Hey, Guys! The Good Version of Michael Bay is Back!!!

For those of you just joining us: It’s become a fairly open secret that Michael Bay re-upped with the “Transformers” franchise for at least one more go-around despite openly despising it in order to get Paramount to throw it’s weight behind a low-budget ($22 million – that’s pennies in Bay and the studios’ world) passion project called “Pain & Gain;” a fact-based, likely R-rated action/comedy with Mark Whalberg, Anthony Mackie and The Rock as a trio of dipshit roid-raging Miami bodybuilders who get in over their heads trying to double-cross a drug kingpin.

Now there’s a trailer, and if you’ve been missing this Michael Bay (love it or loathe it, this specific genre/setting/tone is what he’s better at than any other living filmmaker) as much as I have you’ll want to have a look:

Pain & Gain Trailer from Michael Bay Dot Com on Vimeo.

Right-Wing Bloggers Exploit CT Massacre to Attack… a Movie Studio.

Egh. So much for otherwise sitting this one out…

“Conservative” astroturfing outfit Breitbart.com doesn’t like Jaime Foxx, and definitely don’t like that he’s the star of Quentin Tarantino’s about-to-be-huge slavery-revenge epic “Django Unchained” – a movie they’ve been trying to “take down” ever since it was announced (for obvious reasons.) They’re current tactic? Exploiting the tragedy and Sandy Hooks to attack the film and it’s producers over movie violence.

Typically, this sort of thing would be ignorable – craven opportunists doing what they do. Unfortunately, for a variety of the “violent games and movies are part of the problem” refrain seems to resonate lots of otherwise-intelligent, progressive people as well… which is, of course, music to the ears of the gun lobby – who would much prefer the easy targets of the entertainment industry take the fall instead of them.

These are the times when intellectual clarity is needed, but also intellectual fortitude. Rational, thinking people can agree, disagree or compromise over what to do about guns; but no person can be called rational or thinking who buys into the absurd falsehood of “violent” media as a direct contributor to real-life violence – no matter how simple and comforting the myth may be.

We know what the real problems are. We know what the real problems are not. From there, we can arrive at what’s to be done. Everything else is white noise.

On Scarborough, Guns and The Rest…

I really, really, really didn’t want to end up having anything to say about the school massacre in Connecticutt beyond “this is terrible and I feel terrible;” but I happened to have the news on this morning and wound up “angry tweeting” about what I was seeing, so now I probably ought to flesh that out a bit.

What I was reacting to was this now-ubiquitious monologue by former Republican congressman turned MSNBC host Joe Scarborough saying that he now feels his earlier positions against any and all gun regulations (he was highly-rated by the NRA, and you don’t get that by taking nuanced positions.) I don’t doubt the sincerity and emotion behind what he said, and I admire a public person effectively saying “I’ve been wrong” on a national broadcast in principle. My “issue” was that he subsequently “moves on” from talking about guns (and mental-health access) to talking about “violent” movies, video games, etc… and yeah, I’ve gotta be that guy who goes “hold up a minute” on that.


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The thing is, I respect that people have emotional “just do something to make me feel less powerless!” reactions to horrible tragedies. I have them myself, and frankly I’m not of the opinion that such reactions are always bad for us – emotion can overwhelm logic, yes, but it can also overwhelm timidity. To cut right to the chase (because I really, really don’t want to dwell on this) I’d say that “Fuck this. Enough is enough, we need to finally do something about this country’s bullshit approach to gun laws!” is a POSITIVE emotion-driven reaction to this event… whereas “Culture of Violence! Delay the violent movies! Ban the violent video-games!” is decidedly NOT.

I’m aware that this opens me up to accusations of “hypocrisy,” i.e. “Oh, so the stuff YOU don’t care about can get banned, but leave the stuff you LIKE alone?;” but quite frankly the equivalency just isn’t there as far as I’m concerned.

As I’ve said before, my politics are 99% pragmatic – I don’t have some all-or-nothing “ideal” when it comes to things like regulation, I simply hold that things should be regulated to the degree that they require it. While I’m in favor of so-called “gun-rights” – and really, truly HATE seeing good, responsible firearm-owners among my friends (of which there are many) being demonized along with the genuine “gun nuts” in these instances – the fact is guns are incredibly dangerous and their sole purpose is to be lethal; so, YES – they should be subject to regulations and much greater regulations than they currently are. “Banned?” No. But controlled, monitored, tracked, limited, restricted, etc? Absolutely.

However, when it comes to “violent” media, the “requires regulation” part is simply nowhere close to comparable. “Violent” movies and video games are NOT designed to be lethal or to inflict harm, they are NOT in and of themselves dangerous. Furthermore, there has never been a provable, direct, cause-and-effect link between watching violent movies or playing violent video games and actual acts of violence. With guns there IS because what guns ARE is a tool for lethal force.

Yes, it can’t just be about gun laws. There is a broader conversation that needs to be had, both about access to mental health care and the “culture of violence;” but art, music, movies, games etc. do not have a prominent or even noteworthy place IN that conversation – rather, they serve as a distraction (and, as is often the case, a diversion) from the real issues. The “culture of violence” in America is a real, serious problem, but the “culture of violence” is NOT Call of Duty, “Django Unchained,” etc. America’s Culture of Violence is the culture of a vague yet potent sense of existential, media-driven panic: “SOMETHING is coming to get me and I require a military-grade arsenal with no background check, waiting period or meaningful limitation of any kind to protect myself from… well, I don’t know what from but FoxNews, talk-radio and Infowars SWEAR they’re on the way and if you say otherwise you’re one of them and that’s why you want to take my guns away!” 

Are you kidding me?

Put another way? America’s Culture of Violence is that the AR-15 Bushmaster rifle that the CT shooter used to kill 20 kindergarteners is marketed with the catchphrase: “CONSIDER YOUR MAN CARD REISSUED.”

So yes, let’s finally have a real discussion about the place of guns and the relevance of Second Ammendment absolutism in the 21st Century. Let’s have more discussion of how we treat (in every sense of the word) mental illness. But let’s NOT be distracted or diverted by the notion that movies, art, music, games or any other creative works belong “on the table” or even in the discussion. Because they do not.