We are a bloodthirsty race. We crave it. It seems we need our daily dose of on-screen violence, blood, and gore in order to survive. There is a reason why Roman emperors and the senate referred to their people in ancient times as “the mob”. Give them what they want, and they will adore you. Take it away, and they will be the death of you. The human race has not changed so much over the last few thousand years—our means of satisfying our blood lust have merely changed. We went from gladiatorial games, torture, and mass-executions, to now having them simulated with movies and video games because to witness such events for real would be, albeit very hypocritical, uncivilized and barbaric. We are a race that is very easily manipulated and also very easily mystified when it comes to violence. We are a world of hypocrites and fools. More specifically, in America, we are a nation of people so righteous and caring that we quickly shield our children from movies with graphic nudity or sexuality, yet say, “Oh, it’s only violence and language. Nothing they haven’t seen or heard before!” when it comes to a film series like Saw, which only a sadist could truly enjoy, and more recently, Django Unchained, which offers us 110 utterances of the N-word. If what I am saying is true, and that all you have to do is present us with a film full of gratuitous violence and hard language for it to be a commercial success, then Quentin Tarantino is the undisputed master of cinema.
Who else could continuously give us such violent efforts and be praised as one of the best directors of this generation? Who else, as a white director, could get away with such racist dialogue? More power to him, I suppose, because he has realized over the years what it takes to be successful in Hollywood. He has become my unintentional example here, as this latest film was so violent that it was actually considered for an NC-17 rating, just like his 2007 film Grindhouse, which actually landed such a rating. Django Unchained is a film I will probably not be seeing, unless someone were to chain me up and drag me to the theater (in which case I would hope they could at least pay for my ticket under the circumstances), for a few reasons. The first would be Tarantino’s need to re-write history. I imagine that every single southerner portrayed in this film is a wealthy, whip-toting slave owner who tortures and executes his slaves like its going out of style. Should I even bother going into the facts that most southerners (about 98%, actually) in the pre-Civil War era were poor, white farmers who could barely feed their families, much less own slaves and a massive plantation? Oh, who cares. Not that anyone goes to a Tarantino film to see historical facts, because they don’t, but it still would have been nice in a film about World War II to not have a complete rewrite of what actually happened to Adolf Hitler. Speaking of Inglorious Basterds, the only Tarantino film I’ve ever been able to get myself to sit through, even when that was finished I remember throwing my arms up in the air, saying, “Now that figures!” It was a moderately decent film, filled with gratuitous violence, with vicious deaths often portrayed in a humorous light, but the ending did it for me. It sealed the deal that this man truly is this generation’s perfect director.
Let us also briefly sidetrack away from violence, for a moment, and examine the double standard. I really don’t quite know what to make of the situation. Weeks ago, Jamie Foxx, the star of Django Unchained, joked around on SNL that he gets to “…kill all the white people. How great is that?” Now, being level-headed and appreciative of poor-taste humor, not once did I ever feel threatened by such a statement, because, to be honest, I can’t imagine Mr. Foxx driving around Hollywood killing people…in real life, anyway. But imagine, if you will, a white actor joking around that he gets to, “kill all the black people” and enjoy it. Do you realize the outrage that would ensue? The immediate blacklisting of the actor, protests outside of theaters, Al Sharpton getting his panties twisted in a bunch, the whole nine yards! Was Foxx reprimanded by the media after? Yes, but not before the live audience roared with laughter and approval at the remark, with the media merely calling it a joke in bad taste. Had it been the other way around, I imagine we would still be hearing about it. Then again, I love when the masses are uptight. That’s what makes them easy to control, easy to please. That’s why, as fate would have it, this actor would be united with such a director, for a movie that currently sits at an 8.8 rating and will most likely be Tarantino’s highest grossing venture ever.
“This is a violent and borderline sadistic effort, with graphic scenes of torture and suffering, while bullet hits don’t just pop, they explode like cherry gushers,” wrote Brian Orndorf in his review for Blu-Ray.Com. While some people may read this and be repulsed, most probably quickly changed browsers to the website of the nearest movie theater to catch when the next showing is. Am I opposed to violence in movies? Absolutely not, however, when it comes to the subject, I recognize that there are two types of violent films: the ones that require a high level of violence to tell a story (example: Saving Private Ryan), and the ones that require a high level of violence because they need it to be successful. Which one of these do you think films like Django Unchained or Saw are? Films with a semi-decent or mediocre storyline that would be nothing without blood gushing, torture, and bodies being mangled? If you want to look at how deep a movie is when it comes to the director’s talent or the film’s total potential and target audience, take the storyline, dialogue, and special effects, and adjust them in your mind and ask yourself, “Would this film have succeeded with a PG-13 rating?” If the answer is yes, even with heavy alterations, you have yourself a good movie. If the answer is no, like everything Tarantino has ever directed, you might want to rethink your assessment of his work as a cinematic masterpiece. He is a director who thrives on violence, because without it, he would have nothing left but his depraved brain wanderings. He is a director who capitalizes on people’s natural-born instincts to want and crave seeing people killed. Why else do such movies, and video games where we can do it ourselves, become so successful?
All that being said, I am not one of those people who thinks that movie and video game violence is the sole reason for the violent world we have today, and the never-ending stream of public shootings. But will you consider, just for a second, that they may be complimentary? They are not the sole cause, but combined with other factors, give people this desensitized view of fellow-man and no appreciation for human life, that it might actually be fun to kill someone? It is the greatest hypocritical irony that we denounce gun ownership and weep over the deaths of 20 small children, yet at the same time defend such violence coming into our homes via the video game, or taking children or unstable adults to the movie theater. It’s like, what did you think would happen? You let a child who cannot separate reality from fantasy play Call of Duty then scratch your head in a wondrous awe when he shoots up a school or shopping mall. Coming out of a film like Django Unchained spouting rave reviews, yet at later on asking, “What happened to society? Why is there such violence in our world?” is the same as living out an old George Carlin joke, “…it’s like these idiots who build their house on the side of Mount Kilauea and then get upset when they have lava in the living room”. It’s the same exact thing: you ignore the obvious then state the obvious when what you originally ignored comes back to bite you.
As long as films like this succeed, we will be a nation of hypocrites and violence mongers. Will we ever change? I think not, because the mob is powerful and ever-growing, and if filmmakers want to keep putting out the big-time blockbusters, they have to appease the mob. We want blood! We want violence! We want explosions! Movies as an artform is close to dead—all that remains is its use as a money-making vehicle. The days of real movies are dead, and we killed it. But you can’t get too upset, because you are the cause. Don’t speak out against excessive violence, because you are the cause. Don’t ask why nothing original comes out of Hollywood anymore, because you are the cause. You did it, and I hope you are happy.