In terms of the media world. Movies are the white kid. And video games are the black kid. Books are the attractive blonde girl.
I guarantee you if The Purge were a video game people would be up in arms and try to boycott its release. It isn't though. It's a movie. Which is why you can read, like I did, over 50 reviews of the film and not have one person mention that in the opening scene of the film we have what looks like legitimate security footage of one person shooting another person dead. If you told me that that footage was real, just like the killing of the bull in Apocalypse Now, I would absolutely believe it. And yet people aren't discussing the REALISTIC PORTRAYAL OF VIOLENCE but rather how inconceivable it would be that between the 2014 election and 2022 America would have accepted "the purge". That's what critics are concerned about. The believability of the premise. And that the smart kid isn't smart enough to turn his flashlight off. Or that white collar bank owners could just steal everyone's money. In other words, they're concerned with the logic behind the movie, and the entertainment value, whether it works as social commentary or even as a thriller.
None of them are mentioning all the murder. Just like people not complaining about the white kid trying to steal the bike. Why is this?
Director: James DeMonaco
Written by: The Director
Less creepy than in Taking Lives: Ethan Hawke
Looks nothing like Cersei: Lena Headey
Seemed like he would be way creepier: Max Burkholder
Known for its blondes, Australia has attractive and talented brunettes as well: Adelaide Kane
Known for its attractive men and women, Australia also has infinitely frightening dudes: Rhys Wakefield
Poor guy: Edwin Hodge
When not playing an awful boyfriend, he releases pop albums: Tony Oller
What It's Good For:
-mimicking solid speculative sci-fi short fiction like "The Lottery" or "There Will Come Soft Rains"
-being an extended episode of The Twilight Zone
-seeing realistic footage of people hurting and killing each other
-it can be pretty intense
-good for a date movie, if you two sort of like being scared
-good for beginning debate about what you would have done in a similar situation
-the discussion can give you perspective on just who your friends really are
-your answer to "what would you do in that situation" could really freak people out; great way to instigate a break up if you've been too lazy to use any of the traditional methods, just convince her you're a psychopath and would love to Purge
-some people view it as insulting to the Tea Party
-can't buy into the premise
-could cause unwanted political discussions
-it's VERY blatant about upper class Americans being scummy
-some people view it as insulting to the Tea Party
-it can be pretty intense
-a lot of people commented on reviews that they thought it was so bad they nearly walked out
-the movie strikes a nerve with people, for whatever reason, probably because it's accusing everyone of being pretty violent and rude, and if you're a well-to-do person who secretly does think the poor are causing problems in this country, having this sentiment thrown into your face could cause you to, unconsciously, react in a negative way
Movies and video games have a relationship.
Iron Man came out. What followed? Iron Man the video game. Why?
A kid WATCHES Iron Man. This kid was passive in the Iron Man experience. The kid got to see Iron Man fight. Iron Man fly. Iron Man save the day. Watching someone do something that seems fun or exciting often causes a human being to want to do the same thing. I see Spider-Man web swing. I want to web swing. You've experienced this situation, right? You were probably playing with a toy when you were a kid, and you were having fun because the toy was fun, and some other kid came up to you and wanted to play. Or maybe you were that other kid. My friend David had a SNES. I didn't. He had Mario Paint. I didn't. When I was over at his house, he would play Mario Paint. I wanted to play! He never let me. No joke. Not once. He had an older sister. I was an only child. I didn't know this is where you fight. I just kept asking politely and sitting there, unhappy, in disbelief, as he played for hours. He kept saying I'd get to go next. We still talk about this. He told me he did it on purpose because it was hilarious to him that I let him get away with being such a jerk. It was his house. His game. Who was I to complain? Have you had a similar situation?
Have you experienced jealousy? I'm sure you have. Jealousy occurs because of what? Someone has something and you want it. And you can't have it. You want that guy's girlfriend. Or that girl's boyfriend. Or that guy's boyfriend. Or that girl's girlfriend. Or that couple's dog. Or to be famous like Kanye. Or to run as fast as Usain Bolt. Or to make 17 million dollars like Josh Hamilton is to be an average player (His WAR score (Wins Above Replacement) is currently 0.1, which isn't good for someone getting paid $17,000,000. Ryan Raburn is a bench player for the Cleveland Indians; he has half the games played and half the at-bats as Hamilton, is only making $1,000,000 and has a WAR of 0.8). Or maybe you're jealous of everyone who makes more than $20,000 a year because you don't and you have to use food stamps to feed your kids and you're ashamed of this. Or maybe you're jealous because you don't have a dad and all your friends do. Or you're jealous that your cousin has a dog and your parents won't let you have one.
