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Shock value is the potential of an image, text or other form of communication to provoke a reaction of disgust, shock, anger, fear, or similar negative emotion.

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Shock value as humor

There are many lewd jokes circulating that use shock value as humor. The idea is that if something is extremely offensive, it begins to become funny. Another idea is that the it's not the joke itself that is funny, but the reaction of those who see it. Death, murder, kidnapping, incest, discrimination, child molestation, and other issues considered vulgar are common elements of shock value jokes. This is most often seen in "dead baby jokes".

The humor used in the popular "Aristocrats" joke depends heavily on shock value.

Many internet jokes use shock value as humor, such as the racist and sexual jokes seen on sites such as Ebaumsworld.

Shock value in advertising

Shock value is often used in the world of commercials in order to gain attention for the product or service in offer.

For example, the Benetton Group is infamously known for using shocking material in their ads (such as a newborn baby still covered in blood and with an umbilical cord). The baby has no connection with the brand or its products, but people still remember the ad and the brand.

Although this type of advertising may be found offensive to some viewers, it has proven effective in the past. The initial shock invariably burns the accompanying brand name into the viewer's memory.

Modern shock value

Modern day shock value can come in many different forms. As things that were once shocking, like Mohawks and piercings (see:Punk fashion), are becoming more commonplace, shock value can sometimes be found in clothing from the 1890-1930's, such as top hats, spats, monocles, and walking sticks.

Shock value in music involves highly offensive lyrics and/or image. Famous examples include Gwar, GG Allin, King Diamond/Mercyful Fate, Marilyn Manson, Insane Clown Posse, Anal Cunt, The Mentors and Cannibal Corpse.

The pro-life movement often uses shock value in their "truth displays" depicting aborted fetuses in their effort to end abortions.

See also








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