The Shotgun Blog
Friday, January 27, 2006
Our Flayed and Dismembered Morality
I had a conversation with my hairdresser, yesterday. It was not the kind of conversation you would have expected from the ultra-femme setting and a couple of girls in full preen mode. It was about movies…and torture. Not in that order, but together. One of the other girls had just seen the new Tarantino flick “Hostel”, while I had just read a review of the movie in the latest issue of The Western Standard, and had decided that I was never going to.
For background, I would like to clarify that I have never been particularly squeamish about gore or fright. In the house where I grew up, staying up to watch the latest cheesy horror flick was a much-coveted, and all too frequent occurrence. I was one of the few girls in my science class, who did not react with a squeal of disgust, at the prospect of dissection. In fact, it was one of the few projects that I thoroughly enjoyed and did well on. The macabre has always held a grim fascination, for me, and I have been known to occasionally engage in light exploration of the fringe elements of gothic culture. In short, I am neither prudish with regards to sadism, nor squeamish in the face of violence.
Despite all this, the latest trend which has transformed the horror film, into a sadistic bloodbath, is one I will not be indulging in.
Firstly, it is wholly unnecessary to try to inject as much graphic content into a movie, as the celluloid will hold. In the past, the really good horror movies were the ones that could give you weeks of nightmares, without spilling a single drop of blood on camera. Bone chilling terror was inflicted through the use of strategic lighting and camera angles, and enough ambiguity to let the viewer’s imagination take hold, and run free. However, in today’s new bastardized genre of horror, the art form of palpable suspense has been eschewed for gratuitous on-camera mutilation and a concerted effort to make the bone saw sound more realistic. The result inspires sickness, where terror once resided. Perhaps this is the goal. I suspect as much – Especially with authors like Quentin Tarantino, who has made a career of celebrating the most debase aspects of human behavior. Which leads me to my second point…
Much has been made, in recent days, of the moral implications surrounding torture, and the use of violence. Opinions vary on what constitutes torture, and under what circumstances, if any, it is allowable. But most people who engage in the debate agree – it’s a BAD thing.
What strikes me as odd, is that so many of us will take a vociferous moral stand against the use of torture or violence, in any form…and then proceed to go out for a night of dramatized gratuitous violence. All the while, few if any, will be aware of the inherent incongruity of these two actions. This is not to say that everyone who takes a moral stand against torture, likes Tarantino movies…I’m sure many don’t. But in the bigger picture, a culture that reveres the dramatization of sadistic torture and murder, as entertainment, is profoundly hypocritical to then denounce such activity when it occurs in the real world.
This hypocrisy is magnified, when taken in the context of the moral condemnations, coming from the Hollywood elite whom have made an entire industry out of the same measure of violence that, from behind the camera, they denounce so resoundingly. They are either incapable of, or unwilling to realize that those who glorify fictional violence help make it more acceptable in reality.
But what does it tell them, when we are willing, as a society, to not only allow such displays of gratuitous violence to see the light of day, but we are also willing to shell out large portions of our meager earnings, to see them? Could it be that for many of us, our revulsion to torture is merely skin deep, and that our collective condemnation of such actions is more politically motivated, and less grounded in morality?
I would hope not, but that is precisely what gore-merchants like Tarantino are banking on, and we are making him a very rich man, in proving him right.
My decision to exclude such films from my repertoire of must-sees is not due to a lack of intestinal fortitude. It is a rejection of and moral abhorrence to the glorification of such behavior. Until there are more of us, who are willing to understand our moral premises, and enforce their application on even our most seemingly benign activities, people like Quentin Tarantino will have no reason to believe that there is anything wrong with his assessment of our hypocrisy…and neither will those who use torture for their ends, in real life.
*For factual clarification, as has been pointed out by a few readers, this is NOT a Quentin Tarantino film, but is merely presented with him as co-producer. However, I think it fair to point out, that the creators of the film would not have his name in the top billing position, if they didn't want him associated with it.
Posted by Wonder Woman on January 27, 2006 | Permalink
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"But what does it tell them, when we are willing, as a society, to not only allow such displays of gratuitous violence to see the light of day, but we"...allow our military forces to engage in unnecessary torture on innocent prisoners??
It's called art, Madame. As for real-life torture, you only seem too quick to shout your support of that.
Posted by: Justin | 2006-01-27 8:45:14 AM
Justin...........if this is called art.....i'll eat shit and bark at the moon!!!!!!! This is nothing more than crap and you know it. The more people who stay away from this stuff the better off we will be and Hollywood may rethink what is truly art and what is junk......... Know What I Mean?????????
Posted by: themaj | 2006-01-27 9:01:04 AM
Today's art darlings insist that all life is art. You, however, seem to believe that the viewer can separate "Art" from actuality, can recognise the difference, and that "Art" has no effect on "life".
Essentialy you seem to agree neither with traditional views of Art as a source of moral instruction, nor with today's nonsensical definitions---as exemplified by 'performance' art, Damien Hirst, Tracy Emin, Gilbert and George and so on.
What Hollywood produces is designed to influence: make you want more, make you perceive the world in a particular way, make you accept a value set implicit in that "Art".
