What Does “Shock Value” Refer to?

The term “shock value” refers to a material’s ability to outrage, appall, cause distress, or other negative emotions through visual, text, audio, or other means. It’s used in all areas of art, as well as advertising (shock advertising or shockvertising). Usually, shock value is used to draw awareness on social issues regarding human rights, the environment, or civil liberties.

Shock Value in the Media

As mentioned before, this concept is most used in advertising to underline important social matters. Of course, an advertisement that shocks and appalls its audience also has the benefit of being memorable and highly effective. Advertisements that use shocking audio and video pieces usually do so to highlight issues with public policies, goods, services, health issues, or other causes. This might refer to safe driving, STD prevention, racism awareness, effects of smoking, environmentalism, etc.

But shock value is also used in music, movies, and TV shows for the same purpose. Singers like Marilyn Manson, Alice Cooper, Slipknot, or Lady Gaga all use(d) shock value to get their message across. Video productions like war movies, science fiction, dystopian movies, or dramas and thrillers portraying emotional abuse can all use this technique to get their message across. There are also plenty of comedians that use shock value as a part of their humor and plenty of other artists from all fields that successfully employ these techniques.

“Shock Value” in a Sentence

“If it weren’t for the shock value of this clip, it would have never made it on air. The directing is so bad!”

“They really got the best out of the shock value for that scene, I think it helps viewers empathize with the antihero of the series.”

“Keep the shock value of your speech to a minimum, this is a tough crowd and I don’t think it would help your cause in any way.”

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