I Can’t Watch Movie Violence Without Thinking About Sandy Hook

Last night I was going through my DVDs looking for something to watch and popped in The Matrix.  The opening scene is of the police trying to arrest Trinity.  It had some pistol shots, and I immediately thought of Sandy Hook.  I felt guilty watching the movie.  I watched a little longer because the shooting was over, but as I watched I remembered the scene where Neo rescues Morpheus in an orgy of semi-automatic and automatic weapons violence.  I had to turn off the movie.  I knew as soon as the assault rifles showed up I’d imagine their bullets impacting little bodies of six and seven year old girls and boys.

Sandy Hook is my turning point for rejecting violence in our society, like Hurricane Sandy is the turning point for many about climate change.

We’re all asking ourselves how can anyone become a mass murderer of children?    That’s too monstrous to comprehend much less accept.  But this is after decades of accepting other kinds of violence as part of our ordinary life.  Haven’t we long taken serial killers, terrorists, gangs, drug cartels for granted?  There have always been terrorists, serial killers and even mass murderers, but the horror of their crimes keeps growing bigger and bigger.  When will this escalation of violence end?  How much can we accept before it drives us all into a terminal depression?  If we don’t do something, then we will accept mass murder of children as part of life too.

And I’m afraid watching violent movies, television shows and video games is a form of acceptance.  If we could plot the rise of violence in our society with the rise of violence in the movies I bet the lines would parallel each other on the chart.  And if we also plotted the number of weapons and kinds of fire power civilians now own, that graph would match the others.

When I was growing up policemen carried revolvers and  automatic weapons were carefully controlled.  The average citizen couldn’t own machine guns.  If people owned a gun for protection it was usually a simple .38 Smith & Wesson or a small .410 shotgun.  Now families have whole military arsenals including assault rifles with extended clips.  In the 1950s movie action heroes were cowboys that carried a single pistol on his hip.  Now action heroes blaze away with assault rifles cradled in each arm, and when their ammunition runs out, whip out two large semi-automatic handguns from concealed holsters.  Both in real life and screen life, we can’t seem to get enough firepower.  What are we afraid of?

I was looking forward to the new western by Quentin Tarantino that comes out Christmas, but after Sandy Hook I can’t handle any more violence, real or fun.  And isn’t it weird we accept so much violence as fun?  Something is wrong with us.

Are all those assault rifles and semi-automatic pistols in movies just product placement for arms dealers?  Have the arms industry just shifted it sales from warring countries to American consumers?  When average Americans feels the need for night vision goggles and laser scopes, I have to wonder who is promoting those sales and what emotions are they playing upon.

I used to believe that there was no correlation between violent video games and movies and real life violence, but I’ve changed my mind.  Hurricane Sandy and Sandy Hook are warnings about the future.  Our environment is overheating in both weather and violence.

Sometimes we vote in a polling station, but most of the times we vote with our dollars.  Sorry Mr. Tarantino, but you and other action film makers have taken violence for escapist fun too far.  I think some of our gun fantasies have become porn and we need to classify them XXX and keep them away from people under 21.

But  what level of gun violence is obscene?  Back in ancient Greece, they believed violence should occur off stage.  Sometime between 400 BC and now we’ve crossed a line.  I think it’s time to think about where that line should be and return to an earlier standard of violence in art.  We’ve gone too far.

JWH – 12/18/12

13 thoughts on “I Can’t Watch Movie Violence Without Thinking About Sandy Hook”

  1. Sadly, another tragedy happened shortly after the Sandy Hook shootings – the knife attack on 20 young students in China. I’m with you…stop renting/buying violent movies and perhaps film makers will get a clear message. I gave up television two years ago and like you, I am selective about the movies I watch…one of the best decisions I ever made!

  2. I know how you feel. I watched Criminal Minds last night and I was thinking to myself, why am I watching this?

    But I am still looking forward to the Tarantino movie. The violence in his movies is usually artistic rather than gratuitous but I’m sure other see a lot of it as gratuitous.

      1. The only way you can tell is if it has artistic value or merit. I mean how can you tell that Michelangelo’s David is one of the greatest sculptures in Western History and not Renaissance child pornography? For a more modern analogy you could argue that Hitchcock’s “Psycho” is “violence porn” or you could say that it had innovative story telling, excellent use of suspense, and skillful directing.

  3. What I find interesting is both that these mass killings are occurring in white, well off suburbs. Care to add that to your plots?

    Also, everyone seems all broken up about a bunch of little white, suburban kids getting killed, but no one seems to care that this happens everyday in crappy neighborhoods, but most of those folks are brown.

    And last but not least, life is risk people. You risk it everyday, Sometimes you lose.

    Maybe we could use this to attack the problems we seem to have with our mental health system that doesn’t have the resources to find and treat these crazy guys before they can’t handle their problems and kill some people.