If you think Tarantino has no effect on his audiences, how do you react to films that espouse other values? How about "To Kill A Mockingbird"(tolerance)? "Twelve Angry Men"(justice)? And many other films "with a moral"? Were these just "Art", of no influence? What about the hagiographies of Che? No influence?
I'd be interested to hear your views on what separates 'propaganda' from 'art' and from commercial cinema today.
Posted by: Patrick B | 2006-01-27 9:28:19 AM
"Hollywood may rethink what is truly art and what is junk"
Sure. That's exactly what free markets should do - assist producers of anything to figure out what is valuable and what is not, whether it is art, junk food, or whatever.
Posted by: Ian Scott | 2006-01-27 9:29:19 AM
>"But what does it tell them, when we are willing, as a society, to not only allow such displays of gratuitous violence to see the light of day, but we"...allow our military forces to engage in unnecessary torture on innocent prisoners??<
Justin, once again you are letting your emotions overrule logic. No modern army or country allows or condones torture. You need to study what is allowed and what is defined as true torture. Your sympathy for the terrorists is touching. Instead of lashing out at the establishment, or who you perceive to be the enemy, or use some hollywood movie to make you point, why don't you download and watch the beheading videos of not only American innocents, but other nationalities as well. Perhaps you will grasp who the true enemy is.
As for me I made my decision some time ago through my pocketbook to not support the hollywood elitists or anyone else pushing an agenda. It is my personal choice and I exercise it.
Posted by: deepblue | 2006-01-27 9:30:41 AM
For people like Justin, art is an excuse for their hypocrisy.
There are many people like that. Take pornography. It creates insensitivity and violence. The same people decrying violence will go and read pornography and watch porn movies.
Posted by: Rémi houle | 2006-01-27 9:55:39 AM
"traditional views of Art as a source of moral instruction,"
That is one of the funniest assertions I've seen made in recent days.
Posted by: Ian Scott | 2006-01-27 10:09:59 AM
If you've ever ventured outside much to engage in the chatter over NA popular culture defined in the film media, you would know that the use of comically excessive gore by director Tarantino is done to give his flicks the sort of "cultish" "bad flick" following which Reefer Madness or Eraser head cater to. The overtly excessive gore is not there to shock or satify some demonic blood drinking kink in the watcher but serves as a dark comedic device to get the viewer snikering at the excesses of Hollywood "shock" mavens and places their obvious gratuitous gore in the same category of comical curiosity as Ed Wood's masterpieces.
Get a grip...not every record has demonic messages if played backward and not every splatter flick is an affront to basic human empathy....please have enough faith in your fellow citizens to have the intelligence and civility to distinguish between socially destructive bad taste and very dry and entertaining sardonic fun.
Posted by: WLMackenzie redux | 2006-01-27 10:16:18 AM
If, say, as a parent, I wish to immerse my child in an environment where violence , ugliness, and vulgarity are seen as expressions of-whatever- and my child grows up 'used' to seeing and hearing these things, will that transfer to his level of acceptance of these same things? Will it make these things seem more acceptable because he is 'used' to them?
Is there that much difference between the influence of environment on a child, an adult, and society in general?
Somethings from beyond our lifetime are still valuable. Like the idea that 'you are what you eat'. Why put garbage in when so much better is available.
Posted by: lwestin | 2006-01-27 10:58:52 AM
"and my child grows up 'used' to seeing and hearing these things, will that transfer to his level of acceptance of these same things?"
I guess it is a possibility if you don't teach your child to reason or think rationally.
I grew up with fairy tales and stories about big bad wolves eating grandmas, and Goldilocks entering property and using it that didn't belong to her; I don't think you could suggest I "accept" those things.
Posted by: Ian Scott | 2006-01-27 11:05:28 AM
"Your sympathy for the terrorists is touching."
Sorry were these people placed in front of a judge and through due process determined to be terrorists? If so, then they should be placed in prison but I have a feeling 'due process' was ignored and I don't know about you but I'm not one for anarchy.
oh and sorry, I know you people hate facts but this is NOT a Tarantino film. He PRESENTED it. It's an Eli Roth film. Anyway you're all literalists with no time for sub-text.
Posted by: Justin | 2006-01-27 11:17:23 AM
May I ask you where you get your information? Wouldn't be the New York Times would it? The Washington Post perhaps? Actually they were determined to be terrorists by looking through a gun site and firing on US troops. Such people have never been brought before a civilian court and why would they be? They have always been dealt with by the military courts as the situation dictates.
In fact the US military has gone out of its way to extend the courtesies of the Geneva conventions although by the nature of the enemy they are fighting they are under no obligation to do so.
The constant pandering to the enemy is your right and I would never take that right away from you, but perhaps you could consider extending a little more courtesy to the brave men and women, and the institution, who have and who are dying for that right as you sit and "armchair quarterback".
By the way, have you watched the videos yet? Yes those are real people, and it's real blood, not hollywood makeup. Where was their due process?
Posted by: deepblue | 2006-01-27 12:27:03 PM
" Actually they were determined to be terrorists by looking through a gun site and firing on US troops."
