The Desolation of Smaug: Rant on violence in art

Somewhere in the 90s I got tired of violence in movies. It happened in a scene from the film Copycat, which shows the point of view of a victim through a plastic bag as she’s about to be slain. It was horrific, and too close to what I was hearing about in the news. And I found myself getting desensitized to both.

So last night we went to see the second Hobbit film, and made the mistake of choosing the 3-D version, because that showing was starting sooner.

I love the Tolkien stories, and read them all when I was about 15. I enjoyed the first animated one, then the creepy version that’s kind of animated, and the last run of them that seems to have gone on for many years, now. They’ve gone on so long that the actor who plays the elf-prince Legolas has noticeably changed…his face has filled out like Morrissey’s.



And so now, I’ve promised to take my 8 year-old to the film but realize it’s too violent, and I don’t want her to get desensitized that way, but I really don’t have much control over it anyway.

The close-quarter combat scenes are quite good, as far as fight scenes go: you have the elves firing arrows through Orc heads and slashing them with knives, and the truth is, they’re just Orcs, but it’s the brutality of it and the killing that is so video game like, so unreal and entertaining…not at all disturbing, less and less so over time.

And I’ll draw the correlation now even though it’s crude, about the people I ride my vanpool with to and from work, how we don’t react to the news about the shootings at the schools or the hospitals that just happen more and more, where it always ends the same way, and we think to ourselves we want to do something about it but decide we can’t, so we just sit there in the van and say nothing.

I haven’t known many mentally ill people, but one I did really responded to the film Men In Black, as if it tapped into the same reality he was living, about the aliens that had to be exposed through special glasses, and special guns. He would have been sick with or without that film…and the guy who shot John Lennon picked a pretty harmless source of inspiration, in JD Salinger. It’s not the art that can be blamed; it just reflects who we are and what we honor.

The violence bums me out. We don’t seem to change much as a species, and us Americans have this gun thing that likely won’t ever change, either. A trip to the movies, sitting through the trailers and previews, is always a reminder to me of the world I live in, that seems to be getting farther away.



Categories: technology

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

24 replies

  1. My aversion to violence really hit its peak with the movie “Fargo”. The senseless slaying of the highway patrol officer made me feel physically ill – too many lives end in a pointless, mundane fashion. I don’t find it thought-provoking or entertaining – just another sinking sense that the world has gone awry. Who needs more of that?


  2. I’m old enough to remember when Jaws came out but wasn’t old enough then to go see it. I have no basis for this but I wonder if that’s when violence started to go mainstream, when it became part of the blockbuster. I also remember going to see Earthquake and being traumatized by the scene where the elevator free-falls. It ended with a splat and the screen filled with blood. Or maybe that’s just how I remember it. But I think of that scene often when I ride elevators. The scene itself, if I bothered to look it up, which I won’t, is probably tame and laughable. It likely wouldn’t make a little kid blink today. And now I am sounding like an old man, so I’m going to go yell at some plants.


  3. don’t really know how to add to your rant with ross,) but just have to say my friend was surprised when her boys were young, and i was their teacher. we were talking about violence in films and she said she was shocked when i said i thought sex was less harmful than violence in films. she still remembers it and now understands it.


  4. You and Ross are hilarious. I want you both at work with me.

    Yeah, I think I must have de-evolved over the last few years. It started with some gruesome British series, went on to Dexter and continued on to Breaking Bad. It’s too bad that great writing so often accompanies violent shows. But research has shown that watching violent TV and videos doesn’t make for more violent children. It’s all so very complex an issue, but it’s disturbing that even shows meant for children, even animation, has increasingly included violence and aggression.


  5. Obviously, I’m a lot older than you because my son is grown. I understand your dilemma about the movie and the promise you made to your son. I did the same thing a couple of times with my son way long ago. The way I handled it is I took him to these movies but afterward I made sure to talk WITH him about the movie so that he would understand the difference between what he saw on the screen and what is real AND what is better. It seemed to work because as an adult, he hates violence.


    • Dude thank you for that! I’ve never seen them perform live, even on video…love that song on many levels. Wish I had seen them with you that night in Seattle!


  6. Dude! You are the ultimate Christmas Grinch, can’t you lighten up! Please go and look at some twinkly lights and get a lungful of fresh air and evergreen scent. Or try my blog, it’s snowing there and everything is all sparkly. Happy holidays to you.


Leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: