Our History of Violence

It’s Not Funny

I can count on one hand the number of times I have walked out of a movie before the end. It takes quite a lot for me to forego the $10 ticket price. A year or so ago, however, I left a movie three quarters of the way through because I was so disturbed by the violence playing out on the screen. Funny Games staring Naomi Watts and Tim Roth, a remake of an Austrian film by the same name, is one of the most disturbing and disgusting pieces of cinematographic abuse ever perpetrated on filmgoers. The film is about a family held hostage and systematically tortured and killed by two tennis white wearing preppy monsters. Even now it makes me nauseated.

Disturbing as this movie is, it’s just the latest example of America’s obsession with violence. The mere fact that I was one of only three people to leave the movie that night shows just how inured we have become to violence. Sex? The same country that sees a national disgrace in Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction has made television shows like Law and Order and CSI top rated programs. It’s a sick society we’ve created for ourselves.

Kirby Dick’s 2006 documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated explores the Motion Picture Association of America’s seemingly schizophrenic ratings system. His film explores the secretive group of people who rate movies and the disparity between ratings for movies showing heterosexual sex, homosexual sex, and graphic violence. The threat of an NC-17 rating has set up a quasi censorship system where hetero sex scenes, as long as they are not too graphic, are allowed, homosexual sex scenes are less frequently allowed unless the sex is between two women while depictions of violence are pretty much given carte blanche. The extremely violent Saw film series is routinely edited to avoid NC17 ratings, but they are sickengly violent nonetheless. In the current system, sex is dangerous and murder is entertainment.

What sort of sick twisted society do we live in where it’s okay to torture and murder a family, including a young child, on film, but showing two people making love is not okay? America was founded on violence. America is a violent society. But does popular culture reflect the inherent violence in America or does it feed it? The recent accounts of young female coeds in North Carolina and Alabama being murdered, while tragic, really didn’t national press coverage. But the “if it bleeds it leads” mentality has desensitized us to violence, especially if it’s violence against young white women. Murder is all around us, therefore we barely flinch when it’s played out online or on screen.

Until you’ve had violence touch your life in a tangible way you cannot understand just how devastating murder is. My family has been a victim of a violent crime. My brother’s girlfriend was murdered in their home and the home was set on fire to hide the crime. The murderer was never caught. After watching a murder in a movie, one gets up, walks out of the theatre to their car, and goes on about their lives. It’s easy to forget when you know that what was depicted on screen was not really “real.” But there is no walking away from real violence. It stays with you for many years. Jeanette’s murder still haunts my family over ten years later.

Watching people being murdered should not be entertainment.

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