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Mike Cohen
Movie Violence
on Jul 27, 2012 at 3:33:42 am

The recent events in Colorado got me thinking (flying into Denver was part of it) - is there too much violence in movies?

The goal for this thread is to simply consider how much violence and how realistic that violence needs to be to get the point across. How much is too much, or is there no limit?

We are not talking about the influence of violent movies on people who commit acts of violence.

And lets keep the politics out of this as well. There are plenty of forums to talk about the 2nd Amendment. And besides, the COW is a worldwide user base.

Let's consider the way violence is used.

Historical Context

Suggesting that Saving Private Ryan or The Thin Red Line or Braveheart have too much violence is just silly. They are history-based dramas. Wars are bloody. However as cinema has evolved the realistic depiction of war violence has evolved as well. We used to see wide shots of people getting gunned down and some closeups of movie deaths. Now we see evisceration, lots of blood and graphic closeups.

Domestic Violence

When domestic violence is depicted it is usually done because that is the story being told.

Sexual Violence

Sometimes done for shock value, sometimes to move the plot along and sometimes the basis for the plot. Recently we saw the remake of Straw Dogs which includes a pretty intense scene which serves to make us really hate the antagonist.

Sci-Fi, Fantasy Violence

Transformers, Lord of the Rings, Superheroes duking it out - very obviously pretend. However technology now allows comic book violence to be depicted hyper-realistically. However when shooting people enters into a fantasy genre is a line crossed? Could one argue that Heath Ledger's Joker should not have been depicted killing people in cold blood? One could argue that Darth Vader Force choking his officers was designed to show his power, but also his weakness with human interaction. And was there a place for strangulation in a PG kids movie?

Action / Adventure / Thriller Violence

Jason Bourne, Indiana Jones, Jack Ryan, Jason Statham, Stallone, Ahhnold, Willis - the list goes on. These guys kick a$$ and take names. They shoot, they punch, they maim, they kill. Again, the depiction of these screen deaths has gotten grittier in the past 20 years. Do we need to see the necks snapping, hear the bones crunching and see the blood splatter on the lens? Maybe, maybe not.

Horror / Shock Horror / Supernatural Violence

I don't watch movies like Saw or Hostel, but I do watch zombies, vampires and werewolves tear each other and their human foes apart, and vice versa. These movies are more popular than ever. However Lon Chaney and Bela Lugosi were not seen eating human entrails or literally drinking someone dry. True Blood, Being Human on tv and countless movies about supernatural beings eating or killing each other are in ready supply. Do we need to see it in such detail?

Cops and Robbers

We don't see too many police procedurals anymore, without some extraordinary twist. Southland on TV seems pretty realistic, and usually starts and ends with some violent act, with detective work and patrol work in the middle. Is it ok if the violence is cops winning vs criminals?

Cowboys and Indians

Not too much of this either. It could go under historical, however there were once so many movies in this genre.

As for my opinion - I believe it is ok to depict anything in a work of entertainment, knowing that there is a specific appropriate audience for that work. Parents should not take their young kids to see an ultra violent movie. But do violent movies cause real world violence? Not in a vacuum.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Mike Cohen


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Mark Suszko
Re: Movie Violence
on Jul 27, 2012 at 2:10:48 pm

Star Wars is an interesting example of a movie with a LOT of shooting and killing, but no blood seen, not really. Except for a teensy puddle of something not red, on the floor of the cantina scene, by the severed arm, I can't think of any scenes with blood. And of course, besides all the storm troopers and rebels killed, you have entire planets being exterminated. All bloodlessly. And you worry about Vader force-choking people, again, without blood?

Even the final three SW movies made, which show more violent, sometimes shredding, deaths to side-characters, leaves out the red stuff almost entirely.


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Scott Roberts
Re: Movie Violence
on Jul 27, 2012 at 3:22:24 pm

[Mark Suszko] "Even the final three SW movies made, which show more violent, sometimes shredding, deaths to side-characters, leaves out the red stuff almost entirely."

