Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Yeah, This Is TOTALLY Appropriate

When a tragedy occurs with some kind of connection to a pop-culture property, it's only natural for the two to get bound up in eachother when it comes to artistic-expression of reactions to said tragedy. Which is a long way of saying that, while I'm kind of "put off" by the deluge of "Sad Batman" fan-art that started popping up in the wake of the Colorado Massacre (so much of it feels like it's more about empathizing with Batman - the fiction character - rather than the actual event) I expected it and understood it.

Seeing it on the days-later cover of The Hollywood Reporter, though? Advertising a series of "timely" essays on movie violence? That's just incredibly tacky. Trashy. This is National Enquirer/Fox News stuff - even an entertainment publication should have higher standards than this. Notably, the essay-collection features an astonishingly wrongheaded (to say nothing of incredibly irresponsible) "maybe the movies ARE to blame" piece by the great Peter Bogdanovich, of all people. (His 1968 film "Targets" featured a mentally-disturbed Vietnam veteran who trains a sniper-rifle on teenagers at a drive-in movie, is the connection.)

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

You know how The Onion ran a piece about Columbine High School bullies getting back into delivering wedgies and swirlies the next semester? It's in the Dispatches from the Tenth Circle compilation and it's awesome. For some reason, that's what came to mind when I read this post.

Laserkid said...

This whole mess is just all kinds of sad. Leavign aside the obvious tragedy of the event itself, the way people (in general) have been reacting seems to fall in two stupid camps.

Half the people want to blame the movie itself, half the people want to blame guns.

Nobody seems willing to blame a clearly psychopathic individual for planning and carrying out a heartless mass murder.

Anonymous said...

Blaming him is asinine, because we already do. But broadening this into a serious discussion of the fact that you can buy guns designed for killing and nothing else (not hunting or home protection) is a reasonable thing to come from this.

AwkwardBeardMan said...

@Laserkid I don't think those people are so much looking for something to blame, as opposed to starting a discussing on how to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

You may disagree with the ideas proposed (I personally think it's silly that people are blaming the film), but just saying this was the act of a lone mad man and that such an atrocity will not happen again is choosing to live in ignorance.

The fact is that nearly 50% of all spree killings have occurred in the United States. That's abnormally high. Discussions need to be had to determine what is cause of this is, and how it can be mitigated. Of course the stupid arguments should be appropriately dismissed, but these discussions need to be had.

Mads said...

No - it isn't.

You americans keep doing this. An act of terrorism occurs and you let it goad you into having a sudden discussion that is meant to be honest and try to prevent things from happening, except many points of view are claimed to be taboo and irresponsible or inappropriate.

Make a bloody decision. Either you have yourself some honest discourse where everybody is allowed to think whatever they want without being attacked for saying it (only for its merits), or don't.

This half-assed BS does absolutely nothing for you; in fact, in many situations, your politicians have the guile and nerve to use it for a fucking power grab.

Why do you think Fox News insist guns must not be part of the discussion? Because they're trying to deconstruct such a power grab preemptively.

And honestly, your insistence that movies must not be held responsible even before the fact is equally disparaging.

So shut up. Shut your yammers. If the only thing you know how to do at this time is to power-grab for your own specific course, and you try to use the circumstances and the emotions of the tragedy as a part of it, you're a nation of scumbags. I mean, hate the game, not the players, but just stop. Stop the discussion of fixing it and deal with the fact that it's just a risk that's part of your society right now. Learn to live with it.

Then in a year, do have a discussion, but _don't_ insist on anything being off the table; at least then nobody can use the feelings of the victims and whatnot to try and gain the moral upper ground.

Kieran Chakravorty said...

In the UK on the (awful) Jermemy Vine show he was discussing whether the Batman movie was to blame for the shooting.

I turned the radio off and shouted very angrily. This kind of stupidity just aggravates me.

I like the artwork aesthetically but it is silly and pointless. The families need love, support and help; not silly artwork.

Lord Slithor said...

Bob, I'll agree with you on the Peter Bogdanovich article. He really does sound like an old man saying, "Things were so much better in MY day!"

But the rest of it, I really think you're dancing dangerously close to the line of insensitivity there. Granted, after 9/11 happened, I was also kind of put off by a lot of the art, songs and displays that came out in the wake of it. I thought it just smacked of blind patriotism and flag-waving. At best I thought it was mawkish and maudlin. At worst I thought it was manipulative and pandering.

But in light of the Batman-related fan art I've seen in the wake of this tragedy, I think I understand now. You seem to think they're somehow missing the point by emphasizing Batman somehow, but I don't think that's the case. Many of the people doing that art are fans; more specifically, nerds and geeks like ourselves. As such, Batman is a point of reference we can easily identify with and understand, much like those who made the post 9/11 art used the flag and the eagle. So I'm not going to begrudge them for wanting to use it. Seeing Batman on this fan art to me resonates probably in much the same way that seeing American symbols did for others. So now I think I understand.

Lord Slithor said...

Also, I think Laserkid and Mads have a point, as far as they go. Gun control is a dead end and won't solve anything in the long run. What really needs to be looked at is the mental healthcare system in this country. In short: it's a mess. It's too underfunded, understaffed and overburdened. That people like Holmes, Loughner, Cho and the rest keep slipping through the cracks undetected until it's too late is enough of an indictment. Had the system been in better shape, chances are we probably could have gotten to these kids before they decided to hurt somebody. And I'm surprised no one is seriously looking at the problem from that angle.

Ultimately, I think we'll just have to file this whole thing under "Shit Happens," and simply accept that there's not much of anything anyone can do.

