Earlier today, the censored UK cuts of Negan's brutal kills from The Walking Dead season 7 premiere made their way online, illustrating an attempt by censorship boards to try to make the violent scenes more palatable for general audiences. Extended close-ups of Negan's victims' mutilated heads were excised, and the number of whacks they received from Lucille was cut down. A few key lines were also removed as well, arguably dulling the intended effect of each sequence.
Back in the U.S. though, the negative response many offered to Negan's season premiere kills didn't go unnoticed, with some speculating that the series' ensuing ratings dip was attributable to viewers being turned off by the excessive amount of violence Negan's victims endured. While Walking Dead has always been an extremely violent series, it appeared that showrunner Scott Gimple and company may have finally gone too far, even for some of TWD's die-hard viewers.
With all that in mind, Variety is reporting executive producer Gale Anne Hurd said at the National Association of Television Program Executives conference ear that the show's makers took the aforementioned complaints to heart. According to Hurd, TWD's team responded to the negative feedback accordingly, toning down the level of violence in season 7 episodes that were yet to be completed.
"We were able to look at the feedback on the level of violence. We did tone it down for episodes we were still filming for later on in the season. This is not a show that is torture porn, we don’t cross that line."
Hurd's use of the torture porn terminology definitely illustrates that TWD producers were paying attention to the outcry, as many upset viewers used the phrase to describe Negan's kills at the time of the season 7 premiere broadcast. The torture porn designation first rose to prominence in the mid-2000s, in response to the rise of horror film series like Saw and Hostel, which commonly featured drawn out murder and torture scenes that sometimes seemed to be played more to excite the audience than terrify them. Although many genre fans grew to hate the phrase, it ended up sticking.
While these changes to the level of violence will surely be appreciated by those turned off by Negan's head-smashing kills, one wonders how many hardcore horror lovers might in turn be annoyed by the reduction in violence. After all, a show about flesh-eating monsters kind of lends itself to high levels of gore. It's impossible to please everyone, and by catering to one side, TWD's producers obviously risk upsetting the other. Only time - and ratings - will tell if the decision to tone things down was the right move.
The Walking Dead season 7 returns Sunday, February 12 on AMC.