Beyond a Joke: Hollywood’s Obsession with Violence and Its Implications

For decades, European and Australian friends have told me that Americans are far too prudish.  Why, for example, do American films and TV shows generally shy away from showing nudity, even in moral contexts, but routinely show the most brutal and destructive violence imaginable?  Surely the damage done to the souls of young children who watch graphic beheadings greatly outweighs that done by catching a glimpse of a woman’s bottom?

For years, I grinned and nodded and rolled my eyes, but I believe the threshold of outrageous absurdity has been reached for some time now.  Maybe my buddies have a point.  Not necessarily about prudishness or nudity, but about the violence.  Almost exactly four years ago, when the Dark Knight Batman movie featuring the Joker debuted, a British movie critic named Jenny McCartney penned an essay in The Telegraph about the movie, criticizing Hollywood’s obsession with darkness.  I think that essay is especially interesting now, in light of the recent events in Aurora Colorado.  That event coincided with the release of another Batman movie, but its ties to the Joker character, and hence the first movie, are significant.  Ms. McCartney’s complaint was not so much the existence of violence in films, but the apparent acceleration in the level of violence with each generation.  She recalls children being scared by the “Child Catcher” in the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as a child.  Then, about the Dark Knight, she says:

But the greatest surprise of all – even for me, after eight years spent working as a film critic – has been the sustained level of intensely sadistic brutality throughout the film.

I recommend that you read her whole article in the Telegraph by going here.  It’s excellent and very well reasoned, I think.

However, do I recommend more censorship of violence in films or legislation to prevent violence in real life?  Hardly.  Such things are probably pointless, or even worse, counterproductive.  Besides, I rather approve of action movies, especially the ones, like the recent Batman movies, that champion conservative values, which is rare enough in Hollywood.  Books and movies showing the triumph of Good over Evil are an essential element in the care and feeding of our youth, as the Treasure Island stories and cowboy movies were in earlier times.

But, like Jenny McCartney, I think that the genre is now showing a twisted dysfunctionality that reflects the diseased nature of our culture.  How else can you characterize a place like our country, where people are flocking to see movies that show the reality of the need to fight violence with violence, while at the very same time, our political and media elites are browbeating us into legislating guns out of existence, which would leave us utterly at the mercy of tyrannical violence?  Is this not a disconnect?  Are we not approaching a great big bloody showdown in the war of ideas?  How much longer can peace remain without even the slightest hint of unity in philosophy?  Our culture is sick, sick enough to require violent emergency surgery.  And I have a suspicion that if that surgery ever comes and is successful, and freedom flourishes as a result, and tyranny is suppressed once again, that the people will have not the stomach nor the need for such extreme violence in their films.  At least for a while.

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About GruntOfMonteCristo

Fearless and Devout Catholic Christian First, Loving Husband and Father Second, Pissed-Off Patriot Third, Rocket Engineer Dork Last.
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26 Responses to Beyond a Joke: Hollywood’s Obsession with Violence and Its Implications

  1. Aussie says:

    Grunt, I did not watch the Dark Knight. That movie was so dark that Heath Ledger (I could not stand him as an actor anyway) ended up taking his own life via his drug taking. There may be a disconnect between the two events but it is true that shortly after the movie Ledger killed himself with a drug overdose.

    I have watched many movies with violence, and in some cases I have turned my head and not watched what happened. I am not totally into the gore. However, I do not think that the violence upsets most normal people.

    So we need to turn to trying to understand what happens when someone who is a nerd and has a delicate psyche in the first place (and resumbles a TV character from the big bang theory) would end up wanting to act out the violence in the movie The Dark Knight. The man saw himself as The Joker. This is not normal for a 24 year old.

    If you have ever watched the Big Bang Theory you will be able to identify the one character who is most like this man. All of the characters get carried away with certain things, but in particular their comic book heroes and of course they talk Klingon!! They live out various fantasies including some really whacky games which is their version of strip poker!! My point here is to show how a TV show can also influence certain individuals in terms of self-identification.