What video games allow people is a semblance of control. This differs greatly from movies, from television, from books, from poetry, from dance, from photography, from painting, sculpture, etc. etc. In all those other mediums, you are "taking in", by observing or reading. The most activity you can do, aside from "viewing" is thinking about what you're "taking in". You can't affect the poem you're reading, but you can derive your own meaning from it. You're free to interpret, if you care to interpret. So while I can't change anything in Another Earth, I can learn from it, I can find meaning from it. You learn, very quickly, as an artist, that you are only partially responsible for your work.
Many people don't realize Fight Club is a comedy. Or that Bad Teacher was satire. Their creators made them with a set intention...and yet people find their own meaning.
What do these lines mean to you?
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
90/100 people might agree they mean one thing. Then the last 10 might think the stanza means something entirely different. This is because whenever anyone watches a movie or reads a poem or a book or listens to music or views a painting, they're viewing this object through the frame of their life. And no two frames are the same. Someone creates a poem because their life inspired them to write the words the way they did, but you interpret those words based on your life. If you and the author have had similar experiences, maybe you'll agree with what the poem means. If you haven't...maybe you have a different understanding.
For instance, from an interview between Bloody-Disgusting and Purge producer Jason Blum:
The conceit of The Purge is very class based, it preys on people who can’t afford to protect themselves. Did you consider that there might be backlash from the right for this sort of extrapolation?
Yeah we thought about it a lot actually through development. When we finished the movie we showed it to several very right leaning groups and you’ll be as surprised as I was to hear this – and this is from a few very smart conservative people who I really like and trust – they really liked the movie and politically they thought The Purge was a disastrous concept that showed what would happen if the government got too involved in our lives. They thought that since The Purge comes from the government that the government should be smaller and less involved that it was a disastrous idea of what would happen if we let the government get bigger and bigger. I heard that a couple of times.
That’s interesting, I wouldn’t have expected that to be the response.
It never occurred to me until I heard it from them. It was very interesting.
But video games aren't even that. You get to hit buttons and assign colors. You don't get the sensation of painting. But at the end there can be a picture.
Just like a kid playing the Iron Man video game isn't actually in the Iron Man suit, he isn't actually fighting bad guys, he isn't actually flying. But there's a feeling of control, which is as close as this kid will probably ever get to being in control of an Iron Man suit (I played the PS2 Spider-Man 2 game for over 100 hours. They recreated NYC and you could just web swing through it. I didn't do the missions. I didn't fight bad guys (sometimes). I would turn the game on and just web swing for 20 min then go do something else).
We see video games made from movies, all the time. Peter Jackson's King Kong had a video game version. Batman and Batman Returns had video games. Aliens has a video game. Die Hard had a video game. Godzilla. Star Wars has a fucking Massive Multiplayer Online game where people live lives within that universe. There's a Ghostbusters video game.
What would happen if there was a The Purge video game? Where all you did was go around and try to Purge people and survive getting Purged? Or perhaps it would be an RPG, and you would have a chapter where you had to take actions. You either built positive or negative relationships with people around you, and at the end of the chapter the Purge happened and you had people on your side or against you. You could try to befriend everyone and help prevent them from being Purged, or you could choose to skip the Purge and maybe your friends would die, or you could take part in the Purge and actively hunt people down in order to move up in the hierarchy. Could you imagine if that's how The Sims worked?
People are/were outraged over Grand Theft Auto because you can beat up old ladies and kill cops and steal cars. In fact, in 2009, an 18 year old killed cops and his attorney's wanted to sue the game industry, Grand Theft Auto was responsible for influencing him to kill the cops. The story can be found right: here.
