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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    You are what you watch

    It’s common knowledge that over the years our media has gotten more shockingly violent – but in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings, it seems like now’s a better time than ever to reexamine our collective conscience when it comes to the portrayal of extreme violence on screen.

    I’m reminded of an old friend who constantly complained of our American hypocrisy when it comes to censorship of violence in the media. A French citizen, she lived in Europe and Argentina before coming to the U.S. Her attitude was predictable: Like most Europeans, she decried the fact that any child can turn on the TV and see blood, gore and explosions galore while sex is so taboo.

    In the back of my mind I knew she was right.

    Of course, there’s plenty of speculation about Virginia Tech killer Seung-Hui Cho and whether or not on-screen violence had anything to do with his deranged psyche.

    A Sky News report claims that police believe he repeatedly watched the violent Korean-language cult hit “”Oldboy,”” “”as part of his preparation for the spree.”” Apparently, the film’s main character kills people with a hammer, eats a live octopus and slices off his own tongue.

    Granted, it’s unfair to blame Hollywood for the South Korean movie that may have contributed to Cho’s madness, but there’s plenty of similar extraordinary violence in American cinema. Take, for instance, the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez film “”Grindhouse,”” which was little more than three hours of violence for violence’s sake.

    The “”Saw”” series, “”Hostel,”” “”The Hills Have Eyes”” and even the “”Kill Bill”” movies also featured insane amounts of violence. But what’s totally and unbelievably unforgivable is the self-satisfied attitude of Harvey Weinstein and Hollywood toward extreme movie violence in general.

    When asked about the amount of gore in his film “”Hostel,”” director Eli Roth told MTV, “”I’d love to see us get to a point where you can make a movie and not worry about the limits of the violence. Then I think they’d get so violent that people would get bored of it.””

    But that’s exactly what’s wrong with excessive levels of on-screen violence: People take it for granted. Roth’s ideal of showing so much violence “”that people would get bored of it”” would only further barbarize a culture that doesn’t yield enough respect to human life. Call me a wimp, but I’ve seen “”Saw,”” and it was sickening. It made me sick to the stomach and made me look away. Apparently the sequels are even worse.

    Call me self-satisfied, but I’m proud of – and even reassured by – the way I reacted to that movie. Because blood and gore means something to me, because I’m still sensitive to all that ridiculous violence and because I’m not desensitized enough to be “”bored”” by it, I’m reassured that humans are naturally concerned for the welfare of others. I’m glad we instinctively know that killing and maiming are sickening and taboo.

    Of course, that’s not to say all violence should be banned from the airwaves, but anyone who’s seen one of the aforementioned films knows how much is too much. Thankfully, some people in high places do, too.

    In one of the great moments in the history of “”No way, really?”” statements, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin recently wrote that “”exposure to violent programming can be harmful to children”” and claimed that the FCC can and should do more to regulate on-screen violence.

    An FCC report cites a plethora of experts from diverse fields who reassert Martin’s claim – including the UA’s own professor Dale Kunkel, who testified before Congress that “”television violence poses a risk of effects for the child-viewer.””

    Apparently members of Congress took note of that testimony, because the aforementioned report was compiled at the request of some 39 of them. Sen. Mark Pryor, R-Ark., recently put his money where his mouth is and introduced a bill that would enhance the ability of parents to block disturbing violence from their TV sets, and good luck to him.

    But what’s needed most is some simple restraint on the part of the entertainment industry. Directors should worry less about pushing the envelope with excessive carnage and share some of the responsibility for maintaining a society that respects human life and limb. We’d all be better off for it.

    David Francis is a pre-business sophomore. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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