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Violence and Bloodshed are Not Cool or Fun–by Adrian Warnock

Posted by Joyce Chen 許陳 明正 on April 20, 2007

A couple of weeks ago I saw the movie “The 300.” I meant to blog on that experience but was busy with other things, but today is a good day to rethink my reaction to the movie.

In watching the movie I came away seeing that I would be breaking ranks with a lot of people I like who gave the movies good reviews. Indeed there was virtue in the movie – comraderie, courage, brotherhood and sacrifice and other things. But I came away thinking to myself that the main character, the star of the movie was the blood. There was nothing subtle about it, nothing was left to the imagination, in fact since the movie followed the graphic novel format on which the movie itself was based, the blood and gore was even more graphic than necessary.

If you have read about the battle of Thermopylae in something like Pressfield’s Gates of Fire or a straight historic account you will know that this is truly one of the most inspiring stories of history, as this small band of 300 held off the massive Persian onslaught. Yet, in the movie, it just seems to me that the thing that is most embedded on the mind is the bloodshed, not the story and characters. Subtlety is a key to great storytelling – leaving things to the reader’s or viewers imagination enhances the story, in this case the bloodshed became the story.

Which brings me to the events of yesterday. Given the carnage at Virginia Tech, can we all come to some kind of agreement that bloodshed is not cool, is not fun, and is not entertaining?

It occurs to me that people who experience this kind of carnage in real life probably aren’t the ones who are making the graphic movies and writing graphic descriptions of this stuff in novels. From yesterday I heard of the police officer who could only say that this was the worst thing he had ever seen. I heard of a surviving student who was in one of the classrooms who can’t sleep because of the the things he saw – everytime he closes his eyes he sees the blood.

I have never been in the military but I have known many who have and known many who have known people who have served in the military and could tell their stories. Often these people can’t speak of the things they witnessed in war. Often they wrestle with post traumatic stress syndrome. So why, when it comes to entertainment, do we treat things as cool that people who experience them in real life find unspeakable?

I guess the point I am making is that police officers, soldiers, medical personnel and real life victims of violence don’t speak of that violence and bloodshed as something entertaining or cool or glorious.

I’ve never wanted to be simplistically prudish about this. I’ve let my kids play games like Halo and others, and I have watched most of the standard war/warrior movies. Sometimes I have come away from those things genuinely moved by the story and the characters and have been able to keep the bloodshed in context.

But it seems to me that there is something fundamentally wrong if we can engage in entertainments that graphically portray violence and bloodshed and walk away from them thinking those things are cool. People in real life don’t say “wow, that was awesome the way he wiped all those people,” or “did you see that guy’s head explode – cool!”

Given the events of 4/16 (another date that will probably live in the same kind of infamy as 9/11) can you imagine having a discussion with your friends about how cool the bloodshed in “The 300” was or how awesome the graphics are in that new first person shooter game if you knew that one of the survivors of this massacre, or maybe one of the parents who had lost a child, was listening over your shoulder? I think anyone would realize this was out of line. My question is “under what circumstances does it then become ‘in-line’?”

I’m not going on a crusade here and I’m not arguing that violence in entertainment is necessarily the cause of violence on campus. I’m also not arguing against any portrayals of violence in literature or entertainment. If I were to argue that I would have to stop reading the bible. Pollyanna is not my hero – it’s a violent world that we need to come to grips with.

But yesterday’s events are a graphic reminder to me that violence and bloodshed are not to be glorified – they are not cool, they are not fun and are not entertaining.

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