    I realize I am the minority here, but I can still tell real violence from the fake kind and I don’t pretend I have deep feelings for a bunch of dead folks I never knew or cared about before this.

    1. Your points are well taken but a bit misguided. “Brown” residents of crappy neighborhoods also suffer greatly (if not the most) from gun violence. Why should an innocent child from a poor area have to suffer by being collateral damage from a drive by shooting and other violence. How many innocent young poor childer would be alive today if these criminals did not have access to machine pistols and had to use shotguns and revolvers for their madness. This problem hits everyone, white, black, brown or purple.
      Yes, the fact that this happened in white dominated upper scale area may have something to do with the response. But we should use this to the nations advantage and finally do something meaningful about our out of control gun violence culture.
      There is NO legitimate purpose for private ownership of semi automatic weaponry. We should have a strict national on these items. There is no a hunting, sporting, or self defense application that can’t be achieved with shotguns, revolvers, or traditional rifles.

      1. No, that is my point. No one gives two shits if poor, brown people are killed every day with firearms. Kill some white, suburban folks and now it is some sort of national crisis. Screw their hypocritical asses. Frankly, a little part of me jumps for joy whenever these folks have some real live trauma into their lives. Maybe if they were made to face harsh realities that the rest of us have to deal with all the time, then, maybe then, they will actually do their damned jobs as Citizens and take the power from the aristocrats and we can treat these mentally disturbed people before they kill a bunch of people. Or at least get them to waste themselves quietly at home.

        Now to your next bit.

        There are plenty of legitimate reasons for firearm ownership. You may not like them, but that does not make them illegitimate in any way. Frankly, if this Nation kept to its Constitution, I would be able to have a M-1A main battle tank, as that would be what the government has and the Second Amendment to the US Constitution was designed to keep our government from getting out of control by letting us have the same weapons as the military.

        So, if anything, I am desirous of a Second Amendment be taken much more seriously and my ability to own a mini-gun won’t be infringe and Congress shall make no law preventing it. Why a mini-gun? Well as screwed up as the USG is right now, it is not really for my closet revolutionary (since I am far too familiar with the results of war to want one). Nope, I just want one because they are cool. And just in case this country remembers who the hell is actually in charge of this once grand Nation. Now just because you don’t want a mini-gun, I should not be prevented from having one. Same goes for some dipshit killing a bunch of people. It is a shame, but that should not prevent me or anyone else law abiding from having weapons.

        I mean if we are using the metric of “It can do great harm or kill.”, well then are you prepared to go back to walking every where and aren’t much of drinker. Because cars and alcohol are pretty big killers too. Then we get to what you eat, since we know that poor diet can lead to our present problems with obesity, I guess that means we can tell everyone what they can and can’t eat too.

        I say again, Life is Risk. You can’t have one without the other. Pretending that we can some how all be made “safe” would be damned hilarious if the Citizens of this once fine Nation didn’t seem to think that was possible. What fools we have become.

        I will accept the risk and I will live the life.

        1. Actually, it’s insane to think that letting everyone own assault rifles (or tanks) will keep the government from getting out of control, and that’s not the reason for the Second Amendment in the first place.

          It says right in the amendment itself that it’s for a “well regulated militia.” What part of a “well regulated militia” is a bunch of people running around with military-style weapons, under no one’s control but their own? Besides, we’ve never needed an armed uprising in the past, not under our democracy, so why would you even imagine that it would be a good idea?

          Furthermore, you really “jump for joy” when six-year-olds are gunned down, because they need some “real live trauma in their lives”? You are one sick puppy!

          We license and restrict both cars and alcohol. But if you enjoy the risk, please move to Somalia and leave civilization to those of us who appreciate it. I’m pretty sure you can own any weapon you want in Somalia, and you won’t have to worry about the heavy hand of the government, either.

  4. Jim, I’ll let someone else defend movies and television, if they want. (I still remember “The A-Team” spewing automatic weapon fire everywhere, without anyone ever getting hurt, and thinking how insane that was.) But I’ll defend computer games.

    In a game, you sit hunched at a keyboard, moving a cursor on a computer screen, pushing keys with one hand while clicking a button with the other. The most ‘realistic’ computer game ever could never be mistaken for reality.

    It’s just entertainment. And it’s entertainment precisely because you know it’s not real. That’s kind of the whole point – getting to do things you’d never do in reality. (If you’re crazy enough to think that a computer game is real, then you’re crazy enough to not need an excuse to go nuts.)

    Now, I do have my problems with games – some games, at least. This post kind of demonstrates my point, while also acknowledging what makes me uncomfortable about those games. But I’ve also had to acknowledge that bloody violence works, sometimes. It gets me to think about my actions.

