Violence and popular culture are becoming more synonymous these days.
Last week as I watched the 80th Annual Academy Awards, I realized how many extremely violent films were lauded, praised and celebrated; nominations were granted to films like No Country for Old Men, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Eastern Promises, and There Will Be Blood. I saw all but the latter because, quite frankly, I could not stomach any more blood and guts after seeing No Country for Old Men. Viggo Mortensen's bathhouse fight scene in Eastern Promises, Johnny Depp singing and slashing his way through London, Russell Crowe and Christian Bale shooting it out in 3:10 to Yuma and Javier Bardem's chilling portrayal of a serial killer with no conscious did it for me. I could not stomach the thought of witnessing another great actor (Daniel Day-Lewis) exact violence against an entire town. I realized that I needed to sleep at night, and if I kept watching this type of violence (in addition to all of the violence I watch regularly on television), that I would not be able to get any rest.
I wonder why are we so obsessed with and consumed by violence in this country? What is it about us that makes us flock to theaters to watch some of the most disturbing images in recent film history? Are we as bad as the rest of the world claims we are?
These films are not horror or slasher films where one has the expectation of gore and violence. The fact that the violence in dramatic and suspense films is escalating suggests that we may be in a very dark place as a country.
I know many people will say that these films are fictional and that I am making a mountain out of a molehill. Folks, some will contend, should just lighten up because it is just entertainment after all. But is it really just entertainment or a mirror of our society gone awry? I believe that it is a little of both.
Entertainment and violence are working hand in hand and the line between the two is becoming blurred. Newscasts and newscasters are becoming more sophisticated and sleek. Anchors and TV reporters are looking more glamorous and celeb-like, perhaps to distract us from the events that are unfolding -- like the violent stories that are becoming standard as opposed to the exception. Each day, we hear about some type of crazy violence. Men are killing pregnant wives and lovers. Folks are throwing their children off of bridges and putting them out of cars on highways to get run over and killed. Students are getting gunned down on college campuses. Hell, you can't even go buy jeans at the mall without getting shot. Five people murdered at Lane Bryant, and it wasn't a robbery? Twelve-year-olds are getting shot in plain view. People are being assaulted and murdered on buses and subway lines. Violence is everywhere and becoming the natural state of things, which is worrisome.
Some would argue that chickens are coming home to roost for a nation that was founded on violence. We are so obsessed with violence that we are even in a war based on false data, which we refuse to end in spite of the countless deaths and injuries that it has caused and will continue to cause.
We stand on our right to bear arms while our fellow citizens are being mowed down like animals. We all wish that it would work the other way around, but somehow it never does. And as a complement to the real violence that we experience in our daily lives, media companies manufacture it in the form of television programming, video games, films, and new media.
The doping effect of these constant images running through our heads is proven by our inability to address the issue critically and as a nation. "Violence R Us" is who we have become, as evidenced by our superstore mentality about violence. Get as much as we can as cheaply as possible. But unlike toys, the price that we pay is much higher.
Watching crime after crime, violent death after violent act over and over, makes us numb.
Numb to the real pain that violence causes. Numb to the domino effect of violence against women. Numb to the absence of children playing outside because in many neighborhoods they cannot for fear of becoming a victim of violence. Numb to the presence of mounting violent crime statistics. Numb to cries for stricter gun-control laws. Numb to the growing climate of fear and paranoia because people are afraid of the violence that awaits them. Numb to rude behavior and mistreatment for fear of confrontation, conflict and combativeness. Numb to the fact that the top-grossing and the most-lauded films of last year, are also the most violent.