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October 1994


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Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 20 Oct 1994 09:03:04 -0600
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Troy Warr writes:
"Killers makes obvious comments on violence in American society and in the
media, but it is so excessive it becomes guilty of the same thing it
criticizes.  Its power comes from the use of violence, and it would be weak
without it.  Eventhough a film like Killers is at least trying to bring up
the issue of violence, I'm not sure that it is useful.  It seems to me that
the only people who recognize the use of violence as a critical cultural
statement are the people who are already clued into the fact that such a
statement needs to be made.  There are too many people who are either unaware
that they are being manipulated by images in mass media, or they are saying,
"Cool...more blood." "
The use of violence to critique violence is old theory applied to practice
in various ways over the years (just speaking of cinema history alone). At
least as far back as PUBLIC ENEMY and SCARFACE, the filmmakers defending
the use of violence on the grounds that they were depicting "reality" and
needed to show it in its gruesome glory in order to turn people away from
it.  By the 1960s, directors like Peckinpah in THE WILD BUNCH and Penn in
BONNIE AND CLYDE were making similar claims and upping the ante in the
depiction of bloodshed.  Now, the ante has been upped to include scenes of
sadistic torture.
I know all the debate about whether violence breeds more violence and the
conflicting or inconclusive test results.  But I do think--as a product of
random observation and anecdotal evidence--that at the very least the
depiction of violence does nothing to lessen violence.  The only claim that
can be made for it is whether such violence works artistically in the context
of the film.  That may include some reference to its effects on the viewer's
emotions, but we should at least stop pretending that it is a kind of social
therapy.  (If it were, we should all give the kids as many quarters to play
MORTAL KOMBAT as possible!)
--Don Larsson, Mankato State U., MN