In the days following the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, there were those who spoke of a “turning point” in American politics and culture. Surely, they reasoned, the horror of what happened would alter the trajectory that, in their estimation, had led to the death of twenty little children and eight others.
Just weeks later, events have proven such sentiments to be wishful thinking. That’s when “Texas Chainsaw 3-D” knocked “The Hobbit” out of first place at the box office. In second place was Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.”
What both films have in common is that they are unspeakably, disturbingly, sadistically violent. In fact, their sole aim is the depiction of the killing of people. Period.
“Django Unchained” is a revenge fantasy featuring extremely cruel characters who inflict torture and death on their enemies. Let’s face it; Tarantino’s films are infamous for their extreme violence.
The “Texas Chainsaw” movies, like all “slasher” films, are not-even thinly disguised exercises in vicarious sadism. Human bodies are treated like carcasses in a slaughter house. Filming the movie in 3-D only serves to cynically heighten the sense of participatory slaughter.
The idea that such movies are playing so soon after the Newtown tragedy is beyond the pale. And what does it say about us? The fact that they are playing to packed houses is itself a nightmare. Hollywood has set an ugly tone and has aided and abetted the worst in our national character.
I’m happy to report that Django star Jamie Foxx has said that Hollywood cannot “turn its back” and deny the impact of violent films; good for him. But Tarantino is unrepentant. When pressed on this matter by NPR’s Terri Gross, he called the suggestion “disrespectful” and expressed annoyance at the line of questioning. To her credit, Gross continued to press him on the subject. And the church should follow her example.
While we may not have the chance to confront Tarantino or others involved in making these films, we can still express our horror and concern. And folks, we must.
And here’s something else we can do. I am today calling on everyone, but especially on Christians and churches, to gather outside theaters where these two films are playing and to politely (and legally) protest these gratuitous displays of violence. Perhaps hold a candle-light vigil for the victims of the violence in Newtown. I grew up ten minutes from where those events happened, and if you think those parents aren’t upset by films like these, you’re wrong.
Also, be sure to invite your non-believing friends and neighbors to join you. Every American has a stake in the kind of culture we live in. And by the way, this would be a great opportunity to get teachers and school students involved in an important, real-world exercise in free speech and civic responsibility.
Folks, this is one sure way to get the attention of the studios, distributors, theater chains, and the news media who should be covering this.
The other way is, for heaven’s sake, don’t spend your money on such movies. Instead reward responsible film makers and go and see quality films like “Les Miserables.”
President Bill Clinton once said “there’s nothing wrong with America that can’t be fixed by what’s right with America.” I don’t, to put it mildly, always agree with the former president, but he’s absolutely right about this. Protesting the glorification of violence is something that Christians and non-Christians can and must do together for the common good.