You'll see a name in that article. Jack Thompson. Thompson is best known as the guy trumpeting violent video games as "murder simulators". A former Huffington Post blogger, Peter Brown, feels similar to Thompson (though distances himself from the man). After the Sandy Hook shootings, Peter wrote a piece about first-person shooter video games influencing children towards violence. The HP didn't publish his story and fired him. Peter's tale went viral when he published it on his own site. You can read it here. The portion I want to point out is:
As a child, my mother taught me that all video games were “evil.” That’s the word she used. And although that word might be a little extreme, I grew up thinking that there was something very, very wrong with pretending on a video screen. My mother also called playing video games “wasting your life” and “dumbing yourself down.” I thought my mother was ridiculous, but her opinions stuck with me anyway.
Thus, when it came to high school, when I was a social failure and very, very angry, I had no practice with on-screen violence. ”Call of Duty” didn’t exist yet, but even if it had, I wouldn’t have played it. I wouldn’t have practiced putting on body armor and I wouldn’t have shot thousands of people with an AR rifle. I have likewise never practiced “double-tapping” people. I have never walked into a room and killed everyone inside. My students tell me that it’s possible to “pistol whip a prostitute” in Grand Theft Auto, but I haven’t done it.
But Jeff Weise did. He played thousands of first-person shooter hours before he shot and killed nine people at and near his Red Lake, Minn., school, before killing himself.
And according to neighbors and friends, Clackamas shooter Jacob Tyler Roberts played a lot of video games before he armed himself with a semi-automatic AR-15 and went on a rampage at the Clackamas Town Center in Portland, Oregon last week.
Also, by now, it is common knowledge that Adam Lanza, who murdered 20 children and six women in video-game style, spent many, many hours playing “Call of Duty.” In essence, Lanza – and all of these shooters – practiced on-screen to prepare for shooting in real-life.
Now I am not anti-video game crusader Jack Thompson. I’m not suggesting that everyone who plays a video game will act out that video game in reality. But I am saying that it is very dangerous to allow troubled, angry, teenage boys access to killing practice, even if that access is only virtual killing practice. The military uses video games to train soldiers to kill, yet we don’t consider “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3″ training for addicted teenage players? A high school boy who plays that game 30 hours per week isn’t training to kill somebody?
I am not surprised that school shooters love violent video games. As an angry, troubled teen, I would’ve probably loved to shoot hundreds of people on-screen. That might’ve felt nice.
But now, as a teacher, I worry about my most troubled male students playing games like “Halo 4″ and “Assassin’s Creed 3,” bragging about violent actions that they’ve never done in the real world. A scrawny, angry boy’s who’s failing socially is a scary video game addict.
Did I really just go there?
I guess so.
It's common practice for parents not to let their kids watch violent TV shows or movies. I know people who weren't allowed to watch Jurassic Park until they were 16. I saw both Bloodsport and Predator when I was 5. I never hunted anyone in the woods. I never did this:
Were my parents bad parents? Were they neglectful? I come from a middle class home. My dad was in the Army for 8 years, then dragged race cars, then worked 33 years at Ford. My mom had a PhD in Animal Behavior from the University of Pennsylvania. Only child. I had friends, but spent a lot of time playing video games, as well as playing sports. Mortal Kombat was my favorite game. Well, and NBA Jam. I still remember coming home from school on September 9th, 1994. How excited I was. We had pre-ordered Mortal Kombat II. My dad was supposed to get it while I was at school (he worked nights). I came home. Ran up stairs. Woke him up. Asked him where it was. He handed me the bag (it was on the bedside stand) and off I went. I had every fatality memorized. I would go with my parents to the mall and beg to go to the arcade. And I'd end up beating the teenagers and 20 year olds and 30 year olds. 7/8 years old when this was going on. Not only was I beating them, I was performing the fatalities. Did I ever do anything violent in school? I punched a kid who stole things out of my desk. I liked watching wrestling and would wrestle with my friends. But I never hurt anyone. I never tried ripping someone's head off. I never yelled "TOASTY" and uppercutted them. I understood the difference between movies and real life (thanks Last Action Hero) and video games and real life.
Am I a special case? I don't think so. Remember David, the one who wouldn't let me play Mario Paint? He had Pit Fighter for Genesis. We played Mortal Kombat together. We both watched wrestling. David punched someone once in his entire life, if you don't count him fighting his older sister.
I know people who weren't allowed to play games or watch violent movies who ended up fighting often, who were in trouble in school, who live troubled lives now.