    Asylums have been full of people who think that they are Napoleon Bonaparte, Superman, and a bunch of other characters. Yet, few people have really worked to discover whether or not these were once highly intelligent people who withdrew into themselves.

    A nerd is often a person who is a loner because he or she is different. A nerd is someone who is actually quite brilliant, yet that person has trouble making social contacts with others. People tend to be afraid of nerds, not knowing how best to treat them. Unless the nerd who is already socially isolated is able to break out or into a social circle, then that person ends up withdrawing from society. The perpetrator of the Aurora shootings appears to be this kind of person. He even went online to a sex site, friendfinder looking for a woman for casual sex.

    From what I have gleaned this particular person had been withdrawing from society, and he had withdrawn from his Phd program. It is that withdrawal from society that is the trigger of the tragic event. No one can see inside of his head. He clearly wanted to kill a very large number of people including police. He identified with the movie The Dark Knight. He saw himself as The Joker. I wonder how many times he sat and watched that movie. He was following what he saw in the movie.

    It is not so much the violence as it is the actual sub plots, and one could say what the playwright made up as far as the type of violence that is the key.

    Australia has its own massacres. Port Arthur was the biggest single massacre in Australia in recent history. A lot of people died at the hands of Martin Bryant. Guess what, he was another loner. Children had laughed at him on the bus. Only one woman ever befriended him. He had mental stability problems that were left untreated.

    Mental health is the key, not guns, and not violence, even though both of these things will factor into the events that have taken place.

    • Knight4GFC says:

      “Mental health is the key, not guns, and not violence, even though both of these things will factor into the events that have taken place.” – I agrees!

  2. barnslayer says:

    Hollywood is certainly filled with hypocrites. They preach gun bans, no war, no nukes etc but make plenty of money recreating wholesale slaughter utilizing those very same things. But that’s “art”.

    Regarding the Aurora psycho… you can’t prevent crazy from existing. (If you tried the liberals would call you a “psychophobe” or some sort of racist… it’s just a disability right?). The best you can do is have very real punishment for acting out on it (without the mentally incompetent excuse garbage). And… allow the rest of us to do our best to defend against it.

    • Aussie says:

      Amen to your statement. This also goes for Anders Brevik, the perpetrator of the Norway massacre. It is highly likely that he is psychotic even though he was ruled mentally fit to stand trial.

      An interesting point has come to light about the Aurora person – he had consumed both Pot and Vicodin in a very large dose. Vicodin is the drug that killed Heath Ledger. It seems that there is some kind of weird link to Heath Ledger in his pysche. On top of that large quantities of Vicodin can cause psychotic episodes. Food for thought.

  3. Knight4GFC says:

    – “people are flocking to see movies that show the reality of the need to fight violence with violence, while at the very same time, our political and media elites are browbeating us into legislating guns out of existence, which would leave us utterly at the mercy of tyrannical violence” – Awkward indeed! IMO, what hollywood portrays in violence how good fights with violence and triumphs over evil, is an agenda that is a part of the progressives plan to get rid of guns and “radical” patriotic Americans. If progressive, liberal, Hollywood helps the “POWERS THAT BE” in scaring the ignorant legislaters that a little guy can ruin their plan of “salvation” (Socialism/1WO) with a gun, then laws will be made in favor of gun control.
    Legislating guns out of existence, would leave us utterly at the mercy of tyrannical violence! “Our culture is sick, sick enough to require violent emergency surgery” – You’re absolutely correct! And while we are on this road as a nation, we will end up having emergency surgery! With that being said, Knowing how the American people are as a whole(true americans – they are still a force to be reckoned with), I believe that the progressive Hollywood movement’s violent movie agenda will backfire in the sense that we lowly American patriots, will be inspired by these movies in a sense that a small guy CAN stand up against a tyrannical government and ruin their socialistic/1WO plan in an “emergency surgery event”!
    If this happens, then I agree with what you said: ” And I have a suspicion that if that surgery ever comes and is successful, and freedom flourishes as a result, and tyranny is suppressed once again, that the people will have not the stomach nor the need for such extreme violence in their films.”
    I know that there is a larger fight going on here in America between good and evil. God vs. Satan. This is the driving forces at hand here. Its reaching a crescendo. Why is there such polarizing issues with God, religion, morals, and guns etc. in America?
    “My greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” – Abraham Lincoln. If were on God’s side, then we won’t fail!
    “America needs God more than God needs America. If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a Nation gone under.” – Ronald Reagan.

