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The Toughman Contest: When Violence-as-Entertainment Becomes Deadly

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In Civilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud wrote of the “eagerly denied” truth “that men are not gentle, friendly creatures wishing for love, who simply defend themselves if they are attached, but that a powerful measure of desire for aggression has to be reckoned as part of their instinctual endowment.” Georges Bataille explained in his book, Erotism, that “only a spectacular killing,” violence for the purpose of religion of ritual, “has the power to reveal what normally escapes notice.” Violence is revelatory in that it exposes what William James noted in a 1903 letter to the editor of The Republican as our “aboriginal capacity for murderous excitement.” We love violence—violent television, film, novels, video games, music, and sports. I echo Harold Schechter who points out that the argument that people love violent stories does not mean every single individual in the world and throughout time, “but humanity in general.” A brief survey of literature, from Aeschylus’ Oresteia to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and sports, from chariot racing in ancient Greece to the NFL, demonstrates that ‘humanity in general’ enjoys horror and violence as entertainment.

In the majority of our violence-as-entertainment consumption comes from what we may deem either professional or fictional venues. Fictional relates to stories, even those based in truth, and do not pertain to this particular piece. But professional violent entertainment, such as football or boxing, for the most part, take place in the realm of the practiced athlete. Sure, a group of guys can go out and play football at the park and get injured, but for the most part, the playing of that game will not include the type of tackles seen in the NFL. And that is because in the NFL or any other organized sporting league, there are rules and regulations in place ….View full article

Source:: fightland.vice.com