Good stuff here from Friend of the Hive, Sir Robbo.
I struggle with this myself. On the one hand, I can’t watch stuff like Criminal Minds that focuses on the antagonist to such a degree as to seem to revel in the horrible things they do – especially inasmuch as the writers of such procedurals often are guilty of some obnoxious one-upmanship, coming up with ever-crueler ways to show the depravaty within reach of the human heart. It was my biggest beef with the original season of The Following, for example: on some level it almost seemed like the writers themselves were under the sway of the psychopathic cult leader.
It’s hard on me. It makes me want to swoop down like an rescuing superhero, or else like an avenging… hm. Angel is not the correct term. It’s more of a dervish. I find myself possessed of a growing and useless rage, and sometimes have to leave the room.
On the other hand, as a writer myself I understand the power involved in a tale where the hero has to overcome terrible odds, or terrible enemies; and under the doctrine of Show, Don’t Tell, you have to depict some awful stuff to carry that terror home.
Now, perhaps seeing such things in a visual medium carries an impact that my own writing lacks, or else I am somewhat vaccinated against the effect because these are my words, and I well know the uppance that shall come upon my baddies. But I suspect that I am rather uncomfortably good at the depicting. I have come up with some gut-punching moments, a suspicion generally confirmed by friends whom I’ve spooked with the stuff. So does that make me a hypocrite? Worse, what in the world am I tapping into when I write it?