There is an idea that if someone consumes garbage in the form of entertainment then garbage is what will come out of that person’s life. That can certainly be true. I’ve come across books and movies and wonder “Who would make this stuff?” or “How could this possibly be entertaining?” The thing is that the line is different for everyone, and if we authors want our characters to be believable and relatable they must have flaws, even deep flaws in which they may do depraved things.
There is a difference between showing a character’s violent depravity for the sake of plot verses torture porn for example. The shows I watch and the books I read does not mean I am endorsing certain character’s behaviors. That would be insane, for if that was the case no one would be able to indulge in any form of entertainment whether it is fiction or nonfiction. Yet there are some that approach books this way, which makes it difficult. How can an author create characters that are real if they don’t do bad things? On the other hand sometimes writers have used this justification to insert unnecessary content.
The line needs to be determined by the individual, but when that occurs hurtful accusations are then sometimes thrown at authors who intend to create a beautiful story instead of gratuitous content. Ultimately whether a character action has meaning or its gratuitous depends on the writer’s intent, heart, and handling of the matter. In a world where shock and awe are becoming the norm in entertainment, it is becoming more difficult to discern this. It would appear shock and awe is what audiences are demanding now and creators simply give what the people want. That isn’t right either. Being a crafter of fiction should be about telling a story with meaning. Throwing in sex and violence just because we can cheapens what we do, and those who cry and say that stuff is garbage have a right to do so. On the other hand if that isn’t the case and people still complain and call our stuff garbage because characters are humans who do less than savory things than they have unrealistic standards. No one cares about characters who are squeaky-clean and sinless. They are boring because we cannot relate to them.
A balance for the reader must be struck and it is the writer’s job to examine the point of every scene he or she tells in the tale that’s being crafted.