Yeah, I don't know what it is about blood, but that seems to be the starting point for the MPAA making ratings for movies. The Dark Knight Rises, for example, has a ton of neck snapping and shooting, but there was no blood. It's a brutally violent movie, but rated PG-13. I guess because not showing blood makes the death more theatrical, and less real world? I feel like when they showed Bane breaking that one guy's neck; if they showed bones and blood popping out of his neck skin, the film would have been leaning more towards R.

Now, my parents were former hippies & very nonchalant when I was growing up, and they would let me go to Blockbuster and pretty much rent whatever I wanted without even really checking. Off the top of my head, I saw Natural Born Killers when I was around 10, and The Big Lebowski when I was 14-ish. I also pretty much made it my goal to watch the entire horror section of Blockbuster when I was a kid (anyone else seen Ice Cream Man starring Clint Howard?). I guess my parents didn't mind when I was watching movie characters mangle people, because they knew I would have a real world disconnect. Or they were just clueless, haha. But they instilled other good values in me; and I'm like the most harmless person on the planet, DESPITE seeing all the violent, terrible stuff I did when I was a kid.

And that's not even mentioning ALL the violent, INTERACTIVE video games I've been playing for the last 20+ years.

I think if you can establish in your children a clear disconnect between fake violence and real violence, and they actually understand it; then movie violence isn't a big deal. Not to toot my own horn, but I was a smart enough kid to figure that out. I guess a dumber kid would look at movie violence and think it would be fun to replicate it because they don't see the disconnect. If you think your kid might be a psycho, then maybe don't let him watch horror movies. I don't think movie violence is any more of a terrible influence on kids than reading violent books are (which are often way more graphic and descriptive), so long as the kid has a moral compass (probably) instilled by the parents.

Just my two cents.


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Tim Wilson
Re: Movie Violence
on Jul 27, 2012 at 4:33:10 pm

[Scott Roberts] "Yeah, I don't know what it is about blood, but that seems to be the starting point for the MPAA making ratings for movies."

Wonderful movie on this subject: This Movie Is Not Yet Rated. Some of it is kind of annoying but still interesting: revealing the anonymous people responsible for setting ratings. I didn't need to see the detective work itself, but it's quite revealing. There are also great interviews with filmmakers and actors about what they've been through.

The reason the final reel of Taxi Driver is so orange is because the original blood color was deemed offensive, and it was easier to just recolor the whole thing. All the credit in the world to Scorsese who had a discussion with his team about regrading the scene to the way they shot it -- and deciding instead to just clean up and release the movie that we saw.

Anyway...

Harvey Weinstein talked about this in an interview at Huffington Post:

"It’s a question that I wrestle with all the time," said Weinstein, who has produced all of director Quentin Tarantino’s blood-spattered films, including the upcoming slave-era revenge fantasy "Django Unchained." "I’ve been involved with violent movies, and then I’ve also said at a certain point, ‘I can’t take it anymore. Please cut it.’ You know, you’ve got to respect the filmmaker, and it’s a really tough issue. My heart goes out to those kids and those families."

Weinstein said he hoped that members of the Hollywood community would take this opportunity to have an honest conversation about how on-screen violence influences real-world events. "I think, as filmmakers, we should sit down – the Marty Scorseses, the Quentin Tarantinos, and hopefully all of us who deal in violence in movies – and discuss our role in that."



Here's the thing. It's a fine time to have a serious talk, but I don't think the problem is movies. Or music or TV or videogames. I'm just going to point out that every weapon used and round fired in Aurora was legally purchased after a background check and a waiting period. Paraphrasing the President, people on the street shouldn't be allowed to buy machine guns.

And paraphrasing a tweet I saw, it's sad that the response to a costumed gunman slaughtering people with a machine gun is to place more restrictions on costumes.

Bringing this back to the topic of movies, if you haven't seen Bowling for Columbine, you really need to. I think it's my favorite Michael Moore movie because it's so personal. He's a lifetime member of the NRA who won a number of marksman awards from them, and he does a great job (in my mind) of depoliticizing the issue and avoiding blame. It's just a careful walk through the details. Including Charlton Heston's speech at an NRA rally in Denver only 10 days after the massacre in the Denver suburb of Columbine.

Look, do limits need to be placed on movies MORE than need to be placed on machine guns? Or do machine guns need to be limited MORE than movies? Because right now, that's all we're talking about - limiting movie and TV violence.