Another article, this time from the LA Times:
In a 2009 study called "Comfortably Numb," psychologists at the University of Michigan, Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam and Iowa State University found that exposure to violent media numbs people to the pain and suffering of others. In one part, 320 college students played a violent or a nonviolent video game for 20 minutes. Afterward, while they completed a lengthy questionnaire, participants heard a loud fight in which someone was injured outside the lab. Those who played the violent games took 450% longer to help the injured victim, rated the fight as less serious and were less likely to hear the fight in comparison to participants who played nonviolent games.
We saw the same thing with...? You guessed it! Race! And sexuality. Maybe you're familiar with the story where a father is totally against homosexuality until he finds out that his son is gay, then he realizes that homosexuality isn't such a big deal, is just a natural thing, and becomes okay with it? Or what about when schools became desegregated and white kids got to interact with black kids on a human-to-human level. Can you imagine living in a time where the majority thought black people weren't as good as white people? It's ABSOLUTELY ridiculous. But there were people who thought that because they weren't exposed to anything but that concept.
The same is true about violence. Violence sucks. I'm terrified to go to Mexico because of all the violence that goes on down there. But people fight. People have been fighting since before civilization. Every mammal fights. Birds fight. Insects fight. Sharks fight. Male frogs fight over females. If a fight broke out in front of a professional football player, chances are he'd have a different reaction to it than a high school clarinet player.
So when I read "Those who played violent games took 450% longer to help the injured victim, rated the fight as less serious and were less likely to hear the fight..." I think it makes sense. I don't think it's a "numbing to" rather than a "gaining perspective about".
Have you heard of the phrase "Theory of Mind"? It's the idea that other people have mental states, just like you do. You're 10. Your dog dies. You're sad. A guy in your class, Bobby, his dog dies a week later. Because you were sad, you might assume Bobby was sad. That's "theory of mind". You're assuming Bobby has, like you, a mind that thinks and reacts and emotes. You go up to Bobby and say, "I'm sorry your dog died. Are you okay?" Bobby says, "I hated that dog." At the time, you might be shocked because you're 10 and you think all dogs are wonderful and everyone should love their dog. When you get older, you realize some dogs suck. Maybe Bobby's dog bit Bobby when he was a kid. Or maybe Bobby is a sociopath and hates animals. The important thing is: you learned that not everyone loves their dog. You understand, at the age of 10, if you didn't before, that not everyone feels the same way. Bobby taught you an important lesson. He expanded your "theory of mind."
From a NY Times article:
Raymond Mar, a psychologist at York University in Canada, performed an analysis of 86 fMRI studies, published last year in the Annual Review of Psychology, and concluded that there was substantial overlap in the brain networks used to understand stories and the networks used to navigate interactions with other individuals — in particular, interactions in which we’re trying to figure out the thoughts and feelings of others. Scientists call this capacity of the brain to construct a map of other people’s intentions “theory of mind.” Narratives offer a unique opportunity to engage this capacity, as we identify with characters’ longings and frustrations, guess at their hidden motives and track their encounters with friends and enemies, neighbors and lovers.
It is an exercise that hones our real-life social skills, another body of research suggests. Dr. Oatley and Dr. Mar, in collaboration with several other scientists, reported in two studies, published in 2006 and 2009, that individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective. This relationship persisted even after the researchers accounted for the possibility that more empathetic individuals might prefer reading novels. A 2010 study by Dr. Mar found a similar result in preschool-age children: the more stories they had read to them, the keener their theory of mind — an effect that was also produced by watching movies but, curiously, not by watching television. (Dr. Mar has conjectured that because children often watch TV alone, but go to the movies with their parents, they may experience more “parent-children conversations about mental states” when it comes to films.)
Fiction, Dr. Oatley notes, “is a particularly useful simulation because negotiating the social world effectively is extremely tricky, requiring us to weigh up myriad interacting instances of cause and effect. Just as computer simulations can help us get to grips with complex problems such as flying a plane or forecasting the weather, so novels, stories and dramas can help us understand the complexities of social life.”
Maybe Adam Lanza did have a better understanding of what to do when he shot up Sandy Hook because he played Call of Duty. That LA Times article I quoted before ends with this:
In 2008, psychologists at Texas A&M University studied 428 undergraduate students, measuring their aggression levels, video game habits, exposure to family violence and violent criminal behavior through a series of questionnaires. The strongest predictors of violent criminal behavior were a male gender and exposure to physical abuse. Once those factors were controlled for, playing violent video games was not a predictor of criminal violence. But, researchers wrote, aggressive individuals already prone to committing violent acts may use games as a "stylistic catalyst," effectively modeling their violence on a game they've played.