And by what "right" or "law" were the troops where they are? There has been no declaration of war.
"In fact the US military has gone out of its way to extend the courtesies of the Geneva conventions although by the nature of the enemy they are fighting they are under no obligation to do so."
This is funny. For those prisoners who are not treated according to the convention, the excuse of some that it is not a "war" in the formal sense.
"Yes those are real people, and it's real blood, not hollywood makeup. Where was their due process?"
Posted by: Ian Scott | 2006-01-27 12:57:20 PM
>The Constitution of the United States gives Congress alone the authority to formally declare war. But in several past conflicts Congress has relinquished this authority to the president. In fact, Congress has not issued a formal declaration of war since World War II.
U.S. presidents after World War II have assumed most of the authority to send U.S. troops into battle. The Korean War (1950-1953), for example, was regarded by the U.S. government as a police action rather than as a war, and President Harry S. Truman never sought a declaration of war from Congress. And in 1964 Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which effectively ceded to President Lyndon B. Johnson the ability to wage war against Vietnam. Congress passed a similar resolution on January 12, 1991, authorizing President George H. W. Bush to use force against Iraq in the Persian Gulf War.
The current president Bush also never sought a formal declaration of war from Congress. Instead, he requested, and received, the authority to use armed forces "as he determines to be necessary and appropriate" to defend American interests against "the continuing threat posed by Iraq."
However, the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that the president, as commander-in-chief of the military, does have the authority to recognize a "state of war" initiated against the United States and may in these circumstances unilaterally send U.S. troops into battle. President Bush has also stated that his powers as commander-in-chief allow him to act independently in defense of the nation.
The president did not seek a formal declaration of war from Congress. But he did seek congressional support, he said, to demonstrate to the United Nations and to the world that military action against Iraq was not just his own objective; it was a view supported by the American electorate as a whole. Strategically, support from the legislators bolstered the president's case as he pressed the UN Security Council for a resolution authorizing military force in Iraq.<
These facts combined the attack on 9/11 gives them the right to be there. The fact the majority of The Senate supported it (the same ones who now claim they don't, exposing the hypocrisy of the Left) as did congress is why they are there.
Your stance is obvious so I know you will now go on about how the war in Iraq is and never was associated with Al Qaeda or the war on terror. Even though they kill Al Qaeda there every day. If you have chosen to ignore the facts till now I know you are not going to be swayed by the increasing and clear evidence Saddam was in fact training, funding and supporting Al Quada and by the new revelations that the WMD's were in fact there (which every intelligence agency in the world confirmed up until the war) and moved when they knew an attack was imminent
In light of all of this it does not surprise you are the kind of person could make light of human beings having their heads cut off with a butcher knife. No matter what their nationality.
Debating someone like you on this issue is simply tiresome and pointless, and for me it ends now.
Posted by: deepblue | 2006-01-27 2:02:11 PM
Speaking of Hollywood films, have you all seen 'Red Dawn' about a rag-tag gang of red-blooded American teens who form a militant insurgency to fight back the invading army? It's a GREAT FILM!
Or Rambo 3? Great film about Rambo's (and America's) support for a rag-tag group of insurgents fighting back the Soviet invasion. It's a GREAT FILM!
Posted by: Justin | 2006-01-27 2:59:23 PM
"In light of all of this it does not surprise you are the kind of person could make light of human beings having their heads cut off with a butcher knife. No matter what their nationality."
And when exactly did I "make light of ... heads cut off?"
Furthermore, do you really believe the Founding Fathers of the USA meant for "police action" in regard to foreign nations in this manner? Regardless of what presidents have done since WW2 does not make an action "lawful."
Using this logic, the USA has supported terrorism in the past, including the IRA. Therefore, terrorism is "lawful," I guess at times.
I'm more interested in what is right than what is "lawful" anyhow.
Posted by: Ian Scott | 2006-01-27 4:50:42 PM
Do you realize that your all fucking morons. Its a damn movie. Now I agree that its crap, so I'm not gonna see it. However, its your choice on what you want to waste your money on. Thats one of the joys of freedom. But now your using the debate over a retarded movie to spew your leftist, peacenik propaganda about the war on the web. Let's face the facts: We're in a war of ideals with a brutal enemy who will not tolerate freedoms. They believe in strict Muslim law and therefore will not stop until all infidels (i.e. everyone else in the world) are dead. Now I don't care whether your okay with the war or against it. Once again, its your right. But realize that whether you like it or not, we're in this war, and we need to finish it. If we back down now, who else will stand up for freedom. The French? The Canadians? The answer is no one. We're the only ones left. Our indecisiveness and lack of unity is simply endoldening the enemy. They have in fact, thanked the media for splitting American support for the war. Now as for torture: I don't condone it, but cruel and evil acts are a part of warfare. If your not willing to be as or more brutal than your enemy, you will lose. So do us all a favor and sit back, shut the fuck up, and let those whose job it is to fight the war decide on how to fight it. After all, its our necks, not yours, civvies.
Posted by: Semper Fi | 2006-04-06 6:59:38 PM
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