Wound Culture

story © Michael Betancourt, February 14, 2003 all rights reserved.


A spectacle of violence forms around the scene of the crime. The phantom public audience is self-conscious when they encounter the site of violence. It is the “as if” quality of murder sites seen in mass media that create a gathering point around the “wound.” The cohesion of civil society is menaced by violence; this is its source of fascination—the threat it poses through its relationship to chaos.

We have become confused about the difference between the monster and the human. Our culture has glamorized the sociopath, elevating the serial killer to celebrity in cinema. Violence becomes “attractive” through these glamorized images, making the scene of the crime vanish into the environment. This is the culture of wounds.

The horror we should feel when encountering these scenes is strangely absent in the same way the crime scene itself vanishes. Our interest in these scenes is pathological, our blindness neurotic: we do not see because we are accustomed to the horror and have not learned to understand what this horror means. So collectively we reject it, perversely, by expecting it, and demanding ever greater realism in its portrayal. The murderous gaze infests our desire to see the unseen and think the unthinkable. We escape horror by living in a state of elevated, eternal horror. We become inured. Our corruption is complete; we transcend the horror by searching it out. This transcendence is a trap.

In escaping the horror, it surrounds us more intensely then if we had fled it directly. Like all experiences, at its heart, it is a paradox. Violence, like sex, is a taboo for precisely this reason.

Copyright © Michael Betancourt  February 14, 2003  all rights reserved.

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