Jim Carrey has recently announced that he won’t be doing any endorsements for his upcoming movie Kick Ass 2, and it got me thinking, is extreme violence in movies or video games ever justified? And perhaps more importantly does violence in movies and games ever really affect their audience?
First off I’d like to say that I don’t have a problem with Carrey’s actions here, the movie was shot before the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary school, and frankly I think people are allowed to change their world view on guns if they choose, let’s just hope it’s not the world’s most cynical marketing ploy.
Now, I’ve just watched Django Unchained and my word is that a violent film, the use of the word ‘nigger’ is also prevalent throughout but here’s the thing, the film is about the slave trade; extreme violence and degrading language was part and parcel of the South at that time, the film isn’t an easy watch and nor should it be, we’re supposed to feel awkward with normally clean cut actors such as Leanardo Di Caprio watching two black men fight to the death whilst he goads them on, the film was created to show us how brutal humans can be to one another when money, power and ignorance are involved, especially when people still have these repugnant views.
So violence and violent language is justified in this sense but what about the likes of Saw and the Hills have Eyes? Personally I loathe these movies, it’s horror porn, extreme violence, often sexualised, used to get bums on seats normally aimed at young men and no I don’t think it’s justified in the slightest, that said I don’t agree with censorship and even if I find the film distasteful who am I to stop someone else from watching it?
Video games have this problem too, so often I’m enjoying a violent video game as a form of escapism and then they go and put in something gross to “shock” the audience and get some media attention, the airport scene in Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 where you wander about an airport murdering unarmed civilians or the moment in Black Ops where you torture a man by making him eat glass are appalling and I’d rather skip by them as quickly as possible, but these are always going to be in there and even though they add nothing to the game I don’t think they should be used as a hammer to smash all violence in games which when you play Red Dead Redemption or Ghost Recon you can see that killing in games is done with such sophistication it becomes integral to the game, especially when killing is not the only option.
And here’s the thing, I as a rational adult know the difference between a movie or video game and real life, and so, I believe, do the vast majority of the population, it’s so easy for lazy journalists or MPs to tear into games or movies whenever something bad happens rather than look at the social issues surrounding the event; think of the outrage surrounding the murder of Jamie Bulger when it transpired that the killers had watched the movie Child’s play 3, never mind the father of one the killers was drunk all the time and allowed his young children to watch violent movies, no let’s blame the film.
Keith Vaz MP, always one for a laugh, recently came out against Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 where he said you play terrorists trying to blow up London, which is all very commendable until you realise that you play Special Forces troops trying to stop a terror attack but hey let’s not let facts get in the way of a good story, huh? Yes I’d say there is evidence to suggest that extreme violence in games or movies can affect impressionable minds but not on their own, there would need to be an awful lot of factors involved before someone acts on a film, I vaguely recall a minor outcry when a couple of kids went bonkers with swords in a sewer after watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when it first came out but if you’re blaming guys dressed as turtles for stabbings then you need own head looked at.
Perhaps it is time for the game and movie industries to have a look at themselves and be a bit more responsible and not make another Human centipede film or Condemned and a few more Django’s and Red Dead’s, but perhaps society itself needs to look at why people are driven to commit acts of such horror on one another.