Here's my thinking. The last year for which I could find unambiguous numbers was 2009: 217 million people went to the movies. When you read about declines, it's mostly in terms of numbers of movies that any one individual sees in a year - the average is down from 8 in 2004 to 4 in 2012 to date. So let's say that means 150 million people went to the movies last year.

Major acts of violence against multiple people in movie theaters, rather than "friends" shooting each other...uhm, ever so far: one? Major acts of violence mimicking movie violence...uhm, I can't find a Google reference to any.

Oh yeah, except for those Columbine shooters who dressed up like Neo from The Matrix. Oh yeah, which had very little gun violence.

Video games sold: 250 million-ish units total in 2010 (the last year I could find unambiguous numbers for). Even if all 250,000,000 were violent, how many acts of violence were performed by people who watched a lot of video games? The Columbine guys favorite games? Doom and Wolfenstein. They spent a lot of time building Doom levels.

Are you kidding me? Those are only *barely* violent, and aimed at killing aliens and Nazis.

Okay, any other big-time videogame-loving killers? Aurora guy? Nope. High school athlete, regular churchgoer, working on his PhD with the help of a $21,000 NIH grant he earned.

Let's ban neuroscience! And church!

Or machine guns. He couldn't have killed anyone with a machine gun if he couldn't buy a machine gun.

Sure, he bought other kinds of guns, including one with a 100-round magazine. Should we maybe talk about limiting access to guns with 100-round magazines?

For that matter, ammo over the internet: 3,000 rounds of handgun ammunition, 3,000 rounds for a semiautomatic rifle and 350 shells for a 12-guage shotgun, all over the Internet.

So maybe you could allow people to buy machine guns, but limit the amount of ammo they can buy on the internet.

You could go on like this all day. A billion or more violent things are consumed every year - movies, TV, rock and roll, whatever. The number of violent acts committed that are even vaguely correlatable - single digits? Double digits? It's nonsense.

I'm always up for discussing why violence is so much more permissible than sex in American entertainment -- but I still don't see any evidence that it actually leads to violence in any way that further limitations on content will change. It's a straw man argument that we've been pushed into because any meaningful discussion about access to guns and ammo is strictly off the table in the circles of people who can actually do something about it.

Rant off.

Waiting eagerly for Total Recall and Bourne Identity. Can't get enough guns and explosions.

Tim Wilson
Vice President, Editor-in-Chief
Creative COW Magazine
Twitter: timdoubleyou

The typos here are most likely because I'm, a) typing this on my phone; and b) an idiot.


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Scott Roberts
Re: Movie Violence
on Jul 27, 2012 at 4:42:31 pm

[Tim Wilson] "I'm always up for discussing why violence is so much more permissible than sex in American entertainment"

From an interview earlier this week with George R.R. Martin on the sex vs. violence in Game of Thrones:

"I can describe an axe entering a human skull in great explicit detail and no one will blink twice at it. I provide a similar description, just as detailed, of a penis entering a vagina, and I get letters about it and people swearing off. To my mind this is kind of frustrating, it’s madness. Ultimately, in the history of [the] world, penises entering vaginas have given a lot of people a lot of pleasure. Axes entering skulls, well, not so much."


Source:
http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Culture/Lifestyle/2012/Jul-23/181552-sci-fi-wri...


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Mark Suszko
Re: Movie Violence
on Jul 27, 2012 at 5:27:27 pm

The COW's normally squeamish word filter must be on summer vacation;-)


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Mike Cohen
Re: Movie Violence
on Jul 29, 2012 at 1:59:24 am

I went to the makeshift memorial for the Dark Knight shooting victims. Seeing the 12 crosses, photos and piles of flowers, stuffed animals and mostly tasteful signs really makes the events described by CNN and other news outlets much more real. People park their cars, and solemnly walk around, reading the messages, holding hands, singing religious songs and being very somber. Then there are the people posing for photographs - that's a bit creepy, but it is like visiting Ground Zero in NY I suppose. I met the guy who put up the crosses. Very nice although he seemed to want to recruit me into his religion. No worries, I just told him I believe people should worship however they see fit.

