Action shows, hospital dramas make increasingly graphic television

By Katherine Pullen

Since the January premiere of the new medical drama “Off the Map,” television seems to have embarked on a new age of graphic realism. In other words, TV just got much more gory.

In the pilot episode of the show, viewers watched doctors pull the tail of a still-living stingray from a surfer’s leg. With no anesthetic to dull the pain, the patient shrieked as blood splashed across the doctors’ faces.

Later, a man got caught in the mechanism of a jungle zip-line. Eighty feet in the air, suffering massive internal injuries and bleeding out everywhere, the man’s flesh had to be cut free from the pulley before the doctors could save his life.

Kate Sudduth, junior social work major, said the new drama began with more medically graphic elements than she had seen in other shows.

“It will be intriguing to see if that means they’re even going to go further because they already started off at a higher base of graphic (elements),” she said.

Kelly Bogdanovich, senior intercultural studies major, said other shows like “House” also seem to be following the trend.

“I’m noticing that the newer (episodes) are a lot more graphic, both with the doctor stuff but also with sexual things,” she said.

Bogdanovich made it clear that she is not interested in seeing more graphic medical elements.

”I don’t watch it whenever they zoom into the medical stuff,” she said. “I think it’s interesting, but I can’t watch it.”

Sudduth, however, has different views on the new graphic-medical scenes. She said the realistic nature of “Off the Map” helps fulfill the created fantasy of the TV show.

“It builds on that already romanticized idealistic idea of ‘What would it be like to go live (in the Amazon)?’” Sudduth said. “Well, they never look like they’re really sweaty, but they have these graphic things happen to them.”

Steve Beverly, associate professor of communication arts and executive producer of “Jackson 24-7,” takes a more serious view of the increasingly graphic elements appearing on medical dramas.

“At what point do we say to ourselves, ‘This is not necessary?’” Beverly said. “Do you have to see it that graphically on television to understand this is what happens during an operation?”

Beverly said this trend in medical dramas is another step in the increasing desensitization of society to media content. He said in the past Christians have not been willing to stand up and say, “enough is enough” to the barrage of questionable movies and TV shows coming out of Hollywood.

“It used to be that character was more important on medical dramas,” Beverly said.

He said he does not think graphic elements complement the dramatic value of a TV show, “but plenty of people in the Hollywood community would argue otherwise.”

Alex Green, senior broadcast journalism major and “Grey’s Anatomy” viewer, takes a more relaxed opinion on the topic.

“They have a disclaimer at the beginning of the show saying it might be graphic, so I don’t necessarily see (the increasing graphic elements) as a bad thing,” Green said. “I don’t think there is any harm in it because it’s not showing anything that’s obscene.”

Green said the realism of medical scenes could have something to do with the fact that TV shows are now broadcast in high definition.

“If a TV show looks really cheesy, it’s going to kind of lose credit with the viewer,” he said.

Dana LeAnne Wilhite, acute care nurse practitioner and instructor of nursing, occasionally watches “House” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” She said medical elements of TV shows are definitely becoming more realistic. Her concern, however, is that the portrayal of the medical field is not accurate.

Wilhite said the moral and ethical elements of medical TV shows are dramatized to an unrealistic degree. For the most part, she said, graphic medical elements are realistic, but this realism can cause misconceptions about the accuracy of the rest of the show.

Medical dramas, Wilhite said, “don’t give you a well-rounded picture of the medical profession.”

Brittany Johnson, junior nursing major, said she is used to dealing with blood, but even she felt almost queasy watching the graphic medical images of “Off the Map.” She said the medical procedures in a recent episode looked like the real thing.

“The storyline and the plot were only mediocre, but it kept me interested because the graphic elements were so realistic,” Johnson said. “I wanted to keep watching to see what happened with the medical conditions because they were believable.”

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.