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GTA V: The sadism of Trevor – a justification for torture


There are minor GTA V spoilers for the mission “By the Book.” You have been warned.

Grand Theft Auto V thus far has been a truly memorable experience. Watching the demise of a family man, the shattering dreams of an up and coming gangster, and the pure sadism of a maniac has been a treat, exemplifying once again that Rockstar Games can write characters like no other company today. As soon as you meet him, Trevor is the purest example of what the entire Grand Theft Auto series has been, and always will be: mayhem. His slapstick nature and over-the-top crudeness has made it easy to laugh along while he’s mowing down person after person in the most sick way possible. But in a series first, it went too far.

I’m rarely put off by videogames. I’ve seen eyeballs ripped out of the socket of giants. I’ve had people chainsawed in half, painting a black and white world red. The hilarious romp GTA V once was turned very dark, very quick. In working with the FIB, you must torture a man to the edge of death in order to attain the proper information to assassinate a target. The key word is must. There is no other way of going about the mission, and you must actively engage in the torturing. You have an array of tools to choose from, ranging from a pair of pliers, to a jerry can full of water. Trevor laughs along while laying a cloth over the innocent man’s face, pouring water over him, waterboarding him, or listening to the grinding of his tooth as you ply it straight from his gums. The man gives you some information, but Michael doesn’t think it’s enough. Trevor scans his tools, looking for the most effective method for his next torture session.

GTA V Trevor's Torture Scene

It’s horrifying. Each method has a short mini game, whether it’s turning your analog stick to pour the water, or rotating the stick to wiggle this poor man’s tooth out. It was incredibly uncomfortable to watch, never mind to engage in it. Yet I had no choice. I contemplated just turning the game off right there, being pretty sickened by it. Why would Rockstar include this?

At first glance, I wasn’t sure how to react to this whole scene. I was wholly disturbed, but like all the other treacherous acts Trevor had committed in the game thus far, he was laughing along, enjoying the ride. Until then, I was right on board, but in that moment, I was truly disturbed. All I could do was search for a reason as to why this would be in the game. It felt unnecessary.

From his first mission, Trevor is sadistic through and through. He laughs at violence, thrives for blood, and he is in the business he is in because he enjoys it. You begin as Trevor with nearly $100,000, which is a telling, yet subtle way of showing that he has been like this for a long time. He obviously didn’t attain this money in a legitimate fashion. He blows an entire trailer park up to eliminate his business competitors. He tortures innocent men and enjoys it.

The nature of each scene before the torture scene is funny because Trevor is a funny man. It’s easy to forget the horrible nature of his actions because he is quick-witted; nullifying each action with laughter. We aren’t supposed to laugh along with the horrible torture sequence because it’s not funny. It’s so easy to forget the horrifying human being he is, but in this scene, Rockstar is telling us not to forget. It’s a reminder that we are the ones that make Trevor so horrible, and to distinguish right from wrong. If you came away from that torture sequence thinking, “Wow, that was disturbing,” then you understand the message Rockstar is trying to convey with Trevor and his actions. He is not a good person, and deserves no sympathy. You can laugh along, but never forget he is a murderer, a thief, and certifiably insane.

Torture’s for the torturer. Or the guy giving the orders to the torturer. You torture for the good times – we should all admit that. It’s useless as a means of getting information!”


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  • So Rockstar put that scene in to remind us that Trevor, though “funny”, is a horrible person (aka wrong)?

    …Wouldn’t a better way of doing that be to simply make him the antagonist, not one of the main characters? I mean, we’re playing as him and therefore most of us (not me) are going to come to like him and think he’s an all-around badass. I’ve read a lot of articles of people commenting on this scene, and none of them throw “Trevor is a horrible person” in there at all; they all just say “This scene was very disturbing”.

    Add to this what you yourself said about the FIB being behind it all, and it sort of gives them an excuse to put much of the blame on the FIB instead of really driving the point about Trevor being despicable home.

    Now, I know a lot people have taken to the explanation for Trevor that “He’s the best GTA protagonist ever, because his personality fits those rampages we all go on when we play GTA!” but was that ever really an issue? Did anyone ever complain that what we chose to do with our free time wasn’t “in character”? I’m pretty sure we all understood that the story and the player’s behavior “in the sandbox” (in between missions) were separate. We didn’t question what possessed Claude in GTA 3 to hop into an ambulance and save lives, why Tommy Vercetti would bother racing remote control cars around at the beach, or why C.J. with bigger problems on his hands would stop to play trucker for a few hours. These activities were all included with the player in mind.

    Of course there are plenty of activities in GTA 5. Some of which people could argue still contrast with the personality of the protagonist you’re playing, but Rockstar has gone on record to say the reason there’s no dating (as an example) is because of “the nature of the characters”. IOW, “None of these people would want to date anybody”. It’s likely the reason they left out the emergency vehicle missions as well, and certainly what’s behind that annoying default radio station feature where the game doesn’t even give you the option of saving YOUR vehicles tuned into YOUR favorite station; they all default to the character you’re playing.

    I say, the character’s personality in the cut scenes does NOT have to conform to the stereotypical GTA player’s behavior, especially seeing how it’s begun already to force the player’s behavior in the sandbox to conform to the main character’s personality in the story. Once you start chipping away at the player’s freedom for reasons like this in a GTA game, it is no longer all about freedom and therefore ceases to be GTA.

    Trevor’s comment at the end about torture not being effective in getting information was a nice attempt to discourage people from using it, but most of us who are old enough to organize a torture scene of our own happen to know that it’s used to effectively get information ALL THE TIME. So basically, the comment he made has no value.

    I think it was for “shock value”, nothing more. Rockstar’s trying too hard to convince the world they’re the “baddest”. That simple.

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