Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Broken Neck Blues

It's used mainly to show that someone is dead without having to show blood. Not that it makes anyone less dead but for some reason snapping someone's neck in a movie or television show is perfectly fine but god forbid you show any blood. There used to be a time when breaking someone's neck was a crime of passion--it was only used to show how truly insane someone was and just to shock the audience seeing something being killed with bare hands. But it has become a standard trope of TV and movie writing. I first noticed it in the first season of The Vampire Diaries, the only season of that show I watched. I didn't like it. And there was one in if not every episode then every other episode. And from what I understand 3-5 people die every episode now. If people die every episode, then why does any death matter? I then noticed the neck snap used excessively in the trailer for the movie "Safe House" with Denzel Washington.
Why Denzel didn't win an Oscar for this scene where he's breaking a CIA agent's neck
I'll never know.
This trend, at least for me, continued when somehow I wound up viewing the last ten minutes or so of "Paranormal Activity 2" where Kate kills the family.
I don't want to spoil what happens here but that guy's head ends up backwards!
I tried thinking of why I don't like shows using breaking someone's neck just for suspense. Part of it, I think, is the sound effect commonly used but mainly it's because neck snaps are supposed to induce gasps of "Oh!" from the audience but if they are all-too-common then how is it shocking? Denzel could've killed that agent any other way but I guess it's to show his character just doesn't give an eff. It kind of works in "Paranormal Activity 2" because it's supposed to be scary and startling which is what breaking someone's neck is supposed to convey but anymore, TV and movies use it just to avoid showing blood which I think is worse. It conveys a way to kill someone without having to get a gun or knife.

My first encounter with a broken neck was the comic book Green Lantern #50 where Hal Jordan kills Sinestro with his bare hands. To me it was kind of shocking because here was a hero...that killed. I had only been reading comics since the Death of Superman and had never seen that. It probably would've been even more shocking had I known who Sinestro was.
Don't worry. He gets better.
I tend to stay away from things that show necks being broken. It bothers me and turns me off for the rest of the movie or show. There is nothing that depresses me more when a show I watch that has stayed away from this now all-to-common occurrence, uses it. It makes me want to stop watching immediately. And I know I am probably alone in this and possibly even overreacting. Most people seem perfectly fine with it or don't even notice it when it happens.

Science has reassured me that breaking one's neck isn't as easy as it may seem. It takes a lot of strength to do it and do it effectively in order to actually kill someone. You would essentially have to twist someone's head far enough around to do damage to the spinal cord, if not then you just end up with someone who is paralyzed and can still scream in pain. And yes, I did shudder the entire time I was writing that.

And I don't even watch that much stuff. There is a plethora of shows on basic cable and premium cable that I am sure dip into that well a lot more than the shows I watch. For those of you who watch more than me, am I correct in saying that broken necks are becoming more prevalent? Or is it something that always happened and I just never noticed it before?

Until next time...