It makes total sense that a kid who plays a violent video game would copy the style of that video game when being violent. But if you remove the video game. What then? Will the kid not be violent? Or will he mimic something else? If the kid has never seen a violent image in his life, would that stop him from being violent?
If Call of Duty didn't exist, would Adam Lanza have done what he did?
Here's another question: are there kids who DON'T hurt people because they find catharsis from games like Call of Duty? In other words, if Call of Duty didn't exist, would 50 other kids have had nothing keeping them from shooting up their schools or harming people around them?
Let's not forget. We all get angry. We all get frustrated. We all have thought violent thoughts at some point in time. Whether it is "I should slam this door" or "I want to kill my boss". What we're really saying is "I want catharsis". This is why yelling into a pillow can help. This is why some people who get angry go running. Or are upset so they drink. Or are besides themselves with rage so they go hiking. Peter Brown (the Huff Post blogger who thinks violent video games are bad) had violent thoughts. He wanted to hurt people. He would bring a gun to school, though he never fired it. He found catharsis in nature and it eradicated his anger.
The Purge is based on this premise. If you allow people one day for physical catharsis, to loot, to rape, to murder, it will cleanse them for the 364 other days of the year.
And Theory of Mind is a huge part of The Purge. The son, Charlie, is confused by the whole thing. He asks why it happens, and his parents explain. He asks why they don't kill, and they say they don't feel the need. In fact Theory of Mind is exactly why Charlie opens the defenses and lets the "Bloody Strange"/Homeless Man into their home. The guy is being chased. People are going to kill him. He wants help. Most people have the Theory of Mind to understand what this guy is feeling. But they are also aware of the risks. Charlie is how old? 10? He doesn't yet understand the gray area of all of this. He wants to help the man, so he helps. Remember when James and Mary are trying to get the Homeless guy tied to the chair so they can get him outside and save themselves and their kids? They're acting like savages. With Mary stabbing the gun shot wound of the guy. She has to stop. She asks what they're doing. She realizes she's losing her humanity. How unfair it is to treat another person like this. James realizes this, too, after seeing how his family looks at him. These are people who are demonstrating a high degree of Theory of Mind. The Homeless Guy, too. He doesn't hurt any of the family. He uses the daughter as a shield, but he doesn't hurt her, he says he doesn't want to hurt her (and we believe him). You know who TOTALLY LACKS Theory of Mind? The fucking psychopathic rich kids who want to murder the Homeless Guy and purge themselves. You know who else? The fucking psychopathic neighbors. They're mad that James sold them security systems and got rich and added on to his house, so they want to kill James and Mary and the kids. If they had Theory of Mind, they would say, "Oh, he worked hard. We needed a security system. He believed he was helping us out. They're doing well and are happy, that's good for them. If it were us, we would be doing the same thing. Hopefully they would understand." Nope, instead the neighbors are thinking, "They made money off of us. We paid for that. Let's kill those jerks!"
I don't know Adam Lanza. Maybe he had a great understanding of people. Maybe his Theory of Mind was exceptional. But. From a NY Times profile:
In his brief adulthood, Mr. Lanza had left few footprints, electronic or otherwise. He apparently had no Facebook page...
Adam Lanza did not even appear in his high school yearbook, that of the class of 2010.
Matt Baier, now a junior at the University of Connecticut, and other high school classmates recalled how deeply uncomfortable Mr. Lanza was in social situations.
Several said in separate interviews that it was their understanding that he had a developmental disorder. They said they had been told that the disorder was Asperger’s syndrome, which is considered a high functioning form of autism.
One former classmate who said he was familiar with the disorder described Mr. Lanza as having a “very flat affect,” adding, “If you looked at him, you couldn’t see any emotions going through his head.”
“You could tell that he felt so uncomfortable about being put on the spot,” said Olivia DeVivo, also now at the University of Connecticut. “I think that maybe he wasn’t given the right kind of attention or help. I think he went so unnoticed that people didn’t even stop to realize that maybe there’s actually something else going on here — that maybe he needs to be talking or getting some kind of mental help. In high school, no one really takes the time to look and think, ‘Why is he acting this way?’ ”
Ms. DeVivo remembered Mr. Lanza from sixth grade and earlier, talking about aliens and “blowing things up,” but she chalked this up to the typical talk of prepubescent boys.
