-Okay. I am back for a moment-
On his blog, someone directed a comment towards me, not understanding how someone that practices nonviolence and abhors its glamorization could find a film such as The Departed a positive storytelling experience. It seemed inconsistent with my world-view to enjoy such a film.
It is not inconsistent for someone to be repulsed by the glamorization of violence and find a film which is very bloody to be worthwhile watching. I know I have spoken on this very many times, but I ask for patience as I try to explain it once more (apparently I am not very cogent at this argument- which is in my opinion one of the key blind spots of modern Christianity- along with the embrace of materialism and consumerism)...
It is very simple. Films such as The Departed deal with the implications of violent acts upon persons and the world around them. They do not glorify violence. In fact, they deglamorize its usefullness in film and society (making it repulsive and shocking, thereby stripping it of its power) and they do not embrace The Myth of Redemptive Violence which is a very dangerous myth and controls much of American Christianity.
The myth that the hero attains the salvation of others through the use of violence has been around since pre-Biblical literature. However, it stands in marked contrast to the idea of Jesus and the early church martyrs. It has much more in common teachings within with Islam, Crusade and Inquisition era "Christianity" and our Mormon friends. Sadly, it is the dominant myth of present day society.
It is not violence in film which I reject. It is the glorification of violence in popular culture I reject. It is the dehumanization of our enemies, which leads to seeing Iraqi kids as collateral damage and torture as a needed evil in present war. It leads to seeing some people as deserving their violent ends, such as a murderer or gangbanger. It slowly dehumanizes us, which separates us from Christ.
Some of my favorite films, such as The Departed, Three Kings, Schindler's List, The Proposition, Unforgiven, V for Vendetta, Children of Men and Pan's Labyrinth are terribly violent. They deal with violence in a serious, thoughtful, even handed manner. It is not something to be embraced or celebrated. It is something with human and societal costs. It dehumanizes the person doing the violent act more so than the person murdered. It is not something to be cheered, laughed at or embraced. It is to be rejected. The hope in these films comes from the rejection of the dominant myth and embrace of hope (I might say that the opposite of violence is not peace, but hope- is there a need for redemptive violence when hope is there?).
On the other hand we have the Die Hard films (which I loved as a child, yet turned away from as an adult), Rambo films*, 24, The Sopranos, Sin City, Grindhouse, the Saw trilogy and pretty much every horror and action** film at the cineplex. The myth of redemptive violence in film reverberates throughout our cities like an Adhan, calling the faithful to prayerfully embrace its ideal in its moviehouses and televisions weekly.
We are a marked contrast to other cultures, which see these films as another form of pornography, one (dare I say it) which is even more damaging to our lives. What is the difference between the pornography of sexuality and the pornography of violence? They both lead us away from the way of Jesus towards materialism (in the Marxist assessment) and the death of our humanity.
Although I seem to be a cynic, I must embrace the hope which came through the destruction of the myth of redemptive violence by Christ. I have no choice.
Here is the ironic part...
...I am still inconsistent to some degree. I think Pulp Fiction, which simultaneously embraces the myth and revels in its absurd destruction is among the greatest movies ever made. I accept it because of its superior storytelling skills and acting. Greatness in film will trump conviction, you know.
*Speaking of Rambo films... one day I will tell you about my moment of clarity revolving around the murder of Vietnamese and its glorification sickening me as a young teenager.
**Think even of Jason Bourne, one that does not embrace his darkness and runs from violence when possible and does not indiscriminately kill. He is a marked contrast to Jack Bauer and Tony Soprano.