqi cities, but still showed little of the death, destruction and horror. "Americans do not have a stomach for these scenes," I was told by a fellow journalist. Another TV producer for a major U.S. network told me that showing images of death and devastation in a news report would turn off advertisers.
Meanwhile, millions of dollars are spent in Hollywood on visual effects to capture the best scenes simulating blood, gore, death and destruction. And millions of Americans snake in lines around movie houses, eager to receive their 90 minutes of thrill for just under 10 bucks.
PNS contributor Jamal Dajani is director of Middle Eastern programming at Link TV.