Still, after hearing of the news on Friday, Ms. DeVivo reconnected with friends from Newtown, and the consensus was stark. “They weren’t surprised,” she said. “They said he always seemed like he was someone who was capable of that because he just didn’t really connect with our high school, and didn’t really connect with our town.”
She added: “I never saw him with anyone. I can’t even think of one person that was associated with him.”
In 2006, his older brother graduated high school and went to Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, leaving him alone with their parents — whose marriage was apparently coming apart.
I think a lot of people who are picked on, who are bullied, who believe they have been wronged, fail to develop a strong Theory of Mind. They are caught up with the wrongs done to them, with how unjust things are for them (and rightly so, sometimes), with their lack of catharsis. They are so busy thinking about themselves they don't think about other people. Or they think other people don't have problems, that other people have perfect lives. Instead of developing a broad Theory of Mind that understands "everyone has his or her own difficulties, no matter how happy they seem", they cultivate the idea: "My life sucks, no one cares, everyone else is happy."
You can see this in the movie Step Up. Channing Tatum's character is from an impoverished family/neighborhood. When he walks Jenna/Nora to her fancy house and sees where she lives, he asks her why she teaches ballet. It doesn't seem as though she has to work. She says it keeps her away from home, longer. He says, "Aw, it can't be that bad." She tells him about her mom not understanding "the whole dance thing" and that her dad died three years before. It's not a huge moment. But it's part of the Tatum's character's growth of Theory of Mind, as he begins to understand what other people are doing with their lives and what he's been doing with his (reflected when he asks his childhood friend, Mac/Damain Radcliff, why Mac never tried out for the basketball team and Mac says "they suck" and Tatum says they wouldn't suck if you were on the team, and Mac blows this off), that he's not the only one with problems, that even kids with money can be unhappy.
This is furthered when Mac tells Tatum's new school friend Miles/Mario that Miles doesn't look like some art school kid. Miles is at the same hood-tastic party Mac and Tatum are at. Miles is cool. Mac's been hanging with him and had NO idea Miles was an art kid. Boom, Theory of Mind expanded. But until that point, Mac had a negative view of the art school kids. He was pissed Tatum was spending time there. Mac felt abandoned. He didn't care Tatum was bettering his life, that Tatum had a new girl, that Tatum had an opportunity, was happy. Mac felt betrayed, so focused on himself rather than on those around him.
We see this with Mac's younger brother, Skinny. Mac and Tatum pick on Skinny. They treat him like a kid when he wants to be like them. He wants acceptance. He doesn't have the Theory of Mind to see where they're coming from. He ends up shot because he stole a car he shouldn't have because he never thought of the consequences, of how other people would react. Poor Theory of Mind.
Poor Theory of Mind is what drives racial profiling. Yes, I'm coming full circle.
Middle class white people who don't commit crimes see another middle class looking white person doing something suspicious and assume there's a logical explanation. They keep on walking. Or, they say something, and the reply is obviously bad like "No, not my bike, but it will be," but why would this person need to steal a bike? So the middle class white person leaves the thief alone.
Middle class white people who don't interact with a lot of young black males see a young black male in some baggy clothing sawing at the chain of a bike. Their poor Theory of Mind jumps to a dramatic conclusion. JUST LIKE! Whoa. Let me calm down. Ahem. Just like how the people who didn't watch a violent movie were more likely to rate the fight they saw as more serious than the people who had watched a violent movie.
Try this on for size. I show you that ABC video of racial profiling. Then you go outside and you see a white person sawing at a bike chained to a sign, are you more or less likely to go up to that person and ask them if they're stealing? I guaran-fucking-tee you're more likely to do that than someone who hasn't watched the video. And then you'd be more likely to call the cops.
"Now, wait. You just said that violent video games and movies don't cause violence. Yet here you are saying watching the ABC thing would CAUSE ME TO TAKE AN ACTION I WOULDN'T HAVE OTHERWISE HAVE TAKEN! You just spoiled your whole argument!"
