Our Love/Hate Relationship With Violence

Maximus from Gladiator

Violence, is supposed to solve every problem in movies and none in reality.Every film—from action to comedies—has violence as the climax or literal punchline.

People root for the plucky band of rebels blowing shit up, but are terrified when it actually happens. People cheer when the hero throws a righteous punch for the girl, but are horrified horrified when it happens in the real world.

Will Smith smacking Chris Rock would be the climax of a romantic comedy, but is a problem in the ‘real’ world

We cheer violent individuals in the cinema and then jeer them on the news. We overthrow empires in our dreams and live under the most brutal one ever known. It is a dream world, this thing we call a real world. As Shakespeare said, ‘All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely getting played.’

Drama is all about tension, but this is internal tension. We have a deeply conflicted attitude towards violence and it is this central conflict that makes violent art interesting. It allows us to participate without having to take responsibility at all.

On the big screen, violence is satisfying, thrilling, and hilarious. But on the little screen of news, it’s terrorism, terrible, and must not be done. Our fantasies are all about individual violence, but our reality is a state monopoly on the form.

The plot of almost every action movie is some plucky band of outsiders, defying authorities and blowing shit up. This is just called terrorism in the ‘real’ world.We act out rebellion against power in the dark, but in the light, we’re its faithful servants. The same thing we cheer for in the cinema is vilified on CNN.

The peak white boy privilege in Love Actually. Trying running through an airport while brown

The truth is that major films like Star Wars and Love Actually are about terrorism. The Death Star was the Galactic Empire’s version of the Pentagon, and on theirnews, it must have been an outrage that it was blown up. That lovestruck white boy running through an airport would have been a completely different story if he was brown; kid would be tased until he threw up. We are sold this fantasy of rebellion, when in fact it’s not allowed.

In the real world, violence is monopolized by the state and especially the American (White) Empire which has armies of drones and stormtroopers all around the world, and reserves the right to kill, torture, or starve anyone (while calling it freedom™). And this is also ritualized (or lobotomized) through the film industry their War Department works so closely with.

The opening scene of Kingsman, which I stopped watching because it’s the murder of a captive Muslim guy by white men. How do people watch these hate crimes?

American films are privatized propaganda, showing them murdering Muslims, Hispanics, and Russians on the regular. Their violent foreign policy becomes violent, personalized fantasies on screen. Muslims are swarthy terrorists, Hispanics are gun-toting drug dealers, Russians are toting around nukes. This of course justifies the violence done upon these people in real life, via cinematic caricatures. It actually feels good going to war with Russia. Americans have been primed for this since Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Their troops: ugly, disfigured, bad. Our troops: beautiful, brave, good. From The Lord of The Rings

Genocide is also a constant narrative theme, a dream really. Every blockbuster film from the Avengers to Lord Of The Rings features the gleeful mowing down or wave after wave of nameless, faceless hordes. The climax of so many films is when every last one is killed, or drops dead because you removed their energy source.

Scarred orcs, lumpy CGI beasts, alien invasions. These are proxies for the poor and colored people that the imperial Army actually bombs, tortures, and starves to death. The ‘bad guys’ in these films are literally dehumanized and the crowds cheer for genocide. And so the population is locked and loaded for the latest warzone. People change their profile pictures to the Ukraine flag like it’s the latest Avenger.