by Hanajun Chung
“When them Hong Kong movies came out, every
nigga in the world had to have a forty-five. And
they don’t want one, they want two,
cause all them niggas want to be ‘The Killer.’
Now what they don’t know, and them flicks don’t tell you is that a .45 has a serious
fuckin’ jammin’ problem. I always try
and steer a customer towards a 9-millimeter. Damn near the same
weapon, don’t have half the jammin’
problems. But some niggas out there,
you can’t tell them anything. They
want a .45. The killer had a .45,
they want a .45.”
– Ordell Robbie, Jackie Brown.
That vulgar quote above is recited by the arms dealing antagonist (played devilishly by Samuel L. Jackson) from Quentin Tarentino’s Jackie Brown. It’s a great character moment, but it also conveys the problem with blaming gun violence on violence in the media.
In that film, Robbie deals weapons to smaller level criminals, but tells his friend during the scene that they’re misinformed on pistols. They are all referencing Woo’s film The Killer. But Robbie is a real-life murderer in the world of Jackie Brown, and he knows better through experience. His clientele isn’t all that bright, but their experience with Woo’s film prompted them to adjust their — for the lack of a better work — “craft.”
Because you see, those “customers” would’ve done their deeds with or without Robbie’s .45 or 9-millimeter. Why? Because violent people with damaged psyches will be violent one way or the other.
Once again, to pull a quote — this time from Wes Craven’s Scream — “Movies don’t create psychos! Movies make psychos more creative!”
Films — even music and video games to some extent — must be recognized as artistic expression. Whether that art is good and important is subjective, but should be recognized instead as imagined creations meant to provoke some response from their respective audiences through the content and inherent meanings.
One of the most famous moments involving a shooting in cinema is the dinner scene in The Godfather. We know by that point in the film that Michael Corleone is not a murderous criminal, but the act of shooting the family rival and his cop bodyguard is not only remembered for the suspenseful scene itself, but rather as a pivotal moment in Michael’s loss of innocence as he enters the family business.
Examples and references aside, blaming the media and people involved for destroying America’s moral fortitude is nothing new, dating back as far as 1930s with the Hays Code of censorship in cinema.
While the code has been greatly adjusted to the Motion Picture Association of America, films and pop culture weren’t safe because of it. They were instead recognized as powerful elements in shaping American culture.
The Columbine shooting in 1999 attempted to correlate violent films, television, music, and video games to the shootings from many different organizations, ranging from local and national levels.
After decades of advancing technology and globalization, the world has seen horrors in the form of terrorism, corruption, death, and other cruel acts against mankind. We can get all that by simply turning on our mobile phones.
But we’ve grown with the realities and their representations as well. In the silent era, the first world war showed the realities outside the fantastic, storybook nature depicted in early cinema, ushering in sophistication in storytelling and cementing genres in process.
Some might say we’re simply desensitized to that type of violence after all these years, and they’re right to some degree. Unless it’s a non-fiction film or documentary, audiences can watch a fictional feature and understand that what they’re watching is fabricated, visual story that’s purposely meant to manipulate it’s participants.
To lose violence in media prevents more then just the freedom dictated in the First Amendment, but could also prevent some of the greatest works of art from ever being created.
What happened in Aurora and Sandy Hook is unforgivable, and it’s understandable that gun control became a topic that’s become the forefront of one of the nation’s several concerns. In the State of the Union, President Obama spent much time on the topic, understanding that this is of uppermost importance. But the President also knows that this must be handled delicately, because guns have served America as both sword and shield.
Other periodicals and media outlets have spoken in response to this, with one as recent as February 15 in the Los Angeles Times by Betsy Sharkley entitled “Movie Violence Must Not Be Stopped.”
Going back to the opening quote, the Hong Kong films Robbie refers too are probably most recognizable in the form of director John Woo’s collaboration with actor Chow Yun-Fat in the mid-80’s. Without them, the world would not have the action portrayed in the way that’s normal, almost clichéd today. We wouldn’t have The Matrix or Bad Boys II and all the other works they continue to inspire.
Speaking of Eastern cinema, if one wants a peek into gunless violence, watch a contemporary Japanese or South Korean gangster film. In those countries, guns are outlawed, but that doesn’t stop murders from being depicted in film. Whether it’s a sashimi knife, rope, poisons, or homemade projectiles — killers are going to kill. The violence inadvertedly becomes more intimate, heightening the disturbing nature. Anything can be a weapon, it just takes a lost soul to use it.
But for the creator, the camera, microphone, joypad/controller, and the various other tools for art and literature are all instruments of creativity. Dictionaries will define “violence” in several ways, but they all acknowledge its destructiveness. Those troubled individuals who embraced art for the crime are tragic themselves.
It suggests that the film, song, or game was the last failed outlet before things became inconsequential. The Columbine shooters wearing trench coats, or the Aurora shooter dressed as the famous “Joker” is a misunderstanding of art they experienced. It’s something too shameful, because people can misappropriate and misuse art in terrible ways, leading to dangers such as unified hate (ex: propaganda in war) or even genocide (ex: “Year Zero” cleansing in Cambodia).
And aren’t there stories or anecdotes from writers, filmmakers, and other artists in which their work actually save people from their own dark depths of trouble and depression? There are and each moment that occurs is a truly thankful moment.
But the big question that everyone seems to want an answer for is “what should we do?” There are countless things we can do, but we should limit them to reasonable expectations.
We should not only embrace art, but also criticize it when necessary. We should formulate our own opinions, but be willing to listen to others regardless of how different things may seem.
We should all acknowledge that humans have external differences, but lives could end if we’re on the receiving end of that bullet. We need to preserve the minds and hearts of those that are still standing, honoring the victims by living the life that they tragically can’t.
This is especially important for Sandy Hook, because it’s the children who shall inherit this Earth, and it’s up to them to save it from disease, pollution, poverty, and the other problems that we’re to face in the future.
Their minds, and minds of students worldwide, would be tragic to lose. I know it’s dramatic, sentimental, but people should understand what happened wasn’t inconsequential like a movie death. This is very real.
reprinted from the Chaffey Breeze, 2013, www.thebreezeonline.com