Podcast #22: Pop Culture's Startling Lack of Restraint – Violence

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From the Roman Coliseum to present day film, Christians have struggled with the question of violent entertainment. What can we see, and how should we think about violence? Ben and Rich discuss these questions, answer some listener feedback, and give out the first ever Christ and Pop Culture Awards in the area of violence.

Note: There are some graphic descriptions of violent content in this podcast. You should probably just know that.
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The music in this episode is by SoberMinded and awesome rap band featuring our own writer, Alan Noble. Check them out!

About CAPC Writers
  • Alan Noble

    Do I win an award? Downloading episode now…

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    Ooh, I want one too. I think my comic book The Magikal Mystikal Adventures of Kenashito probably merits some recognition or other!

  • http://www.benbartlett.blogspot.com Ben Bartlett

    Ok, I have one comment to add to the show that I wish I had said: Rich clearly has some weird Mel Gibson fixation he needs to deal with. Thank you, that is all.

  • Alan Noble

    Yeah, I’m gonna have to side with Rich on this one. Mel’s strange. I have my money on him to be the Tom Cruise of 2010.

    Doesn’t someone get killed with the American flag in the Patriot? The American flag?

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    ITEM!!
    Only one violent scene has personally struck me as being anything remotely close to scarring. And I highly recommend not seeing this movie. I’m pretty hard to repulse (unless we’re talking your standard Ben Stiller affair…), but this film genuinely lives on in my memory as being horrific. But only because it was.

    In 2002, French director Gaspar Noé released a film with Monica Bellucci that was easily the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen. Irreversible. The scenes unfold in the sort of reverse chronology that we saw in Memento (so we see the ending first and see the happy set-up last—if we make it that far). The scene is notable for the nine-minute rape and near-fatal beating of Bellucci’s character, but as horrifying and gruesome as that was/is, the opening climax in which we see the vengeance for the rape executed was for me the scene that really turned my stomach and lives on undiminished in my memory.

    It’s similar but worse than the violent scene with the bottle and the peasant in Pan’s Labyrinth.

    I’ll let James Berardinelli talk about it a bit here:

    Obviously, Noe’s intentions here are not merely to craft a revenge flick. To begin with, most entries into that genre are exploitative. However, by making the violence as graphic and realistic as possible, the director is attempting to underline the difference between what happens in the real world and how that is often glamorized on screen. Still, one could (and many will) argue that Noe has gone too far, and that in his attempts to avoid sensationalization, he has achieved the opposite. Who but a twisted voyeur would want to sit through a nine-minute rape sequence?

    That scene is the most controversial in Irreversible. It occurs slightly past the mid-point, and shows Alex being violated then beaten nearly to death (her head is slammed into the pavement). It’s an amazing job of acting by Monica Bellucci, but it’s nearly impossible to concentrate on the performance. The camera’s vantage point makes us feel like impotent voyeurs, as incapable of acting as we are of looking away. Nevertheless, at least to me, it seems like the sequence goes on for too long. Could Noe not have accomplished in four minutes what takes nine?

    The other scene to give viewers pause is a killing in a gay sex club. This isn’t a pleasant, satisfying little revenge-murder. It’s an animalistic act of rage in which a man’s head is reduced to pulp in front of the camera. There is no cutting away from the violence. Even Scorsese at his most graphic has not been this gory. Those who go to this film because they like violent Hollywood fare are likely to find their expectations foiled.

    Berardinelli concludes with:

    An individual’s appreciation of Irreversible will be based in part upon what he or she expects from movies. Those seeking light entertainment or something traditional and/or civilized probably won’t make it through Irreversible‘s 99 minutes. Those up to a challenge who attend with an open mind will find something to gnaw at the soul. Whatever else it may be, Irreversible is disturbingly unforgettable. It is impossible to have a blasé reaction to a film this visceral. Indifference is not an option.