Let's take a step back and look at what's going on. If you watch a violent movie or you watch a news report on racial profiling, the same thing is likely happening: you're taking in new information. You're seeing more possibilities. If you play Mortal Kombat, you could learn that people can be decapitated. Just like if you watched the ABC thing you learn attractive girls can steal things. In both cases, we're learning possible styles of behavior.
Everything we see is teaching us a possible style of behavior. Beyoncé teaches a style of behavior that differs compared to that of Taylor Swift. Both are strong, successful women. But their attitudes are different. How they move is different. How they sing is different. Maybe a young singer emulates Beyoncé But if you remove Beyoncé, the young singer would emulate Taylor Swift. Then you remove Taylor Swift. Will the young singer stop singing? No. There will ALWAYS be singers. So the young singer will find whoever and adopt that person as their style of behavior.
As I poet, I emulated T.S. Eliot for years. Then Arthur Rimbaud. Now I pick pieces here and there. Many writers talk about "writing against" their idols, competing with work they respect and trying to best it. From a Paris Review interview:
Do you think of yourself in competition with other writers?
Never. I used to try to write better than certain dead writers of whose value I was certain. For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.
If someone is going to commit a violent act, they will commit a violent act. And because of how people learn, via mirror neurons, the violent act we commit will most likely resemble our biggest influence. No different than someone who admires Faulkner writing like Faulkner, or someone who loves watching Twitch dance will dance like Twitch. Because we are all individuals who bring our own experiences to the table, we don't do exactly what those people did. We can't. There are left-handed hitters who emulated Griffey, but no one will every swing the bat like Ken Griffey Jr. You have to, like Hemingway did, become your own person. But even in the moment, when you are trying to emulate, you are still doing your own thing.
So, okay, in Aurora, James Holmes claimed he was The Joker. If it wasn't the Joker, it would have been some other influence.
We can't stop people from finding stylistic outlets. Maybe Adam Lanza never played Call of Duty but went hunting, then 10 years later decided he could hunt people and went on a five year killing spree where he murders 60 people between Massachusetts and Wyoming. There will always be stylistic outlets. You would have to sanitize TV, film, literature, art, the Internet. Good luck. Even then, violence is part of the life of every creature on the planet Earth. You will never stop violence from occurring, at least on a basic level, unless you lobotomize every human being.
What we can do is teach Theory of Mind. If you start teaching Theory of Mind EARLY. Like, kindergarten age. You then get kids thinking about other kids. If you start profiling Theory of Mind, you can see how kids are developing. If there are kids who are failing to develop their Theory of Mind as they progress through school, that's a red flag. They need extra attention. Sure, there are probably people who have great Theory of Mind and still do awful things. But there are kids who could be helped that aren't being helped, who go unnoticed until they cause indelible loss. Is there not a scenario where Adam Lanza, if he had been helped early on, if our school systems focused on helping children develop in the areas each individual child needs help with (whether it be with math or social skills, empathy or science, sports or english) rather than forcing everyone to pass a standardized test...would we have less violent outbursts?
Instead of decrying violent video games and movies and saying they are egregious and shouldn't exist, why not focus on teaching Theory of Mind and educating kids on healthier means of catharsis? Asking them "When you're upset, what makes you feel better?" Why not have part of first grade be about trying different hobbies and seeing which one the kids like the most, then letting that kid pursue that activity once a school day as a means of "destressing". So if the kid likes dance, the kid can go dance. If the kid likes video games, the kid can play video games. If the kid likes painting nails, the kid can paint nails. We teach them early on that these are activities you can turn to and emote through and find relief through.
