Violence in Movies

The recent theatre shootings in Aurora, Colorado, have given a higher profile to concerns about violence in movies. To what extent does movie violence reflect a violent society, or create a violent society? This is a difficult question, but it needs to be asked.

There have always been violent movies, with 1903’s The Great Train Robbery as just one well known early example:

The essentials of film making were summed up by Jean-Luc Godard, who stated all you needed to make a movie was a girl and a gun. (A male hero is implicit, of course. The subordinate role of women in movies is most famously outlined by Laura Mulvey in her 1975 essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.)

Just because movies are violent, and have been violent, does not mean they need to continue to be violent. Artistic freedom does not extend to causing harm, and maybe there need to be restrictions on the portrayal of violence.

Film critic David Denby has an excellent meditation on movie violence in the current New Yorker.

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