I first noticed my growing intolerance for violent imagery the day after the shooting, when walking past the TV when a kids’ cartoon was playing. Yes, I knew it was a cartoon. Yes, I realized the good guys were battling the bad guys. Yes, I realized the object being shot was not human but some grotesque alien creature. Nonetheless, it was hard to stomach the rapid-fire shooting taking place on the TV screen.
A few admissions: 1. My aversion to violent imagery on the big or small screen was only temporary. 2. I realize this is a purely personal decision. Other consumers of media can and do see it differently. 3. In an open society with a strong First Amendment, it’s unreasonable for anyone to expect to never confront content that he or she finds offensive.
Writer and director Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie is Django Unchained, a work that USA Today termed a “bloody slavery-revenge film.” Having seen it last week, I’d put the emphasis on bloody — lots of blood and gore that splatters everywhere, lots of brutality, lots of killing.
According to Tarantino, viewers might have a hard time watching the brutal depictions of the lives of slaves in 1858 Mississippi, but can enjoy it when the lead character, a freed slave, exacts revenge on his oppressors.
“There’s the violence that’s hard to watch and there’s the violence that’s fun to watch,” he told NPR Fresh Air host Terry Gross last week.
Gross then asked if these hyper-violent images were hard to either produce or consume in the light of the Newtown massacre, “Is it any less fun after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary? Do you ever go through a period where you lose your taste for movie violence?”
“Not for me,” was the director’s curt answer.
“I’m really annoyed,” he said. “I think it’s disrespectful. I think it’s disrespectful to their memory ... of the people who died, to talk about movies. I think it’s totally disrespectful to their memory. Obviously, the issue is gun control and mental health.”
As Tarantino sees it, violent movies and real-life acts of violence “have nothing to do with each other.”
The director is mighty certain. The rest of us could be forgiven for having our doubts. We might wonder if repeated onscreen images of violence are having a negative impact on how we treat our fellow human beings. We might fret that digital citizens walled off from the human touch and bombarded with negativity are doing themselves real harm. We might worry that it takes a national tragedy like Sandy Hook to roust us from our stupor.
Thinking about these issues — about how we can break down the barriers that divide us and foster a less-violent culture — just might be one way to honor the memories of the victims of the Newtown massacre.
Bob Davis is associate publisher/editor of The Anniston Star. Contact him at 256-235-3540 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @EditorBobDavis.