    • gib says:

      “My greatest concern is to be on God’s side.” Because violence is a global epidemic today.
      Recall earlier football called “Sunday Mayhem”. Look what it has morphed into:
      “About two dozen New Orleans Saints players and an assistant coach had a bounty program that paid bonuses for injuring opponents, the National Football League said.
      Between 22 and 27 Saints players were involved in the program during the past three seasons, with as much as $1,500 paid for a specific hit, the league said yesterday in an e- mailed release. The players were not identified in the release.
      Players were paid $1,500 for a “knockout,” in which an opposing player was unable to return to the game, and $1,000 for a “cart-off” in which opposing players were carried off the field, according to the release. Payments doubled or tripled during the playoffs.”
      There is also a game played by roving packs of blacks called “Knockout” where one of the players is declared the winner if he can knock an unsuspecting victim unconscious with one blow to the head. It is also said the more aged and frail the victim is the better.
      So what good would gun control by the federal government do in this situation? It seems as if America’s favorite past-time these days, by many, is either viewing or participating in violence. The guy that killed all those people at the Denver movie theater was one sick person no doubt.
      So is the person, or persons, sick minded who pays bounties and those players also who collect those bounties for deliberate injuries to opposing players. Violence is in fact a national past-time for many in America today.
      This all makes me wonder at times about the scriptures that say: “37 But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
      38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,
      39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” Matt. 28 . It was more than just the wrong kinds of marriages (multiple partners) that brought on the biblical flood.
      “5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
      6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
      7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.”Gen.6
      I live about 45-50 miles west of Shrevesport Louisiana and it is fairly common to hear on the daily news about some man beating his girl-friends baby to death or someone setting another person on fire. Drive-by shootings are the milder sports played by the violent participants in this part of the country today. I think Hollwood is moving to New Orleans, so they (movie makers) say.

  4. Shalini says:

    Excellent article and great comments, too. Today’s editorial in our local newspaper was about the same topic. Of course, they suggested gun control. (They had to. How could they not? It’s a golden opportunity to exhibit moral superiority. )

    “Surely the damage done to the souls of young children who watch graphic beheadings greatly outweighs that done by catching a glimpse of a woman’s bottom?”

    I think quite the opposite, actually. Most teenagers have the propensity to think about sex over violence. And I honestly believe that our sexualised culture does more harm to children than violence. I can personally tolerate violence (within limits. Scratch that. I can stomach a lot without batting an eyelid.) over a smutty scene. But then, I am a prude so no surprises there. Also, young children don’t get their violence from movies. Most parents won’t let their children watch violent movies (Not my parents, though) but they allow them play violent video games. Which, BTW, is more dangerous because then children think violence is just part of a game which skews their real life idea about what is acceptable and what is not. I don’t think people should call for the censoring of “Tom & Jerry”, though. (People really do and that’s beyond stupid. I never went and set traps for my brother just ’cause Jerry did it! )

    There really is no point in expecting Hollywood or any movie or TV industry, for that matter, to self-censor. It’s good business to them. My parents had a simple solution to it. If something wasn’t acceptable, we weren’t allowed to watch it. Strangely, they didn’t mind horror movies. I remember watching ‘Poltergeist’ when I was probably 3 or 4 years old. The only thing bothering me at that time was this cute clown doll I had (which smells amazing even now) and the drumstick tree in our backyard. I looked at them warily for a few months after watching that movie. But all that horror movie watching hasn’t damaged me. (At least, I’d like to think that! 😀 )

    But I digress. Man’s fallen nature sometimes needs a nudge to fall over to the other side completely. If movies don’t do it, Satan would do it himself. Cain killed his brother, just like that. Watching happy movies all the time doesn’t guarantee you a safe life. Only, God’s presence does.

