I recently re-read ‘The Turn of the Screw’ and it wasn’t as harrowing a read as it was when I first read it. The wonderful thing about books of this style from the 1800s is that for the time it was exceptionally eerie and likely was frightening. The reason I want to write about this rather than flat out review it is that I wanted to discuss how our reactions to frightening books/films or even sexual books, eg Lady Chatterley’s Lover, have changed over time.
The Turn of the Screw is one of the great horror stories of all time – since its publication, it’s been incredibly influential on the genre as a whole. The most amazing thing about it is the way in which James manages to scare the pants off his readers without having to describe any gruesome or terrible things in great detail. Think about it – by leaving most of the creepy stuff up to the reader’s imagination, rather than working unrelentingly to show us what’s so scary, James succeeds in creating a haunting, memorable, and truly eerie story.
Shmoop Editorial Team, “The Turn of the Screw Genre,” Shmoop University, Inc., Last modified November 11, 2008, http://www.shmoop.com/turn-of-the-screw/genre.htm
If we think back to books and films that were banned and were to read/watch them now they are nothing in comparison to what we have available to us. An example that happened about a year or two ago was that a friend and myself decided to watch the ‘old’ scary movies, ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, ‘The Wicker Man’ and so on. We sat there after each film scratching our heads saying how we just felt stupid for feeling they were frightening when we were younger and ended up discussing films that are out now that actually have us nearly jumping over the back of the chair. My Grandmother was in the St. John’s Ambulance and when ‘The Exorcist’ was in the cinemas they were having to treat people for shock and the likes but to a lot of people when compared to now it is just a ‘wet’ movie like the others I just mentioned.
Personally, I love when everything is left to your imagination and ‘The Turn of the Screw’ does do that but then again you have ‘A Clockwork Orange’ which is graphic and, being honest, it is one that I believe to still have the psychological effect that it had when it was released and as a movie was way ahead of its time in this respect. Look back to the saucy stuff written in the 1600s and now it is seen more as ‘romantic’.
The development of man has made us more immune to the hysteria of the past be it sexual or fear and, in fact, a lot of it is mainstream. Take a look at adverts, I was appalled that at 9 am on Saturday morning there was an advert for Durex Pleasure Gel and there I am sitting with my daughter. I get it, sex sells, just look at perfume ads but when something that is flat out for sexual acts I don’t think it is suitable before the ‘watershed’, however, I do feel that the ‘watershed’ no longer exists as we knew it. Maybe because I am a parent I do notice these things more than someone without children but I was also raised in an exceptionally conservative Christian household where open mouth kissing on the television was turned off….maybe this is also why adverts affect me more so. I have to say though that SEEING these sorts of things affect us a lot differently that reading them.
While pondering over this topic I ended up talking to others to get their opinions and the general consensus was the same as mine, things have changed dramatically. The world we live in has become desensitised and it is unfortunate. I grew up in Northern Ireland during ‘The Troubles’, seen my fair share of stuff, a large chunk of my family were military and we were under constant I.R.A. threat as a result and you would think the likelihood is that it would have people living here thinking ‘I’ve seen worse’ when they watch these ‘post-watershed’ things happen during the day but they are still shocked at how the world’s perception of things are so different.
Gosh, I think maybe I have gone off topic there but it is, in essence, the same sort of thing that I was talking about when it comes to the books/films getting more intense compared to say the films and books that were banned oh so many decades ago but now as a result have cult status. I think what I am trying to say here is that yes we have evolved and its great that we are able to read and watch things that are more intense than even 30 years ago but I do feel when it comes to what our children are exposed to during the day it needs to change back to when things were a bit more sensitive. I remember saying the word ‘bloody’ about 10 years ago and my mother hitting the roof because it is a swear word (I will point out that I am married and was pregnant at the time and hadn’t lived at home for quite a number of years), yet now it is said while children are viewing television along with the ‘B’ word not being bleeped out through the day also.
I am sure this is a very controversial topic but it is one I do feel strongly about. Lemme know what you think!