Monday, August 13, 2012
Guns Don't Kill People, Hollywood Does
From the Desk of F. Chester Greene
It seems silly to me that in this day and age, we must still educate the masses on the logical fallacy of the "guns kill people" rhetoric. It's not guns and it's not bullets. Guns just hold bullets. And bullets themselves can't do much. Ever try throwing one at a person? Nothing happens, trust me. No, the truth is that guns don't kill people. But after the mass shooting in Colorado, I think it's safe to presume that Hollywood does. After the terrible tragedy that has beset not only Aurora but the rest of America, action must be taken to protect our citizens from the self monikered "Terror of the Night." Therefore, I have reached out to the National Rifle Association to lobby against Hollywood in what we will call Shock and Awe Freedom from Terror.
Hollywood has a long history of trying to instill fear in the masses. Usually through its use of so-called "horror movies," in which the film tries to create in the viewer a sense of fear or terror. The alleged reasoning is "catharsis," or the idea that people want to murder, rape, torture, or do worse to each other, so instead of engaging in this socially unacceptable behavior, they can watch it on the silver screen, thereby purging these "evil" desires in a safe and controlled manner. The reality is far more sinister. What these horror movies actually do is to make evildoers more accessible to the average person, humanizing an otherwise inhuman villain. Horror movies make people afraid of each other through the acceptance of this malfeasance, recharacterizing evil as normal, and even acceptable. After all, what could possibly be more intimate than torturing, raping, and then murdering a nubile young cheerleader?
And what justice could be more divine than a psychotic slasher taking out a summer camp full of sexually promiscuous underaged sinners, drug addicts, and delinquents? Because those are the people who find themselves slaughtered in these films, usually during the acts of sinning at the hands (or machetes) of a sort of impersonal entity that begins to take on the appearance of the red right hand of you-know-who. If we have so much sympathy for pregnant teens in Family Planning lobbies or drug pushers, why do we spend so much time and money trying to rid society of them? Hollywood has lifted the hockey mask from the killer's face, and at some level we must admit that he looks an awful lot like us.
But there is something more intimate Hollywood delivers unto us in the form of these dark, gritty, more realistic movies. While the people in these films may be fictional, while their situations may even be fictional, they are above all relatable. This gritty realism, in turn, makes us more accepting of the bad that we do to each other. This is what makes it even more intimate for us. When we can relate, we can accept. Take "The Dark Knight" franchise, as imagined by Christopher Nolan. The Dark Knight is supposed to be a good guy, a hero. He's called the Dark Knight because he does what needs to be done in order to defeat the criminal. But first and foremost, he's a vigilante. He has the "right reasons" -- his motivation, as it were, is to keep others from experiencing the loss he suffered as a child, when his parents were murdered. He seeks to stop the bad guys -- the men and women who are clearly doing bad things, like blowing up hospitals. But the road to hell is so often paved with good intentions.
The question of vigilantism in comic books is an old one. And it's what's wrong with the so-called Patriot Act, which basically gave the government the ability, legally, to behave as a vigilante.
What makes vigilantes so special? They don't have to follow the law! What is the law for, anyway? It's there to protect the basic rights of the citizen. So vigilantes circumvent the law, dispensing justice according to their own definitions. In an age where the average American is disenfranchised with his own government, the idea of vigilante justice is appealing. Ask any executive on Wall Street. Movies like those from The Dark Knight series serve to make vigilante justice, through any means available, more actionable for the common man. In other words, these movies promote violence among each other. This violence can come in any form so long as it serves justice. Justice, however, is now defined by the individual, not the majority.
Fortunately for the masses, it's easy to understand, in movies at least, who the good guys and the bad guys really are. Take the second Batman movie in Nolan's series. Here, the Joker is clearly the bad guy. Except, we never see him do anything really bad. You know, like killing a dozen people in a crowded movie house. He does kill people, but his victims are other bad guys: mobsters, known criminals, corrupt thieves in government positions. But he never harms an "innocent." Sure, he blows up a hospital! But no one is hurt. He gives the police time to organize an evacuation. At some point, it's not too difficult to begin to accept the Joker's premise.