    • Very thoughtful and astute comments here, Shal. I’m not so sure that you weren’t damaged by your horror movie watching, though. Look at your penchant for Calvin and Hobbes. We know how sick and twisted THOSE comics were. 😉
      h
      t
      And it wasn’t just violence or horror. Calvin even graphically portrayed sex art.
      s
      n
      But I think your last statement is very true, and it’s the key to the context that is so important to the judgment of the wholesomeness of any subject.

      I mostly agree with you about prudishness, and I never did agree with those who said America was too prudish. I think personal modesty is a critical virtue. On the other hand, I think that context is everything, when it comes to judging things, like art. Since simple beauty is a godly thing and something that all people enjoy and need, even nudity in art is not necessarily evil. I think Pope JP2 wrote a few essays about that while still a cardinal. Then there’s all that scandalous art in the Vatican that got Dan Brown so offended… 😉

      • Shalini says:

        Yay!! More C&H!!! Wait! Did you just call me damaged and twisted…?! Nevermind! More C&H!! 😀

        About modesty, I don’t know. As I’ve said before my name means modesty and modesty in clothes is the only kind of modesty I exhibit, so… 😛

        On a serious note, I have mentioned elsewhere that being raised in a strict Catholic home and being an Indian makes me uber conservative in a lot of things. But it’s not even that that shapes my idea on this. This topic, in fact, recently came to my mind after seeing mentions of Fatima in the Z’s ‘the American Covenant’ post. Have you read Our Lady of Fatima’s instructions on modesty? She’s very, very strict. She’s not even okay with men going shirtless! Oftentimes, my mom has had this discussion with me, not in a “You do what I tell you, young lady!!” kind of way. Serious thoughtful discussions, because you don’t even see Nuns with that level of modesty these days. But they were simple, direct instructions (Much like what was expected of the Church hierarchy in those difficult times) which the Vatican doesn’t insist upon but every time I wear a pair of skinny jeans I do have doubts in my head.

        • Knight4GFC says:

          I think both Grunt and you have good points!
          Shalini, why aren’t there more ladies like you in our neck of the woods?

          • Shalini says:

            Now, now, Knight. Don’t you think you are going to get into a little trouble for saying that? After all, you do have wonderful ladies visiting this blog who are from your neck of the woods. 😉

            • Knight4GFC says:

              🙂 In the middle of the Pacific ocean I must tell you that in the tropics here where the temps can be warm especially with the humidity clothes are typically the last thing on the human race’s minds. I also live in a place that is overrun with libs, progs, homosexuals, and crazy activists. I try to remain sane.
              As for the Ladies here at 4GFC, no offense meant sorry. The Ladies here @ 4GFC are probably WAY better than what I see down here… its south, way south. In fact, we’re the most southern in the U.S.! 🙂

              • Knight4GFC says:

                Dang droid! “I” instead of 8.
                Grunt says: Corrected for ya. Dang, Knight, am I going to have to be your secretary all the time? If this is gonna continue, I recommend getting a prettier steno. And one who’s less bald. 😉

              • Shalini says:

                Ah! You don’t want to go there. I know all about hot and humid. We mostly get 10 months of hot, humid summer, one month of rain and one month of what passes for a winter here. 🙂

                As for the ladies, hang in there Knight. After all, you and GFC are very conservative guys in a very liberal state. There must at least be one conservative lady over there, statistically speaking. Keep the faith! 🙂