    I found it interesting that Noé attempted to avoid sensationalism by featuring the horror of violence unflinchingly, without teasing or glamorization. I think he succeeds partly. The film is entirely unpalatable. Only torture-porn fetishists could enjoy the experience. However, the film is largely known solely for the horror of its violence, so in a way, while not enjoyable, the violence is indeed sensationalized.
    ______________________________________

    ITEM!!
    Five awesome war-movies that show the horror of war and violence without bathing in a bit o’ the old ultraviolence like The Patriot does.

    Grave of the Fireflies
    Unbeatably subtle as it beats you over the head with the hell of war.

    Last of the Mohicans
    Granted, the final scene is a bit gross, but that isn’t the scene that shows the terror of war. The scene between the British riflemen and the indians who come tearing into the glade to battle is most horrific in the long-shots—when you see no blood but only the gunpowder haze of spent ammunition.

    A Very Long Engagement
    Has one scene that might be gratuitous, but again, isn’t the part that shows the terror of war. Watching men climb out of trenches to be cut down (and cut down bloodlessly) by German machine-gun fire drives home the lunacy of war.

    Enemy at the Gates
    For a movie about snipers, I don’t remember it being all that bloody or gratuitous.

    Das Boot
    I’m not sure if this counts because the characters spend most of the film aboard a submarine, but in the final analysis, Das Boot shows the horror of war as well as even Saving Private Ryan.
    ______________________________________

    ITEM!!
    I actually surprised myself and really enjoyed Kill Bill. I didn’t find the violence disturbing or really much of anything. It was so obviously overthetop and silly that it put me more in mind of The Three Stooges than much of anything else.

    Which raises a question. Why do you think it is that the plainly ridiculous violence in The Three Stooges is viewed differently from the plainly ridiculous violence in Kill Bill? After all, the affects of someone poking another’s eyes out and hitting another in the head with a hammer are just as horrifying, if applied to real life, as running someone through with a sword is. And maybe even worse when we consider that the victims of eye-gouging and braining are the friends and relations of the perpetrator, while the victims of swordplay are mortal enemies, assassins, and just plain nogoodniks.

    Though I’m sure you do see a difference, do you think there should be a difference in the way that we view these two like-minded vehicles for comedic violence?

    And look, I even helpfully recorded the question in case you’d rather answer on air instead of in comments.
    ______________________________________

    ITEM!!
    I am elusive.

  • David

    Rich,
    I laughed at just about every Hot Fuzz death scene…even though I admit that they are so graphic that it’s really hard to watch.

    Also, I like the CAPCAs. Keep them coming.

  • David

    I am with you Ben. The Patriot is an awesome movie, and I was rather impressed with The Passion.

    Also I wonder what you guys would think of 300…while I think I know your answer I’d like to hear you talk about it.

    Also, I think that scene in Private Ryan where the guy is getting stabbed in the heart and you watch the struggle and the final insertion of the knife is way over the top and distrubing!

  • David

    Best overall violent film: No Country for Old Men

  • Richard Clark

    The Dane – We’ll talk about some of your comments on the show.

    David – I have nothing to say to you. ;-)

  • Alan Noble

    I thought it was worth mentioning that two of Mel’s romps found their way to Yahoo’s Ten Most Historically Inaccurate Movies list. No argument here, just an observation. Do with this information as you will.

  • http://www.benbartlett.blogspot.com Ben Bartlett

    As far as, “historical accuracy” goes, it seems hard to split Mel from the rest of Hollywood. The problem is clearly chronic.

    Also, I remember that when “The Patriot” came out, Gibson described his character as being based on a mixture of three Revolutionary personalities; in other words, he did not claim the movie was historically accurate and in fact was clear that it should NOT be regarded as such.

    Look, I’m not a huge fan of the guy personally. I just don’t think it’s fair to allow dislike of his personality to exaggerate things you dislike about his movies.

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    I actually like pretty much all his movies movies (the ones I’ve seen) except for The Patriot, which was just tripe.


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