His claim to insanity is tenuous at best, considering that by the end of the movie, we wonder who really is crazy. Which is the whole point of the Joker in the movie. The Joker isn't the one who is going to kill a boatload of innocents. No, they're going to kill themselves. Their paranoia is what will kill them, not the Joker. He just sold them the guns and the bullets, so to speak. Then he went about his business.
It is their faith in humanity and ultimately each other that saves them. But only after intense infighting and introspection. The audience is put in the position of philosophizing about what they would do in similar circumstance. How many of you thought, "I would blow the prisoner's ship up in a heartbeat?" How many of you thought the prisoners would detonate the bomb first? The fear is there, born from chaos and uncertainty. It's the same fear that your neighbor, while perhaps not out to get you, is definitely looking out for number one exclusively. He's not drunk and blasting Metallica at 3:00 a.m. Wednesday nights intentionally to drive you mad. He just doesn't care how it affects you.
I guess the Joker really isn't such a bad guy after all. So why is the Batman out to get him, again? A personal vendetta? Ah, yes, the murder of his girl. Well, to be clear, she wasn't really his girl anymore anyway. He blew that. But still. Here, then, is justice. Now we understand that the Joker really is a bad guy. Batman is justified in his capture of Joker, since Joker has now killed an innocent. Finally. It was getting a little late in the game, but he came through as a villain. Now we can sleep well at night. Humanity has its faith restored and the bad guy gets his comeuppance. And yet the funny thing is, the Joker did a better job of cleaning up the streets than Batman ever did. And Batman's decision contributed to the death of his lady love as much as the Joker's bomb. Sometimes you have to cut off a finger to save a hand. Both Batman and Joker would probably agree to that point.
And now people want to prove a point. They want other people to understand that evil, like beauty, is only skin deep. The idea that humanity is basically good, and that good is there if you just wipe the grime of complacency and disinterest off. But how do we wipe off the grime?
Horror movies smoothe away the blemish by presenting a hero. He or she is usually a normal person -- your average Joe or Jane -- perhaps pretty or handsome, but otherwise unremarkable. This normal person perseveres and defeats evil in the end. And just maybe, he learned a thing or two about himself along the way. Why not? But because the public was becoming inured to the horror, what else could Hollywood do? Hell, once we all figured out that sunlight and wooden stakes could dispatch a vampire in a few seconds, was there much to fear from the undead? That's when Hollywood realized it needed to concoct a new type of movie. And this movie would star reality...with some tweaks.
The evil now being combated in these movies is not supernatural, it's commonplace. But here's the tweak. The heroes are no longer normal people rising to the challenge in the face of duty; they have become supernatural. The ignorant masses have no bogeymen to dread or trouble their sleep. They must fear themselves -- their neighbors, their co-workers, the new guy in town, that hobo with the shaven face, the priest, the doctor, the aloof politician. And in this world, only the exceptional among the crowd can rise above -- can see through the disguise of the mundane -- to point out the truth. But the masses won't embrace these individuals -- they're a little odd, they don't like the same things, they come bearing unpleasant news. They're just big bummers, and who wants that disrupting the barbecue?
So the heroes must accept that they will be pariahs, shunned by the masses because they are mutually hostile.
And this is Hollywood's insidious plan -- to make the individual the hero and the masses the enemy. If you fight the masses, you are the hero, no matter how you choose to fight them, even including violence. This is where Freedom from Terror comes in. No longer will we watch these movies, which vilify villains and make the average man little more than a ne'er-do-well. No longer will we watch these movies where the so-called hero is little more than a villain himself. With the NRA's help, we will protect the rights of Americans. The right to life. The right to liberty. And the right to pursue happiness, as long as that happiness is not found in the movie theater. Do your part in the fight against terrorism -- stop watching movies, lest terror take root.
(c) 2012. See disclaimers.