On Violence and Bloodthirsty Americans

No, this blog post is not about vampires. Though I suppose it could be, with that title.

Joining in with the rest of America (so it seemed), Elaine and I saw The Hunger Games in theaters. Normally, I wouldn’t go see a movie before reading the book, but I just couldn’t help myself. To be honest, I heard lots of great things about it – even from those who read the books, which is surprising – so I convinced Elaine to go with me. Before getting into any kind of analysis, I should say that I really enjoyed the movie. I thought it was very well made, and had some excellent acting. That in itself was surprising, considering many of the actors weren’t well-known.

As Elaine and I walked out of the theater, we did the typical, “So, what did you think of the movie?” As you can obviously tell, I was pretty happy about spending the previous 2 1/2 hours with Katniss Everdeen. Elaine surprised me, however, by saying she was unhappy with the movie. I was a little baffled, so I asked her to clarify. Her initial reaction (and I think rightfully so) was general disgust. Or perhaps, at the very least, she was quite disturbed by watching children between the ages of 12-18 killing each other. The fact that movies look so realistic now really doesn’t help. In particular, there is a scene at the beginning of the actual Games in the movie when a large portion of the children run towards a specific location, and the entire scene is a bloodbath. I must admit, I was quite disturbed myself.

One of the things Elaine said that caught my attention was that she felt like the audience of the movie actually became the audience of the Hunger Games. The general premise of the movie is that children are chosen to compete (and kill each other) in a game of survival, where there can only be one winner. The citizens of Panem (the nation) are forced to watch, and many find entertainment in the Games. The problem Elaine noticed is that the majority of the movie – and the book – focus specifically on what actually happens during the Games. Not only that, but because the focus is on a specific person (Katniss Everdeen), the movie audience finds itself actually cheering Katniss on in her quest to win. What we may not realize, however, is that in cheering Katniss on, we’re actually cheering for her to kill others. This is a problem that, I’m willing to bet, most Americans won’t even realize. It’s so easy to get caught in the trap of thinking violence is alright simply because “the good guy” might “win.”

Fortunately, I think both the moviemakers and the author were trying to convey something (or perhaps I’m simply being overly optimistic here). I think the attempt to force the audience to cheer Katniss on actually shows something deeply depraved within humanity – and especially Americans. You see, we enjoy violence quite a bit, whether we want to admit it or not. Seriously, look at just most Evangelicals. If a movie is rated R for sexuality or nudity, we’re so quick to condemn it and say that it’s a distortion of something beautiful God has created. Coincidentally, however, we’re also quick to say, “Oh, it’s only rated R for violence? No big deal.” Isn’t this just as much of a distortion of creation as a movie that objectifies women or distorts sexuality?

I’m not trying to be condemning or judgmental here. Actually, I’m willing to freely admit that I’m guilty of this exact issue. I think I may have even said those words before. The problem is, if I believe God has truly created the world and is actively reconciling and redeeming it, violence is equally as culpable as distorted sexuality.

What do you think? Have you noticed this trend in American culture? Do you think violence is alright to witness, even if only in a movie? Or do you think it should be treated as a problem in our society?

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7 thoughts on “On Violence and Bloodthirsty Americans

  1. Charis Psallo

    I never saw the movie. I chose not to go after one teenaged friend grieved publicly on Facebook after he observed himself watching the film and hoping for a scene of violent revenge. I think he is the one demonstrating courage and defying unexamined societal norms. I admire him.

    Reply
  2. Paul

    Do I think watching movies with violence is okay? Sure. However, there is a fine line in my opinion between showing it in a historical perspective (war films) and through a self-defense prism, but films shouldn’t be advocating or glorifying violence as far too many films do today. The worst thing is the dehumanization of this generation to believing and accepting that violence and bloodshed is alright. Death, any death, breaks the heart of God, and Jesus Christ preached a message of love – to love our neighbors as ourselves, to love our enemies and pray for those who mistreat us, and even turning our cheeks when confronted with violence. So whilst I personally object to wars, violence, and even “justifiable” violent action, a film that has action/violent sequences like Inception and Star Wars are okay in my book (they’re not advocating or glorifying violence), but films like Saw, Friday the 13th, other “horror” genre films, and many of the new gangster films (not like the Godfather) I don’t care for because they dehumanize us to the point that we accept the bloodshed which is dangerous for society in my honest opinion.

    And yes, Evangelicals in particular should reexamine The Good Book’s (particularly the New Testament’s) position on violence.

    Reply
  3. C.J. Perez

    That’s a good question..
    Am I ok with violence? Yes.
    Is that a good thing? Probably not.
    But, wars have been fought in the name of God.
    God even gave specific instructions to his people on how NOT to spare anyone when it came to specific battles… Men, Women, Children, Cattle, Young, Old… it was all fair game for conquest.
    Holy or un-holy, violence isn’t going away.
    I’m sure my logic is flawed… but thats my opinion..

    Reply
    1. Christopher Baca Post author

      Don’t worry CJ, I’m not trying to get into an argument here 🙂

      My question, though, is this: if you say violence isn’t a good thing, why are you “ok” with it?

      If we have been made in the image of God, and Jesus is attributed with a whole slew of sayings about not fighting violence with violence, is it appropriate for us to tolerate (or in this case, perhaps celebrate!) violence in the name of entertainment?

      Reply
  4. Corinna Williams

    Chris, I don’t think you are being optimistic. The books, of coarse, go into greater detail of Katniss’ struggle with what she is called to do. They also go into greater detail about the complete control and oppression by the 13th District. As someone who grew up during the Cold War I could relate to at least the fear of that kind oppression. In the books you felt more appalled by what was required of the other twelve districts.
    This can also open a discussion regarding why Elaine was more affected than you. God created men to be warriors and in this discussion of violence and God’s creation there needs to be balance to let boys be boys, not in the sense of desensitizing us to violence but in rallying us to fight for a cause. I got the impression from the books that the districts had lost the will to fight for what was right and Katniss’ unwitting acts inspired them to finally take action. Just some thoughts.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Baca Post author

      I think you’re right regarding the books and the depth they go into, as compared to the movie. I’m currently finishing up the last one now, and am highly enjoying the social commentary provided by Suzanne Collins, especially of American culture and being entertained by violence.

      Regarding men being created as warriors, however, I have to disagree with you. I’m certainly not arguing that men and women are created in the same manner (I think we can all agree that men and women are different on multiple levels!). It seems that the whole “men as warriors” mentality is as much of a distortion of what men were created to be, just as much as a distortion of sexuality is damaging the image of God in a human being. For example, if we look at Jesus and his role in the Gospels, we certainly don’t see a fighter or a warrior. In fact, it seems that his role was submission and servanthood, regardless of the oppression of the governmental and religious authorities. He took down the system with complete non-violence, even to the point of humiliation and death.

      Reply
      1. Corinna Williams

        I think the main point of my comment is balance. I in no way meant to imply that “men as warriors” is all they are meant to be, just that there is a part of the nature of men that wants to protect and sometimes that means fight. I have seen too many people try to feminize little boys instead of channeling their manly nature in a Godly way.
        I agree Jesus led with servant hood and submission and except for the overturning of the tables in the temple was completely non-violent. However, God the Father, to whom Jesus was ultimately submissive to, required a horribly violent and bloody death.

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