http://bit.ly/WyvwQqToronto Star: If U.S. gun control fails, movie violence will be to blame
Even if another Newtown-style massacre took place in the U.S. this week, even if it happened in a daycare, a pet spa or Congress, gun control will still never be enacted in the U.S.
It isnít because of the NRA, chock full oí nuts though it is. It isnít because Americans have so many guns already that registering and restricting them would be like counting gravel in the Rio Grande.
The problem is that Americans have been led to believe that bullets donít hurt. And thanks to the non-stop violence that passes for a plot in mainstream entertainment, I donít either. When I recall the mayhem Iíve seen since Christmas vacation ó I calculate that about 45 people died onscreen ó I also assume that stabbed people feel as much pain as would a sweet potato. They always seem so alert, almost perky, even with half the handle buried in them.
Americans love the sights and sounds of extreme violence, and have exported this love to the planet via their movie and television industry. I only mention this because Quentin Tarantino recently erupted in a British TV interview about Oscar-nominated Django Unchained ó ďIím shutting your butt down!Ē he screamed ó when asked about the link between enjoying movie violence and enjoying actual violence. I read this in the news story online. I assumed from the video that he had simply been shot from behind.
But I thought the same when a gun-lover named Alex Jones began yelling on CNN that mass shootings could be blamed on psychiatrists handing out ďsuicide mass-murder pills.Ē I wasnít worried that Jones would die though. Emergency rooms have grown so accustomed to bullet damage that it seems plausible now to be shot and survive, in movies and in real life.
Americans arenít mean, theyíre just inured and who wouldnít be?
Although I wish all guns were banned, I donít object to cartoonish violence. But Iím tired.
JFK died. Why donít actors? Their bodies ripple and shudder and then they crawl over to a discarded gun and get their own back. Some people in that Aurora, Colo., movie theatre initially thought the killer was part of the nightís entertainment.
U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden, trying for gun control, knows he has to be literal, not idealistic. Voters have to imagine actual death. ďThere is nothing that has gone to the heart of the matter more than the visual image people have of little six-year-old kids riddled ó not shot with a stray bullet ó riddled, riddled, with bullet holes in their classroom,Ē he said this week.
Horrifying as Newtown was, the fact is that Americans were upset partly by its grotesque novelty. As mass shootings increase, Americans die in movie theatres and aerobics classes, the sites growing ever more unlikely. Newtown was a first for preschoolers. The next massacre will have to be in a daycare or it wonít rate.
I just watched the new Swedish-Danish TV detective series, The Bridge, which opens with a womanís corpse on a bridge. Naturally, the torso belongs to one victim and the legs to another. Once upon a time, that would have been a bit much. Now the camera floats around the joined-up bit.
To create the Nordic Noir genre, the Scandinavians, quite literally, took lessons from American TV and then raised them one.
The Bridge seemed polite in comparison to the Luka Magnotta dismemberment video. But there are only so many means to murder and I sense I have seen them all. At some point screen violence will go as far down the path as pornography has gone and it will just be reddish-toned wallpaper, all entrails and erotica.
Meanwhile, Slate.comís continuing crowd-sourced count of the number of Americans killed by guns since Newtown has hit 695. Astonishing.
Most of the TV and movie deaths Iíve seen this year were by gunfire, although Swedish filmmakers are also fond of fire, explosives, liquid and gas poison and samurai swords. If I bothered to watch Django Unchained I could see a man ripped apart by dogs. What bothers me is that Tarantino might have him get up and walk around after the mauling.
At the British Museum in London this fall, I saw a tiny silver locket containing a manís dried eyeball. What I enjoyed about this was that I knew that Edward Oldcorne was thoroughly dead, and not just because he was executed in 1606. The Elizabethans were entirely clear that when a man was hung, disembowelled and cut into four pieces, he was no more. Now thatís just Tarantino foreplay.
American popular culture offers childish wish-fulfilment. Adults, on the other hand, know they will die. The question is how. Gun lovers say movie bullets donít hurt. I say they do. Tarantino, howling and pouting, refused to answer. [email protected]