The theater itself is surrounded in chain link fencing and police tape.

Sad.

Mike Cohen


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Lisa Talley
Re: Movie Violence
on Aug 1, 2012 at 6:42:08 pm

[Scott Roberts] "From an interview earlier this week with George R.R. Martin on the sex vs. violence in Game of Thrones:

"I can describe an axe entering a human skull in great explicit detail and no one will blink twice at it. I provide a similar description, just as detailed, of a penis entering a vagina, and I get letters about it and people swearing off. To my mind this is kind of frustrating, it’s madness. Ultimately, in the history of [the] world, penises entering vaginas have given a lot of people a lot of pleasure. Axes entering skulls, well, not so much."
"


Even though there is a great deal of shame associated to sex in this country, seeing as how we (as a society) abhor it in our entertainment or public discussion in comparison to how we celebrate violence in our entertainment... there has been just as much progression in how sex is shown in our movies.

I completely agree, violence has gotten bloodier, and incredibly more graphic with sounds of bones snapping, excessive shooting and the like. We're seeing deaths more and more in action movies with heroes dropping villains and goons like flies nearly every 10 minutes throughout a film. But sex has also gotten increasingly graphic, it used to be that the most anyone saw of a sex scene was a passionate kiss, a fade to black and a fade up in to a scene to show the same two actors smoking cigarettes together in bed. Now, we've eliminated that fade out (for the most part) and are seeing just about everything that happens in between, i.e. Prometheus, Friends With Benefits, Black Swan .. yadda yadda .. and the same with TV shows i.e. True Blood, American Horror Story etc.

If the question is, is this necessary to tell a compelling story? I'm going to say absolutely not, but the audience is getting bored and catering to their primal urges will get them in front of the screen. We're not just injecting more and more violence in to our entertainment.. we're also doing the same thing with sex, they've just been evolving at different rates, I think.

Lisa Talley
Sacramento Video Production




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Scott Roberts
Re: Movie Violence
on Aug 13, 2012 at 5:33:48 pm

[Lisa Talley] "
If the question is, is this necessary to tell a compelling story? I'm going to say absolutely not, but the audience is getting bored and catering to their primal urges will get them in front of the screen. We're not just injecting more and more violence in to our entertainment.. we're also doing the same thing with sex, they've just been evolving at different rates, I think."


I think people (can) feel more emotion when it comes to violence and sex, regarding how explicit they actually are. Take something like Blue Valentine, which features a pretty explicit sex scene. But it's done in a way that the nakedness makes the whole scene more raw and emotional. It really locked me into the scene, and not in a sexual way. But then you can take something like Piranha 3DD, where the sex is gratuitous and unnecessary and simply for a (shock) stimulus.

You could say the same thing about violence in a way. Is movie violence acceptable in a historical context like Saving Private Ryan or Schindler's List? Maybe. But then it does stray again into the gratuitous with the Saw/Hostel/torture porn genre (which is really just an unoriginal throwback to the 1970s torture porn genre, so it's nothing new) and all the violence is stupid shock value designed for nerds like me who appreciate movie make-up techniques and karo syrup.




[Lisa Talley] "I completely agree, violence has gotten bloodier, and incredibly more graphic with sounds of bones snapping, excessive shooting and the like. We're seeing deaths more and more in action movies with heroes dropping villains and goons like flies nearly every 10 minutes throughout a film."

What is your time frame for this argument here? Are you saying movies of the last few years have gotten increasingly violent? Of the last 10 years? 30 years? Since the 1950s? That same increase in violence argument can me made for Braveheart (1995), Die Hard (1988), Taxi Driver (1975), and Bonnie and Clyde (1967). If you're complaining that movies have become more violent and sex filled than the 1950s, then I guess you've got the most solid argument of all time, because I don't think the greatest movie debater in the history of movie debaters could debate against that.

I don't know what my point is with that, or whether it's good or bad that violence and sex are more prevalent than ever (even though I'd say there was more gratuitous nudity in 70s films than current films, just sayin), but yeah, there certainly is more of it. And it can help create stronger feelings in the audience than skipping over them ever could. If that's what the director is going for...


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