Given our current climate of gun violence, where high school and college shootings are increasing, where public shootings are increasing...WHY IS NO ONE MENTIONING ALL THE VIOLENCE IN THE PURGE? Remember how the movie opens? With the green stained footage from a security camera. We see a man on the left side of the image. A guy comes up from the right. He's point blank. He lifts a gun. He fires. Fires. Fires. Fires. The man on the left drops dead. My theater was full. EVERYONE GASPED. I gasped. This was 5 seconds into the movie. It looked real. Then we're treated to another minute or two worth of violent images. People beating people with baseball bats. People running around a table shooting at each other until one finally kills the other. Someone with a sword? People knifing a guy. When you see someone killed in something like... The Strangers, it looks real. Sort of. I say "sort of" because we know we're watching a movie because of HOW the image looks on the screen. We know what a movie looks like. We have a pattern in our brain for it. The camera shots of a movie are different than the camera shots for a lot of TV shows, or for the nightly news, or for sports. Is there a football movie that looks like watching football on TV? No. The camera is showing us things in the movie that we would never see in a real football game. Likewise, a camera in a movie like The Strangers is so stylistically associated with "The movies" that we don't associate it with real life. Security footage on the other hand. That we associate with real life (the found footage genre is based on a similar premise, that using "home movie" style of filming makes the content seem truer to life, despite the content typically involving monsters and ghosts). It's disconcerting for most people to see real-life-looking-security-footage-of-someone-being-killed in a movie, but most of us are so familiar with movies that we don't think twice about SEEING violence in a movie that was billed as a thriller or horror. We excuse the behavior. Just like people excused the behavior of the white kid and attractive girl sawing at the bike chain.
That's why critics and people aren't talking about the realistic violence in The Purge.
I'm not saying The Purge shouldn't have realistic violence. I think realistic violence helps develop Theory of Mind. I think the movie is great for just this reason. If someone thought, "Yeah, a purge, what a great idea!" then they see how...ugly the people who want to purge are...how cruel they are...hopefully that increases the viewer's Theory of Mind and they go from being curious about the idea to finding it appropriately disgusting. And anyone who stills finds it a good idea...well...
Did I Like It:
Yes. I think it's good for people to watch. I think it raises interesting questions. I think it would be good in college sociology classes.
From what I can tell, this movie is divisive. I haven't read such intense negative comments since Haywire. I got that Haywire was artsier and not what a lot of people were probably expecting. This is what people were expecting, but I think the political content, especially the condemnation this movie makes so blatant...I think it bothers a lot of viewers. Which is fascinating to me.
What did you think?
The kid's robot stealth crawler was outlandish in how creepy it was. It set-up expectations that the could would be more of a deviant than what he is. I kept expecting him to turn murderous and kill everyone. That would have been a plot twist.
I get why the movie is as short as it is, but I would have liked to have seen a bit more development of other characters. Either the preppy killers or the homeless guy. I think telling those stories, cross-cutting with the Sandins would have been interesting.
The comeuppance the neighbor women gets is cathartic indeed. Gun-but to the schnoz. Ouch. People applauded in my theater.
I think this is a movie people will make people watch for years to come. "Oh, have you seen The Purge?!??!?! NO!?!?! Let's rent it."
Another note about video games and movies, in terms of "art": a response to Roger Ebert:
I mentioned earlier that people who are unfamiliar with something are more easily shocked or impressed by that something. I can't ice skate. What hockey players do astounds me. If you can move like they move, I'm in awe of you. But if you're a hockey player and someone can skate...that's not going to impress you. It's a minimum requirement to do what you do. A lot of older people know of video games but have never played them. Which is why so many people think video games are bad. This is why people used to think comic books were bad for people: the older generation were unfamiliar with the content. The same way an older white guy that has never spent more than five minutes talking to a black man or woman will violently accuse a young black man of stealing a bike. People will assume the negative. I think video games have great potential. And I'd like to just take one second to rebuttal the late Roger Ebert. In 2010, Ebert made waves by saying video games can never be art. The third to last and second to last paragraphs are:
Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art? Bobby Fischer, Michael Jordan and Dick Butkus never said they thought their games were an art form. Nor did Shi Hua Chen, winner of the $500,000 World Series of Mah Jong in 2009. Why aren't gamers content to play their games and simply enjoy themselves? They have my blessing, not that they care.
Do they require validation? In defending their gaming against parents, spouses, children, partners, co-workers or other critics, do they want to be able to look up from the screen and explain, "I'm studying a great form of art?" Then let them say it, if it makes them happy.
Santiago concedes that chess, football, baseball and even mah jong cannot be art, however elegant their rules. I agree. But of course that depends on the definition of art. She says the most articulate definition of art she's found is the one in Wikipedia: "Art is the process of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions." This is an intriguing definition, although as a chess player I might argue that my game fits the definition.
Likewise, a game like Mega Man isn't "art", per se, but how someone plays Mega Man can be art.
Watch Speed Racer and you'll know what I'm talking about.
And yes, this all still applies to racial profiling as well.