Violence and the Courage to Create: HBO's Dilemma

IN some ways, the flurry of complaints surrounding HBO's 'Game of Thrones" rape scene is heartening, in that there is, today, clearly a line that can be crossed when it comes to violence, and especially violence against women.

This is an industry that has been rushing headlong in the direction of "anything goes" when it comes to using violence to push the adrenalin buttons that jack up ratings and box office. Richard Plepler, CEO of HBO, last year speaking at the Paley Centre for Media, noted "We are in the business of building addicts."

The question now is at what point is the industry willing to take an honest look at itself and fess up. At what point does violence cross the line from being about legitimate storytelling and creative vision and wander into the less lofty territory of just being a tool for building adrenalin addiction. HBO is on the defensive right now but the discussion is one the entire industry needs to have. The good news is that 30 years ago, this discussion would never have happened. Women were fair game to brutalize, inside and outside the marriage, and rape was seldom reported.

We are in a time when people are so polarized in their beliefs politically and socially that they can't even talk to each other unless they are in total agreement. This is a stupid state of affairs in democratic societies that claim tolerance of opposing views as a founding principle. The film and TV industry, at least in this aspect, can be a force for change if it is willing to engage in this discussion about violence and creativity with honesty and respect rather than using the subject as fodder for headlines.