Pruning Violence Out of My Netflix Queue

Over the weekend I watched Public Enemies, with Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. I must admit that I couldn’t get very involved in the story and the performances like I normally do, because of the shooting incident in Arizona. When I sent the DVD back today, I thought I should check my Netflix queue and see what was scheduled to come next. I found Inglourious Basterds, and knew that given the circumstances this wasn’t something that I wanted to watch anytime soon.

I wouldn’t say that I’m opposed to violence in the media, nor do I think that media violence is responsible for people who then go on to commit violent acts themselves. There are many examples of movies and TV shows that feature violence, which are also very well done and worth watching. If I have an objection to violence in movies, it’s to violence not being portrayed accurately, the kind of happy-fun-time-pewpewpew that stacks up bodies like cordwood and makes the doing so a cartoonish exercise in making the “hero” an untouchable badass.

The kinds of media I consume has been on my mind for several weeks for a personal reason. I’ve recently been more mindful of my highly-sensitive nature. By this, I mean that I am what psychologist Elaine Aron terms a “highly sensitive person.” One of the features of having high sensory-processing sensitivity is being overwhelmed by stimulation; one of the ways I get overstimulated is through entertainment. I love to read, watch exciting movies and TV shows, and do some video gaming. I had noticed over the holidays that I was feeling increasingly restless and easily irritable. Generally, after I’ve slept, I feel better the next day. Instead my feelings of unease were persisting. I’m sure that this was mainly due to me not being mindful of my trait of high sensitivity and taking care of myself accordingly.

So I was looking at Inglourious Basterds and my immediate thought was to simply push something else to the top of the queue. But as I went down the queue to find something else, I noticed how many other movies I’d added that stood out as being violent. Gamer, The Assassination of Jesse James, Smokin’ Aces, RocknRolla, Terminator: Salvation, Iron Man 2 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine were some of the movies I came across that knew I wouldn’t be moving to the top of the queue at this time. Seeing some of the other titles I have in my queue, such as three Michael Palin travelogues,  a number of intriguing documentaries, and a few movies awaiting the Rifftrax treatment, I realized I was really spoiled for choice and probably wouldn’t miss any of those violent movies anyway.

So I’ve deleted those movies from my queue, at least for the time being. I’m sure at some point I may add them back, or watching them via instant streaming. I suppose the distinction is that I will be more conscious about when I chose to watch something of that nature, as well as being mindful of my need for downtime after having watched.

I’d be interested in hearing what you have to say about your consumption of violent content. Please leave your comments below.

About John Marte


  1. FASCINATING! I’ve never heard of this “highly sensitive person” classification, but I will look into it.

    I have long suffered from being what many term “overly sensitive”, to the point where I am sometimes crippled in my dealings with the regular world. It makes many movies impossible for me to see. (My first experience with this? ‘Platoon.’ Ouch.) What a revelation, though, once I realized this (probably not ’til I was in my 30s), and simply stopped subjecting myself to such things. I was so much happier! But I spent years second-guessing myself, wondering why other people loved certain types of movies, while I did not… I’m the same way with alot of TV shows. ::shrugs::

    I think it’s GREAT that you totally get this about yourself!

    1. Thanks for the comment! I wouldn’t say that I totally get this, since I still resist doing the right thing for myself more often than not. One of these days I’ll have to look at just how bad a fit my previous job was for me =)

      Another resource on high sensitivity is Dr. Ted Zeff. I’m re-reading his Survival Guide now, and ordered his new book, The Strong, Sensitive Boy last week.

  2. I don’t watch Horror movies for the same reason. Even cartoony, over-the-top violence like on Kill Bill still barbs me.

    As if it’s not already difficult enough to have guy friends.

    1. I know what you mean about guy friends. I’m not a fan of any sports, mainly because they simply don’t interest me. I also don’t participate in the kind of recreation found where I live (skiing, boating, hunting, fishing), so it’s hard to have much of a conversation with anyone around here.

      Fortunately, I have found plenty of people online who have an interest in comedy, like MST3K or Monty Python.

  3. I totally agree. My appetite for crime, violent, and horror movies is at an all- time low. For me, it’s all about the story. If it’s a good story with some action or violence (usually thought provoking violence) I can still watch it. For example, True Grit.

    Part of me wants to ween these movies not because I am over stimulated by them ( although I am sure that I am) but more so because I wonder how my support of them in turn supports violence with our society. By voting with my dollar, am I encouraging more? And are we mature enough as a society to handle them? Not just recent events, but school shootings, bonhomie, and just general un-neighborly behavior seem to be the normal problem solving methods today.

    1. You’ve described well another aspect of what I’ve been feeling. For me, if the violence is realistic and the story shows that violence has consequences, I’m ok with it.

      Ironically, one of my favorite movies of last year was Kick-Ass, a movie that featured some truly brutal violence. However I felt that Kick-Ass distinguished itself from most of the movies I’d seen recently and surprised me with an involving story. While I was looking through my queue, I didn’t think that the movies I was coming across were likely to surprise me.

      So in some way, I suppose I don’t want to support the way Hollywood is simply churning out more of the same of whatever’s been successful before, or hopping on the latest bandwagon of whatever made their competitors hundreds of millions of dollars.

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