Big Picture: "On The Subject of Violence"

In relation, obviously, to the recent unpleasantness…

17 thoughts on “Big Picture: "On The Subject of Violence"

  1. Anonymous says:

    You know Bob, for every review or opinion you delve into that I disagree with, you come out with one of these that really just says something great. Kudos.


  2. Sanunes says:


    I believe that picture of John Lithgow picture is from the original 1984 Footloose movie (at least it fits what I remember).


  3. Lord Slithor says:

    One thing I haven;t been seeing, especially in the comments on The Escapist, is the issues Bob addresses in the knee-jerk reaction some media companies have in response to these events; thinking like Bob says that if they alter or remove certain scenes that may now seem questionable, that will somehow smooth things over or make someone less likely to perpetrate these acts.

    Warner Bros. has already done this, first with removing a scene for the upcoming Gangster Squad depcting a shootout in a movie theater and replacing it with a different scene.

    Also it's been reported that the upcoming show, Beware the Batman (which is already getting a negative reaction from fans), is being altered by changing gun barrels from circular to square-shaped, and re-writing certain scenes to make them “less realistic.”

    (Personally, regarding this show, while at first I was willing to give this show a chance, recent tidbits are making me reconsider. The eschewing of popular villains, and now the nonsense changes being made in reaction to this tragedy, makes me think maybe WB should kill this thing in its crib now before it sees the light of day.)

    Also, it isn't the first time Batman's found himself the subject of scrutiny in the wake of a tragedy. WB re-edited the direct-to-video movie of “Batman Beyond: The Return of the Joker” in the wake of the Columbine shootings under accusations that violent entertainment was being deliberately marketed to children. After a massive fan outcry, WB eventually relented and released the original cut of ROTJ a few years later.

    But this kind of knee-jerk reaction happens all the time, and I don't understand really what this accomplishes. The WB network also postponed the 3rd season finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for much the same reasons. (Now that I think of it, WB really seems to be the worst offender when it comes to such things.)

    Like Bob said, it's impossible to know what the next tragedy to happen is going to be connected to. So altering or removing these things is really like closing the barn door after the horses have been let out. The lighting struck there once. Chances are it's not going to happen there again. And ultimately, it just makes those companies look stupid.

    I think if you were to ask the survivors of the Aurora massacre, making alterations to Beware the Batman will mean very little to them.


  4. Joseph says:

    These are not times “for making rash emotion based decisions with consequences we cannot possibly predict about censorship or about anything else…”

    “Anything else” include gun control?


  5. Anonymous says:

    I agree with Joseph. I think you're wrong about the idea that we shouldn't “punish” innocent people for something that MIGHT happen. We do that all the time:

    For example, you're not allowed to have a car that hasn't been inspected because it MIGHT be dangerous, malfunction, and kill someone. You're not allowed to yell fire in a crowded theater because somebody MIGHT be trampled. You're not allowed to drive drunk because you MIGHT run over a bunch of kids. You can't sell rocket-powered grenade launchers on a street corner because a terrorist MIGHT buy them…etc. etc.

    We have absolutely no problem banning things that pose a public safety hazard because of what MIGHT happen, and we shouldn't.

    For example, I would object to a movie which included a scene where detailed, step-by-step instructions for carrying out the building of an improvised explosive vest and then carrying out a successful suicide attack were disseminated. I bet a lot of people would; not you staunch libertarians on this web site, I know, but you guys are wrong about most things most of the time, so don't worry about it.

    The relevant questions are:

    1) As you said, is there a strong causal link between a particular instance of violent media and a violent act, or even between the general degree to which realistic violence as entertainment suffuses our culture and a general increase in violence or in certain types of violent acts?

    2) If we can determine with relative certainty that there is such a link, are there rules that could be put in place around limiting the amount of realistic but pretend violence to which we expose ourselves as a culture that would mitigate the danger created by that media?


    3) If we could think of a good set of rules, would the costs to artistic freedom of putting those rules in place be worth the lives saved by doing it?

    I think, in this case, that the answers are:

    1) We can't really prove it either way.

    2) We can't really make a rule that would specifically target the problem, it'd have to be really general,


    3) It would absolutely not be worth it, not just because of “immortality”, but because the existence of art – even bad art – is a meaning-making activity that ennobles the human condition for everyone.

    It's okay to punish people for things that only MIGHT happen. It's not ok to punish people for no good reason, and that's why banning the Dark Knight would be such a bonehead move.


  6. Ralphael says:

    I've watched every big picture episode, And when I saw the title to this episode I thought to myself “Oh shit, Bobs just going to re-hash that game overthinker episode about violence, and just shout out THINKERS BELIEVERS over and over”, but no, this video was the very definition of epic, every nail was hit, every argument was beautifully put.

    Come here movie bob, let me rest my head on your chest, and cry tears of joy.



  7. Anonymous says:

    As a norwegian, i can say that no one here honnestly thinks that banning MW3 would have stopped someone as deranged as Anders Behring Breivik. Same goes for the aurora massacre. People like this could watch my little pony and find a reason to commit mass murder.


  8. Anonymous says:

    I think if we had a system of repression of people's wish to indulge in violent films/games the result would be worse. Because nothing leads to something spilling over violently better than keeping it tightly bottled up.

    It's in us and we need to balance it with everything else.


  9. Omorka says:

    At least the pro-censorship people can be argued with. The folks who are gung-ho on the demonic possession theory, not so much. (I seriously want to know if they think 'The Joker' is an actual demon.)

    Having said that, it seems to me that addressing mental health screening and treatment is a more constructive reaction that the pro/anti-censorship battle, as there are horrific works of violence so deeply imbedded in our culture (Titus Andronicus, large chunks of the Bible, any decently honest history textbook, etc.) that no amount of bowdlerization will make literature and the arts “safe.”


  10. Anonymous says:

    I think that one of the most important things to remember in all these discussions about media versus real violence is that while media violence may be on the rise, real violence is at a 30 year low. The simple fact is that violent crimes, of all sorts including mass shootings, have been dropping sense the mid 70s (except for a slight increase in the late 80s, ending in '91). That might help in the 'no censorship' argument, assuming that defending the first amendment isn't enough.


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