The Walking Dead is toning down the violence, unless they’re not

After the season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead, which saw [SPOILERS] Glenn and Abraham on the wrong end of Lucille, Negan’s signature barbed-wire wrapped baseball bat, fans started crying foul. The violence was too much for them. They called for boycotts. They wanted a horror show to stop showing horror. We reported on this site why that was utterly ridiculous.

In response to the outcry, the show toned down the violence for the remaining shows in the seventh season, according to producer Gale Ann Hurd. “We were able to look at the feedback on the level of violence,” Hurd said. “We did tone it down for episodes we were still filming for later on in the season. […] This is not a show that is torture porn.”

Give me a break, Gale. “Torture porn” is a phrase that gets thrown way too liberally, and people like to use it to reference anything violent and gory. The Walking Dead is a horror show, about dead bodies that live and walk and rip human beings limb from limb, feasting on their flesh and guts. Dale had his intestines ripped out. Herschel had his head cut off. Violence has always been part of the show, and the premiere didn’t cross any line. Turns out showrunner Scott Gimple agrees with me, and not Ms. Hurd.

“The violence in the premiere was pronounced for a reason. The awfulness of what happened to the characters was very specific to that episode and the beginning of this whole new story. I don’t think like that’s the base level of violence that necessarily should be on the show. It should be specific to a story and a purpose, and there was a purpose of traumatizing these characters to a point where maybe they would have been docile for the rest of their lives, which was Negan’s point. But I will say again, the violence in the premiere was for a specific narrative purpose and I would never say that that’s the baseline amount of violence that we would show on the show. If we’re ever going to see something that pronounced, there needs to be a specific narrative purpose for it.”

Hear, hear. As Tony said in his earlier article, “This show was not designed to make you feel good, it was not designed to make you feel hopeful, it was not designed for you to feel empowered in any way. It was designed to convey absolute dread and despair, and those of us that still watch it with bated breath every Sunday in the Fall are well aware of that.” So with two different producers contradicting each other, who’s telling the truth? For the tiebreaker, we go to executive producer and special effects legend Greg Nicotero, who answered simply “no” when asked if the violence was turned down. He elaborated:

“As brutal as that episode 1 was, it’s still part of our storytelling bible, which is what the world is about. I don’t think we would ever edit ourselves, and I think — even after looking at that episode 1 again — as tough as it was for people to watch, I don’t think we would have done it any differently. I don’t think we’ll ever pull ourselves back. There is definitely a difference between violence against walkers and human on human violence, but truthfully, we’re serving our story.”

So there you have it, The Walking Dead is turning down the violence… unless they’re not. I, for one, hope they do not and I hope the show – without actually going into the realm of “torture porn” – continues to be as brutal as it needs to be.

The Walking Dead season 7 resumes February 12.

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