16 February 2008

Murder is ordinary

When I was a sweet young thing I worked in a movie theatre. After putting in my time behind the candy counter (my advice: don't eat the hot dogs. Those things have been sitting there ALL DAY), I was promoted to the prestigious position of box office cashier.

Mann Theatres uniform

Families with young children would come up to the window. The mom always asked the question.

"Why is that movie rated R?"

"It isn't appropriate for children under 17," I would answer dryly, because I was a smartass teenager myself.

"I mean...does it have sex?" she would ask.

"No, but it is very violent," I would explain.

Her face would brighten. "Okay, then, we'll take two adults and one child."

No one ever decided not to take their kids to a movie because I told them it was too violent. Sex - no. Nudity - maybe. But violence? Fine! Let's get popcorn!


Last night I went to a vigil for a little boy who was shot and killed in his classroom by a classmate.


This week has been so violent in America. Hand-wringing from all sides. "What have we done wrong?" everyone asks.

It makes me want to scream. Look, people, murder is a huge part of our lives. It is like fast food or something. It is consumed daily in 99.9 percent of American households.

Murder mysteries take up rows and rows at the Barnes and Noble. No murder, no book.

Try flipping around the TV dial without seeing a murder. Video games - even "Christian" video games show scenes of rampant murder. It's fun, the killing, isn't it?

It's freedom of speech. Artistic license. Each new murder has to have a twist, to be a little sicker and more graphic than the last.

CSI. 24. Law and Order. The news. Natalie Holloway. Laci Peterson. OJ. Murder She F***ing Wrote. Murder murder murder we love the murder.


Forgive me, please. I'm on a rant. Right now I'm just feeling a little sick. Lawrence King is dead, another kid is in jail for his murder, and next week they won't be news because some other murders will have taken their place.


QT said...

I feel the same way. I always thought "at some point, your child will see another human being naked, but don't you want to keep the visions of violence out of their little heads for a few more years"???

Also, I remembered reading a study when I was in college where they hooked up electrodes to people and after watching one level of violence repeatedly (lets say, someone getting punched) the brain activity no longer would spike, there was no "rush" until the level of violence was elevated.

Anonymous said...

One of Geoff's favorite sayings is "If a naked man with an AK47 was running down the street firing shots, people would call the police and say, 'There's a naked man in the street!'"

I see this frequently in the library, where I am in charge of Young Adult fiction. Parents are always wondering if certain titles are "appropriate" for their children, and by this they always mean, "does it have sex in it." And I've seen a disturbing trend increasing as well - parents who don't want their teens to read anything with "gays" in it - whether the "gays" are having actual sex or not.

But violence (which runs rampant in fantasy titles - which are our number 1 YA picks) - that's A-OK.

Mrs. G. said...

Yes, well I guess most parents would rather their children witness death and destruction rather than sex...cause you know what sex leads to...impurity and the fires of hell. And violence? It's just fantasy. Rock 'em, sock 'em good fun.

Gun control, gun control, gun control, gun control.

I'm with you, sister.

KiKi said...

I just said exactly the same thing to my sister: people will groan, squirm in their seat, or even fast forward thru a love scene in a movie; these same people won't even flinch when someone's head is severed by a sword or when a bullet rips into someone.

Sorry for being so graphic, but i hate violent movies. I can't shake my empathy for the victim and spend the rest of the movie wondering how the person felt, what they went thru during their final moments. STuff for nightmares. Ugh.

Julie said...

I remember reading a book by Brett Easton Ellis that was described pretty graphic murders and being horrified that someone could even come up with that. I wonder about people who make these movies and games - what kind of people are they, that they have to come up with new ways to kill people? It's pretty disturbing.

Suzanne said...

I love CSI and Law & Order because even though they are about murder, they are also about justice, which I can't say is what happens in real life since we are so addicted to violence. In fiction, crime-fighting professionals care deeply about find the actual person who acted violently. In real life, the desire to punish is so strong that exculpatory evidence is often ignored. Plus, the shows deal with the consequences of violence versus just showing violent acts.

On a different note, I think you have the exact same adorable appearance as you did in that photo.

