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Thoughts on Violence and its Perceived Power through Mediums

May 2, 2014

 

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I’m currently recovering from surfing a wave of ecstasy in Asheville, NC for Moogfest 2014 last week. In celebration of Arthur” “Bob” Moog, the inventor of the first electronic synthesizer and a line of other equally incredible electronic instruments, Moogfest celebrates Bob Moog’s achievements by hosting five days of inspiring lectures, exhibits, seminars, shops, film screenings, and around the clock mind-blowing music. I enjoyed a face melting 3D performance from German house band Kraftwerk and my bones ached from dancing to M.I.A.’s powerfully political dance party. I learned about the future of collecting sounds from deep space and how close we are to communicating with whales. I even had the pleasure of sitting wide-eyed and contemplative through  a screening of Brian De Palma’s Scarface and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. Both films prolonged an anxious chain of thoughts about violence in the media that I’ve been ruminating over since seeing Captain America: The Winter Solider and starting my binge of “Game of Thrones.”

With a mid-morning beer in hand, I greeted one festival morning by watching Brian De Palma’s masterpiece unfold before my eyes. A remake of Howard Hawk’s dastardly, 1932 crime drama, De Palma did something special when he remade Scarface. Not only are themes of power, immigration, and political corruption included in De Palma’s retelling, but he manages to capture the era and its desperate chase after the American dream. Drive, on the other hand is a much quitter, placid film following a stunt driver and his run in with the mob through his tenderness toward a neighbor. Both films brilliantly tell unique stories that center around strong central figures and towering performances. They both possess killer soundtracks that sound crisp and urgent in powerful speakers. But, most importantly both films are incredibly, almost uncomfortably, violent.

Which led me to my recurring thought about violence and the medium we view it through. Human beings are barbaric by nature, it’s just fact. Some of the oldest surviving pieces of literature and writings reaffirms that. For instance: The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Code of Hammurabi, The Bhagavad Gita, Bible, and Qur’an, are all works that details how violent the nature of humanity is. Yet, for years the debate over whether violent films and video games influence the population has continued to grow steadily. The MPAA developed the PG-13 rating after Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom exposed children to tribal human sacrificing. Over the years, lawsuits have been filed and studies concluded to figure out whether violent films influence violent behavior. However, that argument is one that is rooted in redundant pointlessness, or skewed and one-sided at the least.

Of course violence in film, music, and games influence others, it’d be ignorant to say otherwise. But, the same violence that gets represented in media is usually only a reflection of what actually exists among us. Humanity is violent, life is violent. My recent addiction to “Game of Thrones” is a constant reminder that although the times have changed, the evil of humanity thrives. Sure, we’re much better off than the unfortunate souls of the past who lived through slavery, feudalism, and any other form of socially accepted oppression. Though horrible people still exist and terrible things still happen every second, we used to be far worse. We used to pit men in cages with bears for sport. We use to attend public hangings with children in tow. We use to kill someone pointblank because their beliefs were different, or their skin, or their ancestry, or their class, or because they were born with an abnormality. All of this took place ages before television or film could expose impressionable citizens to such brutalities.

For me, watching bits of chest explode in Scarface from a gunshot wound is unsettling. Watching a man’s head get stomped in by an angry boot in Drive is nauseating. Seeing swords and knives cut through a living being as though they are paper in “Game of Thrones” is gut-wrenching. Sure, violence in films can look cool and awesome because of flashy edits, slow motion, or glitzy lights, but the reflection of violence in films is usually always disturbing and uncomfortable to watch. I think the problem we need to address when concerning ourselves about exposing youth to violence is how to be open and honest with young people. It’s doing children a disservice to tell them that what they’re seeing is “just a movie” or “just television.” It’s a representation of life, and life isn’t always good. In fact, sometimes there seems to be more bad in the world than good, but parents, and teachers, and leaders need to address these ailments of reality.

We need to stop blaming images and music for a disgruntled, confused kid shooting up a school. We need to stop looking for excuses to not talk to our peers about the brutalities of life. We need to confront these issues with open discussions about violent feelings and tendencies. We need to start teaching our youth coping mechanisms. We need better mental health care and to remind the youth that while these images they see are fabricated, the reality of them aren’t. Once we accept that bad people exist and bad things happen maybe then we can learn how to counteract them. It’s up to the viewers to responsibly dissect and interpret the images we see, and the earlier we teach that to the youth instead of shielding them from the truth, the earlier we as a society can figure out how to evolve beyond our barbaric make-up. As a character bluntly explains to another in “Game of Thrones,” “the world is built by killers, so you better get used to looking at them.” We give violence power when we blame films and music for exposing our children to it. We know better than our forefathers, so we need to start using our brains to conquer over brawn.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Alethia permalink
    May 3, 2014 3:35 PM

    LOOOOOVE EVERY SINGLE THING ABOUT THIS POST!!! I think that both violence and sexuality get loads of unjust flack these days. There’s nothing new under the sun and whether you’re careful or not life has a way of exposing kids to a certain level of both these things sooner than some may be comfortable with. As a parent and just a movie lover I see it as my personal right and responsibility to watch what I want to watch and educate my kids about violence and sexuality when they come to me with questions.

    • May 3, 2014 6:30 PM

      Exactly, you’re the type of of parent I see myself being. It’s ridiculous to shield children from reality, they’re going to discover it anyway might as well prepare them with open, honest conversation. I understand parents want to protect their children, but I’ve seen more people suffer from being sheltered at an early age than those who weren’t.

  2. January 10, 2017 10:09 AM

    Very inspired article, thanks you for sharing your thoughts! Do you ever post your articles on any film sites? I’m actually the Community Content Manager for Moviepilot.com, and I would be thrilled if you considered cross posting your stuff to our platform. I think our readers would really enjoy what you have to say.

    • January 11, 2017 8:51 AM

      Thank you so much for the kind words! Currently I no longer post to other sites (though you can check out past posts at Movie Boozer and Pretty Clever Films) but I’m interested in cross-promoting. Please email me at for further discussion. Thanks again!

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