When you think of the old Batman television show, the first thing that comes to mind is the legendary actor, Adam West. The second thing that comes to mind are jagged, colorful bubbles filled with exclamations such as “POW” or “BAM”. These were meant to replicate the action sequences in comic books, but they also acted as masks.
These masks continue in today’s visual entertainment as well, but now they come in the form of sounds. When Dwayne Johnson takes a punch from Idris Elba on screen, we are treated to a sound similar to that of a baseball connecting with the bat of Pete Alonso. It’s a sound that says, “badass.” Just like the jagged bubbles, they make each hit cool, leading you to cheer for more.
But hidden behind the masks are monsters.
Because when you hear the true sound of flesh and bone pounding against flesh and bone, you quickly find that realism sure takes the fun out of fight scenes.
Close your eyes and travel with me to a little, local diner in South Carolina for a moment. Find the old woman, she’s wearing a red and grey flannel, sitting in the back booth by herself, chewing her grits without any dentures in. Now this woman is polite, and she chews with her mouth closed, but give it a second… there. Hear that sound when her lips smacked, mouth still full? A good, solid hit from one human’s fist to another human’s body sounds more like that than it does a homerun.
When you are forced to listen to one person beating the hell out of another one, you can hear, feel, and taste their pain. You should never get used to it. Let it disturb you. That’s how you know that you’re still at least partially sane.
The last time I heard that sound was the worst. For decades, I had seen videos and movies where people are gutted, tortured, torn apart. But until a couple years before, I had never heard that sound. But that sound was just one item in a list of disturbing experiences to come. As terrible as it was, the sound alone was not what stuck with me the most.
No, what still haunts me today, was my ability not to even raise an eyebrow that last time. I was reading a good book, and by god was I going to keep reading. It didn’t even occur to me until that evening that I had listened to anything out of the ordinary.
And then I realized that was because that sound no longer was out of the ordinary for me. And then I cried.
Christ, I hope I never hear that sound again.
But even more so, if I do, I hope I notice.