My dad's down from Maine and he stayed over our place this past weekend. On Friday night, we decided to "rent a movie" and just kick back casual style at the domicile. A little pizza, a little cinematic diversion... what could be more relaxing?
Now "renting a movie" at the video store is an activity practiced ritually by millions of Americans every day (and especially on Friday), even with the advent of Cable TV, Netflix, and those spy satellite dish thingees that you sometimes see resting ominously on people's homes, which allow you to access 348,431 channels ("I wish we had that Eskimo Cooking Tuscan Style Channel.... wait! We doooooo!")
Regardless of the plethora of programs available to us here, we still make our pilgrimage to "Movie Land Rentals!" in the hope that perhaps there we will find what our hearts are longing for... the quintessential "great movie." And some Jiffy Pop.
But what we find nearly every time we visit the video gore, I mean store, is an assault on our senses, and a degradation of the human person that one would think of finding only in a concentration camp. Here's where I get really serious... and angry.
- About a third of the DVD covers I perused in the "new releases" section had a twisted and bloody face, severed limbs, or a weapon of some sort on them (needles, chainsaw, axe, bombs, guns guns guns!)
- Another third showed half-naked women in various positions on them.
- Several movie covers had demonic faces peering out at us.
- Many of these were placed about twelve inches from the "children's section"
- The covers were nearly all at a child's eye level; some I had to stoop to investigate in my study of what Pope John Paul II aptly named a "culture of death."
Now, I'm sure none of this diet of violent or sexually explicit films has anything to do with the bad news we've been fed recently or with the ever increasing statistics of domestic violence, child porn, hate crimes, or homicides: the second grader who brought the handgun to school (right here in Philadelphia), or the teenagers who beat a homeless man to death a few months ago "for fun," or any of the school shootings that have taken place in the last decade:
Moses Lake , Washington 2/2/96
Bethel , Alaska 2/19/97
Pearl , Mississippi 10/1/97
West Paducah , Kentucky 12/1/97
Stamp, Arkansas 12/15/97
Jonesboro , Arkansas 3/24/98
Edinboro , Pennsylvania 4/24/98
Fayetteville , Tennessee 5/19/98
Springfield , Oregon 5/21/98
Richmond , Virginia 6/15/98
Littleton , Colorado 4/20/99
Taber , Alberta , Canada 5/28/99
Conyers , Georgia 5/20/99
Deming , New Mexico 11/19/99
Fort Gibson , Oklahoma 12/6/99
Santee , California 3/ 5/01
El Cajon , California 3/22/01
Blacksburg, Virginia 4/16/07
I mean, we all realize that what we see in the movies is just fantasy, right? And the games we let the kids play are just vehicles for them to get their anger out, or just have "fun" or relax; doing things in video games they can't do in the "real world"?
Hmmm... I remember learning, back in my art school days, that art always reflects the spirit of the age in which we find it. In other words, we can come to know a people by the art they make (like a window into their soul); through poems, paintings, music, and yes, the movies they create. If this is true, and I know it is, then what we can glean from our culture today is that we have reached a level of obsession with sex and violence that parallels if not surpasses the late decadence of the Romans before the fall of their empire. That's a sobering thought.
Ever hear of the expression "You are what you eat"? I wonder sometimes, as I see us perusing the isles of the Blockbusters across America, numbly leafing through piles of celluloid gore and sexual gratification, I wonder if it is the "thought that counts"?
I wonder sometimes if I should go cold turkey and unplug the beast. Go plant a tree. Watch a sunrise. Look at people and wonder about their lives.
Or maybe we need a return to the classics, to films that portray stories that are not violent for violence's sake, but redemptive in their portrayal of human love and suffering.
We ended up renting Blood Diamond, coincidentally a very violent film inspired by the bloodbaths in Sierra Leone where child soldiers and so many innocent were (and are) sacrificed for money and power. It was a powerful film that left the three of us in a reflective silence. It was ultimately redemptive.
So.... just a thought:
What are we eating with our eyes and ears? What are we "clicking on" and spending time with before we surf on to the next channel? Is it good for us? Does it build us up? Does it lead me to the light, or does it leave me in a fog and darkness?
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