Guilty Eyes

So I tore a Cyclops’ eye out the other day.

I could have cut his throat. It might have lead to a quicker death. Probably would have hurt less too. I could have gone for a straight decapitation. One swift, terminal stroke – job done. But I didn’t. Instead I stabbed my fingers under his single, gargantuan eyelid, wrapped my Spartan fist around his mighty peeper and pulled until the offending optic popped from its socket like a giant, gelatinous cork leaving a shrieky, fleshy bottle.

This experience left me with mixed feelings. My initial reaction was a combination of awe and disgust. It’s the same reaction I have when I see footage of a footballer’s shin snapping in half mid-tackle: repulsed but impressed. A bisected shin is by no means a fatal injury, but it looks so heart-stoppingly horrific that I’m always surprised when the victim manages to stay conscious. If I saw my booted foot dangling loosely from a spontaneous and unrequested second ankle I’m pretty sure I’d pass-out quicker than a tired meercat in the midday sun.

Here is a group of tired meercats in the midday sun.


What I didn’t expect, however, was the aftertaste. Having crested the twin peaks of Mount Awesome and Ben Grimace in a single, double-footed leap, I found myself slowly slipping down into the dark valley that lay between them. I am no stranger to this valley. It is the same shadowy crevice I found myself in after I paid 25 pence for a bag of Pic ‘n’ Mix knowing full well the bag contained 26 sweets. It was two decades ago but the shopkeeper’s trusting smile still haunts me to this day.

This valley is called Shame.

Now, I should make something clear: I am not a squeamish man. I have a stack of horror dvds that would ensure even the most desensitized movie-goer six straight months-worth of disturbed sleep. Evil Dead II sits proudly in my Top 20 Films of All Time list. I have done things in videogames that would not only be illegal in the real world, but would also be considered sadistic to the point of Satanism. And you know what? I’ve laughed as I’ve done so. I’ve laughed because I’ve always appreciated the yawning gulf that exists between ridiculous, heavily-stylized violence-for-entertainment and the deplorable acts of real-world violence which mankind has been perpetrating since year dot. While I may giggle impishly at the lunatic screams of Bruce Campbell as he chainsaws his demonically-possessed hand off in movie-land, I am certainly not chuckling when I see a parent beating their crying child in a supermarket queue. Yawning. Gulf.

So why, given my familiar relationship with fantasy violence, had this act of ocular extraction left me with a sense of guilt? I didn’t feel bad about the Cyclops. After all, he started it. I was happily scampering through Olympia on the trail of Pandora’s Box when he materialised out of thin air with a club in his hand and tried to make a viscera smoothie out of my internal organs. That assuaged any misgivings I may have had about taking him out. That, and the fact that he was clearly a digital representation of a mythological creature and thus impervious to pain.

"The measure of a man is what he does with his power." - Plato, as cited in God of War III
"The measure of a man is what he does with his power." – Plato, as cited in God of War III

No, my shame came not from committing the act itself, but from the calculated gratuity of its execution. The slow motion tug of war that played out between skull and optic nerve was engineered to be as graphic and grotesque as possible. I knew it had been designed this way for my personal satisfaction; for entertainment value. But that afternoon I didn’t feel satisfied. At some point the deliberately excessive gore had stopped making me smile and started making me slightly depressed. Perhaps the fact that I’d already performed the same act several times that afternoon had rendered the joke less amusing. Perhaps my time spent containing the inmates of Arkham Asylum just the week before had got me into the mindset of pacifying my enemies, rather than butchering them to death in the most brutal manner possible. Perhaps, thank to the works of Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson and Takashi Miike, I’ve simply seen it all before.

Or perhaps the whole thing made me feel a little too much like a cruel child pulling the legs off an insect.

I think I’m getting old.







One response to “Guilty Eyes”

  1. Simon avatar

    The meerkat at 0:22 is my favourite. Why the bleedin’ heck do they all insist on standing up there? I’ve seen packs of meerkats in the zoo. Usually there’s only one of them on watch.


    Shame – I know what you mean. Assassin’s Creed is the one that gets me. Violently knifing people in the gut whilst wearing a hood. Nice.

Leave a Reply