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