Shock value is an interesting storytelling tool. When a development happens in a story that is shocking it’s meant to create engagement with the audience, it causes the audience to stiffen their backs and pay closer attention to what’s happening. It’s meant to make a story stand out. But the problem with shock value is that it is often empty engagement and attention. There’s no substance in shocking someone for the sake of shocking them. That doesn’t mean that shock value can’t be used to great effect, but there are plenty of instances where it’s not.
The FX series American Horror Story has had a relatively up-and-down relationship with shock value. In the beginning, character was at the forefront of American Horror Story. It cared about the journey of its people and the development they went on. Shocking its audience was almost an afterthought. But there were several shocking sequences in the show that garnered a lot of critical attention. Because of this, subsequent seasons of the show leaned heavily into the shocks and the series as a whole suffered because of it. The show began shocking its audience for no other reason than to be shocking, hollowing out other aspects of the program.
The current Amazon Prime show The Boys is in a similar situation. It is getting acclaim for being shocking and episodes are continuously trying to top each other with more shocking and absurd scenes. Although that was always true of the show, it has largely taken a backseat to the plot and character development. This is how shock value is supposed to be employed; the character and story must always come first. The show’s moments of shock value should come in between its more poignant scenes. In that way, the audience gets shocked and engaged and pays closer attention when it true heart shines through. So shock value, in and of itself, is not good or bad — it all depends on how it is deployed throughout the story.
The Boys is now streaming on Amazon Prime.
Shock value is an interesting storytelling tool. When a development happens in a story that is shocking it’s meant toCOMICONRead More