Sunday, October 09, 2005

A History of Violence

I grew up in a male-dominated household. I had three brothers and no sisters. Since my mother was not especially assertive, all our cultural and social activities were dictated by the males of the house. We watched westerns and cop shows on television and attended shoot-em-up movies. The games we played were "cops and robbers," "cowboys and Indians," and "GI Joe." My oldest brother would occasionally advise me I was acting "like a girl," a clear warning to knock off such asinine behavior.

I mention this to preface what I am about to say.

Even as an adult, my choices are not the typical female fare. Among my favorite authors are Lee Child, Andrew Vachss and Carol O'Connell--all of whom tend to walk on the dark side of the sidewalk. I loved Kill Bill (both volumes), Pulp Fiction and Con Air.

The MPAA rating of "R" for brutal violence, graphic sexuality, nudity and language didn't faze me when it came to deciding to go see "A History of Violence," David Cronenberg's latest film.

What did interest me was my very strong reaction to the movie. After seeing it with a friend over the weekend, I went back alone three days later, to see it again. There was something about the film that disturbed me in a way that the other films I mentioned did not.

When I'd seen the movie the first time, I thought the main theme was redemption and the question of whether a person could be redeemed. It took two viewings before I realized that it also makes a strong statement about violence. All the violence--whether "justified" or not--is ugly, brutal and very up close and personal. Unlike most films, in which the hero's violence is presented in a positive light that allows audiences to cheer him, this movie argues that all violence is wrong. In fact, in one scene, the most violent character says, "We don't solve our problems with our fists."

I have friends who refuse to allow their children to see violent movies or television shows. I've always rolled my eyes and muttered, "Whatever," when they've gotten on their soapbox about the subject. My attitude was the typical "It didn't hurt me when I was growing up."

I have to admit my attitude is changing. As I see the vicious computer games both boys and girls now play, and as I listen to rap lyrics celebrating rape and cop-killing, I cringe. And I realize something: if it takes me, an adult, two viewings of a film to realize its true message, what about the teenagers who were in the audience? Are they going to be repulsed or excited by the viciousness of the attacks in that movie?

My nephew just turned two. Maybe he'd benefit from playing with his sister's toys and watching her videos.

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