Film shooting: action or cut?

Our contributors weigh in on the impact of violent films on our society

Many popular movies feature scenes of extreme violence.
Many popular movies feature scenes of extreme violence.
Credit: 
Photo illustration compiled by Sam Koebrich

Colin Tomchick, ArtSci ‘15

While the proliferation of extreme violence in film and other types of media is a fairly new issue, the average North American manages to coexist relatively peacefully with firearms.

It wasn’t long ago, even in Canada, when it was commonplace for a regular family to own a firearm for sport or defence.

In light of events in the last two decades, such as the recent Sandy Hook and LAX shootings, people are looking for answers to these tragic and sometimes incomprehensible acts of violence.

Because those who commit these acts generally tend to be under the age of 25, many are quick to place the blame squarely on the go-to scourge of today’s youth: Hollywood and video games.

It’s well-established that people are afraid of things they don’t understand, so it would make sense for an older generation with little experience with modern gaming to see the millions of Call of Duty-playing, Expendables-watching children as a new generation of gun-crazed killers.

The reality is far different. The assumption that violent video games and films cause gun violence is a classic case of correlation being mistaken for causation.

While perpetrators of mass killings are often reported to be video game enthusiasts, what many fail to realize is that these perpetrators are generally males between the age of 16 and 30 — the demographic that most video game enthusiasts fall under. By this obviously flawed logic, any young male who enjoys violent video games is a possible violent offender.

I doubt many people walk out of a movie theatre after watching a violent film and think: “that film really motivated me to commit some acts of gun violence.” Especially in a time when individuals can recreate violent scenarios in a safe and competitive way (such as paintball or airsoft) it’s misguided to see violence in the media as the main cause of real-world gun violence.

Violent people have widely been found to have been victims of violence in the past.

Perhaps we should stop distracting ourselves with the gut-check reaction of blaming the media for gun violence, and examine the more likely societal causes, such as mental illness and familial abuse.

Lucy He, ArtSci ’ 16

The increasing amount of violence in movies must stop because it perpetuates and encourages emotional remoteness between people.

According to the BBC, film violence has doubled since 1950. It seems to be something that’s mentally stimulating for the audience, which explains its overwhelming popularity.

The growing allure of violent movies speaks to a problematic lack of emotional intimacy between people. Violence in film isolates emotions, causing detachment. Social media and technology are a primary cause of this emotional isolation and narcissism.

Nowadays, social media dominates relationships. Young adults and teens are preoccupied with online socialization in favour of personal interaction. It becomes a problem when media replaces personal interaction.

What individuals display via Facebook or text is a unique fabrication of their ideal self that they project out to the public. Consequently, people see each other as means of entertainment and don’t acknowledge each other’s true personality, which ultimately distances people.

The frustration of loneliness stemming from this results in apathy and the antagonization of others, which in turn provokes enjoyment in viewing violent films. Although violence is something that audiences want to see in movies, it’s unhealthy because it numbs and desensitizes emotions. The post-modern film genre is, in part, characterized by the alienation of the viewer, making it difficult for the audience to feel empathy towards the characters.

This is done by the use of techniques such as non-linear storytelling, breaking the “fourth wall”, keeping the identity of the protagonist ambiguous and using humour to cope with extreme violence. The film Pulp Fiction is a good example. It centres on gruesome shootings, rape, gang disputes and drug use. Throughout the film, almost all of the violent scenes employ comic relief as a coping mechanism. Many iconic films today such as American Psycho and Inglorious Basterds share this trait. While we find films like this exhilarating and exciting, we don’t realize the negative effects they have on our mental and emotional well-being. These films work as an anaesthetic that eliminate the moral distaste that most people naturally feel towards violence and cruelty.

Slowly, this normalizes violent behaviour and enables an apathetic perspective towards violence. This phenomenon is already evident: Generation Y and X’s tolerance for disturbing scenes has increased within the last decade. The Guardian published an article recently on how the Top 13 PG-13 blockbusters movies, like The Hunger Games and The Avengers now have more violence than R-rated 80s flicks such as The Untouchables. This shows the growing acceptance and normalization of violence in society.

The desensitization towards violent movies is a problem. If this continues to go unnoticed, society has the potential to grow into the same chaos we see in these films.

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