There was this story that hit the news a few weeks ago. A boy died because he was ‘fighting’ with his friend. The story had a Fight Club feel to it, since they were fighting with no apparent reason at all. The story took many people by surprise because of two facts, one: the guy died because he was involved in a fistfight; two: there was a group of people witnessing the fight, and there was a guy who was filming it all on his phone.
The news generated a lot of interest among the people I know. While most discussions generate a lot of varied opinions, this discussion did not last long, because almost everyone involved had the same opinion. All of them thought that violence was bad, and that it should not exist in the world we live in.
The question, they believed, was: How do we stop violence in the world we live?
I don’t get the point of that question. Why would you want to stop violence? It is not something that can be completely removed. It has been around ever since the beginning of mankind. There will always be violence in this world, because it begins from the existence of inequalities in this world. There will always be a power gap, and the struggle to eliminate that gap will always result in more and more violence. People don’t realise that eliminating violence is one thing, and regulating it something else entirely.
Also, we love violence. Although we may shudder at the thought of being involved in a violent situation, we love watching it. We love watching people beat each other. We love it when the good triumphs over the evil. Using violence. Why, then, do we talk of removing it once and for all?
When we read about violent incidents in the newspapers, or learn about it on the news, the discussion that follows will almost always end in unanimous agreement about the opinion that movies inspire people to be violent. But is it true?
Most movies cater to the likes of the larger portion of the audience, for money. That’s why, in India, most of the movies have the same format. And that format involves violence that is make-believe. It is not reflective of the violence that is out there, in the real world, the world we live in. Since it is make-believe, we like it. We like it because we know things like that can never happen in the real world. But there are people whose works show violence that reflects what we see in our world. We look at them in horror. We condemn them for being heartless, and accuse them of spoiling the minds of the people. But do they?
Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese and Stanley Kubrick are three worldwide popular artists whose works are often tagged as violent. Well, they are violent. I’ll give you that. But the violence they depict is realistic. It shows what’s happening around you. The violence in their movies puts you off. And when you are disturbed by it, you are making it a point to never try it.
As humans, we find comfort in blaming others for our shortcomings. That’s the case with violence. Human beings are hardwired to be violent. When we’ve accepted that violence is wrong, we do not come to terms with the fact that it is an integral part of the human nature, and has been so throughout the ages. We look for something to take the fall for us, and we have found the best scapegoat in Cinema. We call it enjoyable and nice when the violence seems make-believe but we call it evil, disturbing and a threat to communal peace when it is reflective of what’s happening around us. It is fascinating to see how amazingly hypocritical we are. Whenever something bad happens in our society, like a gun massacre, we hear the media come to the conclusion that the killer was driven by violent movies to act in the manner he or she did. The media links the killer’s unstable mental nature to the movies that we (first the media, followed by the audience) label extremely violent and socially unacceptable. And this point is reiterated so many times that we lose the ability to think differently. It is the inability of the media to deliver news as facts, not as opinions, that steers us away from reaching a conclusion all on our own.
Movies like Saving Private Ryan show us the horrors of war. And we see the point the director is trying to make, because he chose to be brutally truthful and, therefore, violent. While one might call the works of the above mentioned directors as glorifying violence, I believe that portraying it grotesuely and realistically is anything but glorifying. If it leaves you not wanting to commit violence, then calling it glorifying is hardly fair. And what’s more unfair is pinning the blame on the cinema for all the violent stuff happening around us. I’ve learnt not to do that, and I hope you do too.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to start downloading Taxi Driver.