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Savage Pastimes: A Cultural History of Violent Entertainment Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 1, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 12 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"We belong to an innately violent species," argues Schechter. Violent entertainment is popular, he says, because it's natural to indulge in "taboo fantasies" and "escape into realms of forbidden experience." Indeed, from the crucifixions of the Romans to the guillotines of the French Revolution, from wax museums' torture dioramas to P.T. Barnum's sideshows, people have flocked to spectacles of gore and suffering. Motion pictures became popular, Schechter explains, partly by delivering realistic violence (the first special effect in cinema history was the simulated beheading of Mary, Queen of Scots in an 1895 feature). Crime fiction, from the penny dreadfuls to today's bestsellers, has always sold big, but even literary classics, like Poe's stories, continue to enthrall partly because they speak to the violent imagination. As far as Schechter, a Queens College literature professor and author of several true crime books on serial killers, is concerned, today's entertainment is far less violent than yesteryear's; special effects may make films and video games more graphic, but everything's simulated. While Schechter makes an engaging argument for the bloodthirsty tastes of our ancestors, he rather quickly dismisses contemporary sociological research on the effects of media violence on youth. This entertaining, provocative, not entirely convincing work will be a treat for literate readers who can't register for the professor's classes. Illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Ace serial-killer biographer Schechter doesn't buy the yap about movie/TV/video-game violence being worse than all previous gruesome entertainment and inspiring worse behavior. Violent crime rates are declining even if video games are getting gorier. Moreover, the history of violent entertainment suggests that humanity is kinder, gentler, and more squeamish than ever. As recently as the famously wholesome 1950s, shoot-'em-up westerns dominated TV, producing more corpses per half-hour during after-school and prime-time viewing hours than ever since: where are the westerns now? Farther back and for centuries, thousands mobbed public executions now considered appallingly sadistic, buying the likes of miniature guillotines (to decapitate birds and mice for children's amusement) as souvenirs. Only late in the nineteenth century did violent amusement become strictly representational, and the epicenter of theatrical gore, Paris' Theatre du Grand Guignol, closed in the 1960s. Nowadays action movies may be louder than ever, but onscreen mayhem is minimal. Of course, this history and its copious pictorial record make for great browsing as well as straight reading--but no moral trepidation allowed! Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product details

  • Hardcover : 208 pages
  • Item Weight : 12.8 ounces
  • Dimensions : 8.56 x 5.82 x 0.8 inches
  • ASIN : B000VYVLJY
  • Publisher : St. Martin's Press (March 1, 2005)
  • Language: : English
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.5 out of 5 stars 12 ratings

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5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking and fun.
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