    But either way, computer games aren’t causing these massacres. You might as well blame cell phones, since that correlation would no doubt fit just as well. For the most part, people are just looking for a scapegoat (especially people who don’t want us to wonder why a crazy kid can so easily get his hands on assault weapons and machine pistols).

    As I say, I’ll let someone else defend movies, if they want, because I don’t watch violent movies. And if games ever got to looking that real, I probably wouldn’t play violent games, either. But we’ve always had serial killers in America. There are more of them now, but that’s because we have a much bigger population.

    And, more importantly, these days they can easily get their hands on weapons specifically designed to kill large numbers of people as quickly as possible. There is no other use for those weapons but that. As you know, we outlaw nuclear weapons precisely for that same reason. If we were dumb enough to let everyone own a nuke, we’d see even worse disasters.

    (Note that I read about that knife attack on young children in China. No one died. None of the children who were attacked died. Just think about that. I have no idea if that crazy loon played video games or not, but I do know that, if he’d had easy access to an assault rifle or machine pistol, the result would have been far, far worse.)

    1. I’ve read countless articles saying there’s no connection between first-person shooter games and real violence. And for most people that might be true. We use computer simulations for all kinds of training and I can’t help but believe that violent computer games don’t condition players in some ways. Nor do we know about raising a whole generation on violent computer games. I think our society is testing the limits of the acceptance of violence in all art forms.

      Once you start thinking about gun porn you’ll start seeing it everywhere.

      I think there are legitimate reasons to own and use guns. I’m just wondering if we haven’t taken love of guns to obscene levels.

      I also want to know why violence is the driving force of so much fiction. I can understanding including violence that chronicles reality – the best fiction reports on reality. What I wonder about is the creation of fiction just so we can enjoy the violent action scenes.

  5. There has been no credible study showing a link between video games, comic books or any form of entertainment and real violence. Porn doesn’t cause rape or foster the patriarchy. Christian groups and other bluenoses fund studies that find exactly what they paid their “researchers” to find, but their conclusions have as much reality as the hundreds of people and aliens i’ve killed in Halflife.

    Guns are a problem in our society, but just 12 hours before this happened in Newton, a man in China killed 22 children in a school with a knife. We should have to pass a basic background check to buy a gun, there should be a limit to the number of guns you can buy in a single month, large capacity clips should be banned and I don’t think there is any legitimate reason for “civilian” versions of military weapons to be so easily available. But these bans will not stop crazy people from doing the insane things they do.

    The real problem in our society is we have no social safety net, we have no national medical system. Most of the mentally damaged get no help, they stew and struggle until they lashout. In addition to these massacres we also have millions of people in various levels of distress that we simply ignore.

    We need a system to help such people and one not modeled on the war on drugs and other bad ideas that generally pass for public policy in our country. To solve most problems we just denigrate and scapegoat a subset of people so we can ignore the root causes and pretend things are fine.

    1. No, I don’t think playing violent video games or watching violent movies makes people want to go out and commit violence. What I’m wondering is if they allow us to accept higher levels of violence in our society.

      Violent games and movies shows that people have a desire for violence just like pornography shows people have a secret desire for lots of sex. The idea is to keep such desires under control, but obviously we don’t. We’re a sex obsessed and violence obsessed society. And in one way that’s understandable because that’s part of our animal nature. But aren’t we trying to transcend these natures to be something else? Or should we just pretend soothe these animal urges with artificial sex and violence?

      By the way, in the knife attack on the kids in China, no one died. The lesson appears if a crazy person goes berserk and all he can get is a knife society is safer.

      1. Yeah, I found out later that no one died in the China incident. There are almost as many guns in this country as there are people, so getting to a point where the average American has the same (lack) of access to guns as people in China (or most other countries) would require a level of change I do not think our country can muster on any issue let alone one so fundamental to our society. Not that they should determine policy but the paranoid 1/3rd or so of our country is already sure FEMA Camp ovens are running at full capacity. A round up of guns would probably cause more shootings than it would prevent. Just last week I overheard my primary-care doctor talking to another patient in the next room about how he was sure Obama was going to be confiscating guns any day now. I just changed doctors and I’ve got to find another.

        I think other countries have all the same video games and other entertainment we do, so I don’t think they have any harmful effect at all. For many with a predilection for violence or rape video games and porn are enough of an outlet for those thoughts remain fantasy.

        As for where the predilection comes from I’d say from our nature formed by evolution. For most of our history we lived at such low population levels most day to day problems were with nature/survival not with other people. A lot of the food and just about every possession one had came from personally killing an animal. Red in tooth and claw so to speak. But once our population got over the carrying capacity of the land for hunter-gathers, 15-20,000 years ago, things have gone downhill fast. We understand only a fraction of our hormones and instincts and how these non-rational elements drive our perceptions and actions. Worse yet, the majority of our modern problems haven’t existed long enough for evolution to give us any tools to deal with them.

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