there seems to be an important principle underlying the "violence in films"
debate, but one that has not yet, i think, been articulated, and one whose
articulation, i also think, might halp clarify some confusion. . . violence
in a film--like love, families, education, business, and of course sex, that
is like anything at all that is represented in the film--can be represented
in a discourse that valorizes it, condemns it, or sees it as neutral
of course the rhetoric of the cinematic text may be flawed, or a viewer's
response may be so personla as to be inappropriate, with the result that a
scene intended to disgust will end up pleasing or vice versa . . . the best
example of that vice-versa is the response of many women to scenes in hard
core pornography . . . the implied meaning of those scenes, readily
available to the intended audience, is that sex is exciting and "good," but
many women see it only as disgusting and can't imagine why anybody would want
to watch the stuff . . .
perhaps the simplest way of putting the matter is this: any element in a film
may be presented with an implied endorsement, with an implied condemnation,
with an ambiguous or indeterminate judgement, or with no judgment at all [i
assume that the clothes worn by most secondary characters in most movies, for
example, are neutral or value free, included simply because bodies must be
clothed in something] . . .
if this is reasonable then perhaps we ought to recast the discussion to focus
not on the question of "violence: good or bad" but on what stance the film
takes toward the violence it depicts, and whether the film actually supports
its stance or whether--as in so many of the examples cited in this
debate--it uses a purely OSTENSIBLE condemnation as a way of licking its
prurient chops . . . whatever we say about Clockwork Orange, it's hard to
see it as explotive, Bonnie and Clyde is another story . . .
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