Should We (and Our Kids) Watch Gory TV Shows and Movies?
By Hope Bolinger, Crosswalk.com
I took a brief hiatus from TV during my years in college (2015-2019), but when I returned to the world of Netflix, I noticed something. TV shows and movies had gotten a lot gorier from when I remembered. Now I want to add the caveat that I saw the movie with the most on-screen deaths when I was eight (yes, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King), so I had grown accustomed to gore from a young age. But this felt more sinister, felt more in-your-face, and felt like a lot more than I remember from my childhood.
Movies and TV shows have gotten far more violent in the past few years alone. So what should we do? Avoid all content that is gory—which may severely decrease the amount of television that we can watch—or can we tolerate a small amount of gore?
Let's dive in.
Gore in the Bible Vs. Gore in Movies
One of the most common objections or pushback to the question posed in the title is that the Bible contains many, many, many instances of gore. The Bible is an R-rated book at the mildest of ratings.
For some instances of gore in the Bible, check out these passages (use your discretion: 1 Samuel 15, Matthew 2:16-18, Joshua 6).
Many people equate the Old Testament with violence because so much war takes place within the 39 books.
So is there a difference between reading about war stories in the Old Testament and watching gore in TV shows such as Squid Game?
I think here we need to draw the line between violence and gore because the Bible uses for the most part the first one, and TV shows seem to be diving more into the territory of the latter.
Violence: "the use of physical force so as to injure, abuse, damage, or destroy"
Gore: "gruesomeness depicted in vivid detail"
Gore is gratuitous. In some ways, it delights in the pain, in the blood, in the destruction. Violence, on the other hand, gives a removed account or a more censored account of the events. We notice how biblical accounts don't really dive into all the war injuries and blood spilled during battles. We can use our imagination and know that a great deal of pain and destruction happened in the wake of wars. But gore delights in the destruction.
Why Has Gore Increased so Much?
There isn't one singular source we can point to that explains this influx in violence and gore in movies and TV shows.
We can point to some reasons. If a TV show doesn't have a sensational first season, viewers will flee and the second season will get canceled. Hence why we see so much gratuitous violence and sex in TV shows. To keep viewers watching, delighting.
Others can point to the fact that Hollywood has shifted its focus to hyperrealism. This means, making everything as real as possible, including injuries and gore produced from the fight scenes we so desperately crave.
We can also point to the fact that media has desensitized us. So the bar continues to get lifted higher and higher about just how much violence will cause shock us.
I think we can point to a biblical reason, however.
Revelation 11:10: And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.
In the end days, people will delight in evil. Not only will they do so, but they will encourage it. We see this in glimpses now with our media. It delights in everything that God hates and hates everything in which God delights.
So should we abstain from media with gratuitous gore?
Consistency Is Key
I remember confronting my dad years later about his inconsistency about what movies we could and could not watch. "You didn't let me watch Harry Potter, because it has magic. But when I was eight, you let me watch Lord of the Rings, which has hundreds of gory deaths take place on the screen." Granted, my dad was doing the best he could. He reared me during a time in which the media world had shifted into this hyperrealism.
But I think when it comes to matters of decided whether we and our families, should watch questionable content, we should probably ask ourselves the following questions.
Question One: What criteria do I use to ban movies?
If you ban any movies that contain magic because the Lord speaks against magical arts (Leviticus 20:27), do you also ban movies with violence? If you ban movies with extramarital relations, do you also ban movies with cussing?
We do need to realize that media does influence our thoughts and actions, so we should be careful what we put into our minds.
Question Two: Does it serve as a stumbling block to me?
Some people can handle violence; others can't. Some people can watch movies with a sex scene and not feel tempted; others will stumble.
If you know that a gratuitous scene will cause you to sin, pluck that movie or show out (Matthew 5:29).
Question Three: Do I spend more time watching non-edifying materials than edifying?
Our heart lies within where we spend our time. So even if gory movies don't personally cause us to stumble, we do need to spend a great deal more time in the Word and in prayer and in more wholesome, biblical resources.
To answer the question in the title, I can't give you a yes or no. Everyone has different thresholds for what amount of content they can handle. But I will say that we do need to operate consistently and with the heart that we want to experience edification. It is the goal of the Christian to become more like Christ.
It also may be helpful to ask why we watch movies with so much gore, or revenge fantasies, or sex scenes, etc. This investigation into why we watch what we watch may reveal our hearts.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/nicoletaionescu
Hope Bolinger is an acquisitions editor at End Game Press, and the author 21+ books. More than 1400 of her works have been featured in various publications. Check out her books at hopebolinger.com for clean books in most genres, great for adults and kids.