Lord Slithor said...

One last thing I'd like to point out: just like some attributed the violent-sounding rhetoric of certain Right-wing personalities (i.e. "Don't retreat. Reload!") as controbuting to a climate that gave rise to the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, I think some of the behavior in the nerd community could also be partially responsible. Don;t forget, just prior to this, there were reports of film critics being harassed and receiving death threats for giving negative reviews of this movie, to the point where Rottentomatoes.com had to suspend comments. I think that having the two events occurring so close together is a bit more than mere coincidence IMO. And I can't help but wonder if somehow such behavior might have somehow encouraged Holmes to do what he did?

Looking at that, along with other incidents like the harassment of Anita Sarkeesian, the reaction of a sizable group of fans to the Mass Effect 3 ending, and even "Turtlegate," it paints a very ugly picture of the nerd/geek community. And I really don't like what I see. And I think they might want to take this opportunity to step back and do some serious reflecting on their behavior, because it's really making them, and us, look bad. I think they should put a lot more thought behind what they say on the internet in the future, and review it before they hit "post."

garwulf said...

Well, I'm actually going to defend Bogdanovich on this one, because he does raise a point that I think is getting lost in some reactionary rhetoric - we are becoming desensitized to violence in the movies.

I'm a movie buff myself, and I have my share of movies going back past the 1980s to the 60s, 50s, and even 30s. And one of the things that I noticed is that violence-wise, what would easily secure an R rating 20 or 30 years ago would get a PG-13 rating today.

For example, the original John Carpenter's The Fog secured an R rating - and it had no nudity, almost no graphic violence, and almost no coarse language. The 2005 remake (a truly dreadful movie) had far more graphic violence and gruesome content, and it was rated PG-13.

The fact is that the way we treat and think of cinematic violence over the last 30 years has changed. Now, this could just be a matter of old prudery fading away, and movie ratings adjusting to meet societal norms over time. But, it could also be that the societal norms are what have changed, and the movie ratings are keeping up.

Either way, I think that this trend is something that needs to be addressed and explored. Does this have any impact on the violent crime rate (which, as far as I know, has actually been going down rather than up)? And did this have an enabling effect on people like James Holmes?

I'm not claiming to know any of the answers - I don't - but I do think that raising the question should not be dismissed out of turn, particularly when Bogdanovich is drawing attention to a marked and measurable trend.

Crafty Andy said...

Just a year ago, I was talking about how great it was that we don't hear all this crap that violent movies, and video games are turning our youth into mass murderers and here the debate starts again.

If this guy shot up a republican political rally, would that mean that democrats are to blame and that they turn people into mass murderers?

counterpoint said...

While I am not likely to ever agree with the movies/games-cause-violence arguments, we can't ignore the apparent facts of this situation:

-the guy shot up a batman movie
-the guy shot up a movie theatre at all, a decidedly supervillain-y thing to do.
-the guy IDd himself as the joker, dyed his hair, etc. (of course, not the right color). obviously supervillain-y
-he booby-trapped his apartment, and warned the cops about it - again, obvious supervillain-y

He's cleary nuts, and would likely have done something crazy regardless, but the fact is he does indeed appear to be at least INSPIRED by comic villains, movie villains, etc.

What does this prove? Nothing. But for me it means that yes, discussing the movies/comics/games/TV and their effect on our culture, psyche, etc. IS most definitely on the table. We need to discuss such things. The Joker from the DK was so decidedly awesome, almost to the point of romanticism - obviously he resonated with some of these crazies.... don't you guys think we should get to the bottom of that?

Anonymous said...

@counterpoint

Yes, it has an effect in some ways. Our fiction reflects and reinforces our values and the United States laps up brutal violence and selfish behavior. Once you start seeing the patterns in our fiction, it gets really creepy just how antisocial it usually is.

Still, I don't think this discussion really leads to any conclusion but censorship. The three major industries already voluntarily submit their work for ratings and give parents opt-in power over their children viewing the more offensive material. It might not be a perfect system, but nothing is.

Any attempt by the government to regulate it further than that would be unpopular, unconstitutional, and even if we got rid of every last mean thing ever portrayed in fiction, it still wouldn't do a damn thing about murderous psychopaths. People have gone batshit and slaughtered strangers since the first settlement was formed. If one really wants to fix this problem, about the last place to focus is our fiction.

garwulf said...

I don't know if censorship is necessarily the endgame for a discussion of this nature. As I pointed out in my last post, there is a very odd correlation - tolerance for violence in movies has gone up over the last thirty years, and the violent crime rate has gone down in the same period. One lone psycho notwithstanding, everybody here is less likely to be the victim of a violent crime in their lives than they were 30, 20, or even 10 years ago.

What if what we have here is a functioning pressure valve, providing a needed release for most, but enabling a very small few?

I don't know if this is really the case, but as I understand it, if you look at Japan, you have a country whose popular culture has some truly bizarre sexual perversion, along with one of the lowest sexual crime rates in the world. Now, correlation is not necessarily causation, but the possibility of violence in popular media serving a positive function is one that I think is worthy of exploration.

(Now, if only most of it was attached to far better movies...)

counterpoint said...

@garwulf

I think you may be on to something with the whole pressure valve analogy, and your example of japan is a good example.

I'm speaking anecdotally, since I've never lived there, but according to the few friends of mine who have, apparently there is indeed a small amount of crime, but when it happens, it HAPPENS. Like a teenager cutting his parents heads off in the middle of the night or something.

Perhaps that's a similar phenomenon to what we're talking about here - the very few are indeed affected in a real way by the media/culture, in disregard to broader cultural trends, etc.