Sex and Violence: ingredients of storytelling

Cinema’s use of sex and violence reveals deeper truths about human longing.,

David Vendrell, Writer

A couple of months ago, screenwriter Michael Tabb wrote in “Script Magazine” that “since all films pretty much boil down to love or death as what is at stake, it explains film’s obsession with sex and violence.”

That is a powerful statement that might ruffle some feathers at our conservative, evangelical university.


Film works in extremes. Filmmakers are given roughly two hours to thrust the audience through a dramatic rollercoaster with emotional highs and lows. a filmmaker wishes to take us through a journey of discovery — discovery of self, of each other and of the world around us.  In order to accomplish this, we are presented with the most extreme forms of love and life — things that either make our hearts soar or rip them from our very chests.

For one second, step down from the soapbox of our “us against them” mentality and engage humanity in its raw, unadulterated form. In order to redeem, we need to understand. Sex and violence — the two most powerful actions humans can engage in on a purely physical level. One brings life, while the other seeks to destroy.


If you watch any action, superhero or horror film, you will probably notice someone always dies. Life is taken on screen — whether by the hand of our hero in a fight sequence, killed by a malevolent force or through the death of our protagonist’s loved ones. This stops the hero in their tracks, forcing them to wrestle with or for their mortality.

In a fight, it is kill or be killed. No wonder we admire screen rogues like James Bond, Jason Bourne and Indiana Jones. We root for a landed punch, an accurate shot and the death of villains — evil being overcome. When Uncle Ben dies in “Spider-Man,” killed by a heartless gangster, we weep. Peter Parker, holding his dear uncle’s hand, reminds us of the world we live in — one in which the fragility of our earthly existence can be decided by two inches of speeding metal.

As humans, we commemorate life by fighting for it. No wonder we watch heated boxing matches or go to war.


When it comes to the realm of sex, humans are wired for it down to our most primal levels — but not because of the act of sex itself. We want love. We crave the comfort, care, adulation, respect, security and understanding that comes from one soul uniting with another. It is why we get married and populate the earth with our offspring.

In my opinion, every film is about love. Generally, men just disguise it with heroism and adventure when women just get right to the point, although, that is not always the case. Guys want Peter Parker to swing into the sunset with Mary Jane or Gwen Stacy, while women are fine with the direct sparks of “The Notebook.” In the realm of screen-stories, if our souls long for romantic love, then sex is the active pinnacle of demonstrating that passion.

Even though we are Christians, we are also human and must recognize that these urges and predilections are woven into our very core. Just look at the Bible: how can we as believers speak truth and redemption into these actions? I believe the answer is not in censoring or demeaning, but in demonstrating them in the raw, powerful nature that God intended them to be in — with importance, with weight and with consequence. That is how we celebrate love and life.


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