        • Actually, Knight, I think Shalini has the superior words here. Shal, you have selected just the right knife with which to filet me on this. I’m very much aware of Our Lady’s words on the subject of modesty, at Fatima and at Garabandal, Spain and other places. I must confess that it is foremost in my mind whenever I ponder the subject, and it’s always been a source of mild difficulty for me. I say “mild” only because I completely accept her exhortations to modesty. But my concern is the context, just like whenever we listen to the Savior’s words, or St. Paul’s words, it’s important to keep in mind who they are speaking to and under what situation, or we can easily be led into an overly scrupulous anxiety about our lives and conduct, and that is as much an evil as other sins, since it paralyzes us. It’s also been the evil one’s most-frequently-used tools against me, in particular, so I’m on the lookout for it. As a quick example, St. Paul counsels us to either be celibate, or marry, and he implies that our conduct should be very different depending on our calling. Married people should “deny each other nothing,” while the celibate are called to a much more aesthetic existence. Our Lady’s calling is the most singular of all, since she was, and is still, the Human Ark, the Mother of God, and her purity, like the Israelite’s Ark of the Covenant, is complete. So, in short, I find it difficult to interpret her words as they apply to everyone, especially since her words were very often directed at young children, some of whom became nuns, so we’d expect her words to be very demanding. I would point out, that all the Garabandal girls went on to become happily married women, and were encouraged in doing so. Conchita, in particular, was told by Our Lady that being a nun was not her calling. Maybe we should have a separate post about this. I think it’s a tough, but important, subject. What do you think? A modesty post?

          • Shalini says:

            I would absolutely love a post on that, Grunt. In fact, I was going to ask for it after ‘The American Covenant’ thread but decided against it because you guys already have your plates full. I agree with you about anxiety but when it’s from our Holy Mother who is entirely human and who worshiped God with every bit of her pure self (the way God desires to be worshiped), it definitely is worth pondering upon.

            Celibacy isn’t all that hard, anyway. No matter what libs tell us, self-control is a very possible and easy thing. And THAT is true science. Saying you have to have sex because you want to or everyone does is baloney. Of course, my super conservative culture might make it easier for me, but for me it’s simply wanting to honour God and not wanting to disappoint my parents. They’ve given me their everything (most importantly, their beautiful faith) and the least I could do is to be worthy of them, peer pressure be darned.

            You know, I briefly considered becoming a nun when I was a teenager (like every young Catholic girl. *Rolls eyes*). I decided against it not only because it wasn’t my calling, also because, of the 3 vows, I found the vow of obedience a bit difficult. Especially since, my superiors would be nuns. I absolutely didn’t think the vow of celibacy would be difficult, at all! 🙂

          • Knight4GFC says:

            All for it! As for Shalini’s words, I am in total agreement. I know you had some good points but I didn’t want to “fillet” you any more than she did friend! 🙂
            Not only that, but I am happy she says what she did! I couldn’t say those words without being cut to pieces by accusations of being sexist! I am being honest as I know you are being brutally honest right now yerself friend!
            Truth is hard to accept sometimes but when accepted Truth becomes your best friend, your shield, and your weapon. 🙂

            • Very well said, Buddy!

              • Ah you guys are killing me here. I don’t even have time to reply to all of this as I am going crazy on a project all of this week. Being that this is a God (first), family and county site, I think it would be appropriate to have a post on modesty and what it means and clarify some or at least give us all food for thought.
                One thing I will comment on now is to remind everyone that, God does not change, man does. So no matter how intellegent we think we are (reminds me of our so bright and intelligent philosophers today who think they know so much more than our founding Fathers) today does it mean that yesterdays Spiritual Fathers Wisdom was less relevant?

              • Indeed not, GFC. That reminds me of another post I was thinking of doing: Modern Myth #57 – Everyone thinks our ancestors were idiots; It ain’t so. Good ideas!

  5. garnette says:

    To think at one point I seem to remember an uproar that too many cartoons were violent and children wouldn’t know the difference between reality and fantasy. The cartoons were the Roadrunner, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Was this a case of the left finding fault with something just so they could replace it with something even more violent?

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