Jennifer Senft comments:
"The artistic "ante has been upped" as Jeff Apfel pointed out, and so has the
real life ante. In the 1950's, for example, film culture represented the
fear of "other" in the age of blacklisting, HUAC, and the atomic bomb. As
scary as that was then, it *is* mild compared to the terrorist and nuclear
threats of today. And as we are exposed to a grittier reality than apple
pie and the American Dream, the public embraces films that depict this as
opposed to gloss. Though the reverse can certainly be argued -- does life
imitate art or vice versa."
Another aspect of this escalation (or is it a desensitization?) is in the
portrayal of the Bomb itself. What had been a source of apocalyptic fury
in the past (see KISS ME DEADLY for what even a "small" atomic bomb
represents) becomes just another weapon for blowing things up real good
in recent films. The emblematic image has to be Curtis and Schwarznegger
embracing in front of a nuclear explosion at the end of TRUE LIES. It's
a long way from DR. STRANGLOVE.
On a related note, we have the wholesale destruction of major cities (people,
culture, communications, business, etc.) in INDEPENDENCE DAY and no one seems
to react to it more strongly than to be pretty annoyed at them aliens!
Still, it's always easy to View With Alarm this kind of thing. I don't know
if it is a trend (beyond a set of merchandizing gimmicks), but it would be
nice to see a few films that actually portray what the *real* effects of
violence can be. DEAD MAN WALKING, COURAGE UNDER FIRE and a few others at
least make gestures in those directions.
Don Larsson, Mankato State U(MN)
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