So it seems that lately, me and the Ash keep ending up with these movies that depict scenes of violence against children. They range between slightly unnerving to horrifically graphic, but the common thread is definitely there, and in some cases they jarred me so bad that I couldn't help but get up and go check on Henry while he slept (Syriana, Tsotsi, I'm talking to you).
Which brings us to the other night when Ash and I plunked down to watch The Pledge. I'll spare you the extended review, but let's just say that's two hours I'll never get back. The plot revolves around the main character's hunt for a murderer of little girls, and as such there are some rather graphic scenes. It's no Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but as a parent, it was more than enough to disturb my otherwise pleasant suburban evening.
It was while watching this film, this completely squandered bit of cinematic potential, that the Ash piped up with an observation about the recent glut in our household of movies with this kind of imagery, one which I found interesting. She said at first that she thought it was a weird coincidence, us getting all these movies with kids suffering at the hands of violent hate-filled adults. Then she thought that maybe somehow we were subconsciously choosing them, as if some force deep within our collective psyche was compelling us to move these films to the top of our queue. Which doesn't totally make sense to me, but okay. But then she thought, maybe it's simply that there's a boatload of movies out there that depict violence against children.
Before I go any further, I'm not about to try and make a case for censorship. Just so you know. I don't think it makes much sense to blame the movies for society's ills. If anything, blame society's ills for the movies.
I don't know if there's any relevance to it or not, but I think Ash may have a point. Regardless of how they keep ending up in our DVD player, there simply are a lot of films that depict violence of some sort against children. Becoming a parent obviously causes me to notice it more than I did before, and in fact, I think I've found myself to be much more sensitive to violence overall. Again, I'm not advocating for censorship, nor would I ever. I hardly think I fit the profile of the hysterical parent who thinks the world needs to be padded in Nerf foam and is outraged, OUTRAGED I TELL YOU, at all of the corrupting influences out in the world that could stain his poor baby's innocent little soul. But still, I have to ask, what does it mean? What can we say about a society whose film, whose art, whose entertainment, is capable of producing such imagery? Are they a happy people? Do they find this kind of thing entertaining? Are they so desensitized to violence that their filmmakers have resorted to victimizing children on screen in order to disturb an otherwise blase audience? Or, perhaps looking on the brighter side, does it all indicate a broader cultural awareness of the tragedy of a child's suffering? I know it may sound stupidly obvious to say that children suffering is tragic, but I don't think it always was quite so. In other words, maybe the massive appearance of violence against children in movies is actually a sign of progress.
Then of course, there's the question of why? Why show such imagery? As a playwright who's penned some rather brutal scenes of my own, I think that much of the time, the intention is in fact to disturb the viewer, to jar them out of a complacent state, if only for a moment's thought, a brief reconsideration that the world as they know it is in fact the place they think it to be. Sure, sometimes, scenes like this are only meant to shock or disgust, but I think the intention is usually easy enough to infer.
And one more question I have to bring up: why is violence against a child more tragic than violence against an adult? My short answer: it's not. But I have to confess, I think it's more my head giving that answer than my gut or my heart.