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July 1994


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Denise Bryson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 20 Jul 1994 08:41:59 CDT
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Gerald Forshey said,
>The main change in recent years in the adventure series has been its
>reliance on violence, a sign of white male anger.  Blasts, putdowns, mass
>murder are all justified by stripping villains of any humanity.  That is
>what made "Under Seige" with Tommy Lee Jones so notable, that it was not
>angry enough to sustain the Steven Seagal bone-crunching anger.
While I would argue about violence being a sign of "white male anger,"
I'd also say that this anger is absent from the dreaded film in
question.  The characters are doing their jobs; there are no deep
senses of inadequacy in Arnie & Tom's characters.  Some people go
to work to fix cars; these two go to work to take out "bad guys."
>    I think that differs from earlier adventure films, where the heroics
>were the focus rather than the anger at terrorists or radicals or
>psychotics. That kind of anger is very justifying, and tends to legitimate
>the extremities of violence, which after all, are feelings of frustration
>and impotence.
Again, the "heroics" here are center stage; the horseback scene
(complete with offended rich white woman), the snowbound gunfight,etc.
seemed to be parodies of similar scenes in Bond films.  I suppose one
might argue that the heroics relating to Helen and Paxton's character
stemmed from "feelings of frustration and impotence," but it is telling
that Slimy Used Car Dude didn't end up spattered all over the screen.
If we WERE looking for ways to disdain Tasker for his white male anger,
it would seem that his (contemptuous) decision not to physically
damage Paxton's character plays AGAINST the expectations.  In effect,
he's going against the grain of the "enraged," "dangerous" white male
stereotype here.
>    In that sense, these white male dramas--the Bruce Willis,
>Chuck Norris, Steven Seagal films-- (for that is who they are addressed to)
>have a good deal of influence among certain segments of the audience, those
>who are already most alienated.  It is the alienation from society that
>makes them powerful to teenagers.
Again, while I wouldn't lump in TL with the above films, I'd also have
to posit that the teen audience isn't salivating over the prospect of
seeing "Lassie" or "Fried Green Tomatoes."  They'd probably rather
stay home and watch Beavis and Butthead set cats on fire.  While we
can all agree that it's a bit unfortunate that violence sells, we've
also got to fact the fact that it sells because it obviously meets
SOME kind of need in the audience.  I still subscribe, personally,
to the theory that violent film content sublimates, rather than
exacerbates, violent tendencies.
Unless, of course, we want to steer away from the angry white male
films and start looking at the angry black male films that have
spawned shootouts right in the theatre in the past few years.
(Please, no cries of "racism."  When was the last time gunfire broke
out in the middle of a Steven Seagal film?  We can't blame white males
for all the ills of US society.  We probably OUGHTN'T be blaming
anyone, including the films we make/see.)
Denise Bryson, Language and Literature
[log in to unmask]
=      Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot      =
=       change, the strength to change those things I can, and        =
=         the wisdom to hide the bodies of those I've killed          =
=          because they PISSED ME OFF|   - Anonymous -                =