LittlePea said...

So true! So true! That's why I was laughing when all the freak outs about Janet Jackson's boob because most people don't freak out about letting their kids watch violent movies and tv shows but boobs? Nooooo! Not boobs!

Tracey said...

I completely agree! I was on a jury for a murder trial a couple summers ago and the only thing that shocked me about the crime scene and autopsy photos was that they didn't disturb me... Apparently I watch far too much CSI and Law and Order!

stephanie said...

It is something to ruminate - and rant - about. I find myself getting most upset and in the faces of my kids & students when they are cruel or unkind, or even forget common courtesy. It seems if you've got the compassion thing going on, outrageous ideas like shooting a classmate don't enter your mind...

stephanie said...

It occurs to me that my phrasing of "in the faces" may not quite fit with my "compassion thing" message.

When I say "in the faces of" I am speaking passionately, not violently. Is that coming through? D'oh.

Well-written piece, I forgot to say.

mar said...

unfortunately, there's nothing new under the sun. i've been reading all the agatha christie's lately and even those are all murder. then think of the romans. plenty of disgusting things.
and after watching 'this film is not yet rated' i can't believe how disturbed i am that in america sex is taboo, but violence is acceptable. sickening. i had a really difficult time watching 'pan's labyrinth'.

the mystic said...

Oh how cute you are!

As for violence and kids let me tell you that I never ever ever ever envisioned that my kids would watch as much violence as they do. I sort of gave up at some point though I would definitely not let them see something that's rated R for violence.

All of the superhero and Power Ranger and Pokeman crap that all of their friends know about and talk about are pretty violent in my opinion, but ruling things out and forbidding things and such all gets very very complicated. Especially when your kids have ANOTHER parent besides you with whom you have to reach an agreement...

Wait, am I ranting now?

At the same time I'm not sure I blame media images of violence for the violence in our culture -- certainly it might play a part, but I think it's far more complex than just that. Some things like violence in the home, experimental medications that kids are always being put on these days, overly permissive parenting (to the point that kids don't develop a sense of empathy), toxins that affect brain development early on and many other things could also be part of what is so wrong.

Count Mockula said...

Okay, I agree with you and with most of the commentors, but can I also say that I LOVE your dress in that photo... What I wouldn't give...

Miss Awesome said...

My father always said he'd rather me watch movies that had sex than movies with violence. I ended up pregnant at 17, but never killed anyone...what can I say?

Major Bedhead said...

I constantly have to tell my husband to turn things off because the little girls will sit there, mesmerized by whatever is on the stupid television. It drives me crazy that it doesn't even phase him.

Skye @ Planet Jinxatron said...

I couldn't believe how many kids under 10 there were in the theater when I saw Blade. I saw it with a friend who is a clinical social worker and I thought she was going to call Child Protective Services right there from her seat.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty militant about keeping my kids from the TV violence, but if/when they do see it, I try to contextualize it, break it down, talk about ways to be safe (without getting all super-scary about it), etc. I damn sure can't understand the parents who take their kids to that kind of stuff on purpose (and often very late at night - wtf?).

I do watch Law & Order though (all of 'em, I'm addicted), for the reasons your commenter Suzanne references (justice). I've seen a lot of terrifying situations (e.g. threatened with gun - twice) and I have this need to vicariously experience the justice I could never get for myself (or for others I loved), through the vehicle of fiction.

Of course there can be a fine line between art and total crap, and I don't pretend I can (or should) be the one to make those distinctions, to "censor." But I will do my job as a mama, and that means keeping my girls safe, both from actual predators in the world around us and from any unnecessary nightmares concerning same. They deserve to be children.

Best - Victoria

(P.S. To your recent post on Twitter: I couldn't agree more.)

Anonymous said...

Right on. I don't know what it's going to take for us to start making changes to the gun laws in this country and at this point I'm not even sure if that would help because of just what you said. We've become desensitized to this kind of violence. I caught a minute or two of one of the Saw movies the other day and I just had to shake my head at the notion that there are so many people who like to watch realistic torture and murder that they have made FIVE of these films and that's just one franchise out of many.
It does make you sick, doesn't it?

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