03 November, 2011


     I've often thought about how desensitized I am to violence. Violence on TV and in the movies, it had stopped bothering me. I'm not exactly sure when this happened. I didn't grow up allowed to watch whatever I wanted (my parents banned me from Power Rangers because it had too much fighting!) and I don't think I watch overtly violent movies regularly but nonetheless I can watch someone get shot on TV, get hit with a bat, or kicked in the side and not think twice. That is, until recently I could watch those things.
     Dan had seen the movie Drive with his buddy Chris. They came back raving about it. It was so good. Dan couldn't stop talking about it -- he had enjoyed it thoroughly. His reaction made me turn my head and actually want to see it (along with the fact that Ryan Gosling stars) because film praise from Dan doesn't come easily; he was willing to pay money to see it again. So, naturally, I was intrigued and we went to go see it the next weekend. 
     No one warned me. Or maybe I didn't hear. The last half of the movie, the movie that, up until that point, had been slightly boring with the long silences, little dialogue, and driving scenes, became unapologetically violent. Like, slow motion gun shot murder, head being kicked in on an elevator (seconds after the hero kisses the girl for the first time, read: deal breaker), and many other acts that I only heard because my tear filled eyes were digging into Dan's shoulder, willing the scene, if not the movie, to end. 
     It finally ended and as we were walking out Dan asked about my reaction: "I didn't realize that it would bother you that much, I mean, you watch Walking Dead, which has tons of violence in its own right, without blinking an eye." 
     I tried to gather my thoughts, "When we watch The Walking Dead we are operating under the assumption that the Zombie's are not people, they are monsters, they will kill you; they are not living. This movie killed people, not the greatest people ever, but people. Their lives should matter more than that." 
     I think even I was surprised by my reaction. I had seen violence before, no? What changed? Part of me feels like I can trace it back to my experience at the gun range a few months ago. The first (and most likely last) time I had ever held a gun and felt it go off in my hands. It scared me to my core. This thing was created to kill. It is a weapon of death and people should not have them. Before you think I'm getting all preachy and trying to take away your second amendment right to bear arms, I'm not, I just hate the things and my experience with them changed how I view violence. 
     Up until that point I had never heard a gun in real life. It is loud. The gun shots on television and in the movies don't do it justice. Now, when I see a character point a gun at someone I wince. Do they know what they are doing? The power they have to take a life? And, it's only a character. I recently looked at the famous image from the Vietnam War where, after the Tet Offensive, a Viet Cong soldier has a gun to his head in the middle of the street. Violence. It's real. Why should I pay to watch it glorified?
     I am rereading Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment for my 19th century European History class. I was in the library reading, annotating, looking up words when I arrived at Rodya's dream. Dostoevsky describes the brutal treatment of an old horse that leads to its demise. The section was about three or four pages long; Dostoevsky doesn't do anything short. He describes the horses eyes, his tense body, his leg kicking out in a pathetic attempt at defense. I cried. I cried in the library cafe at school. I wasn't sobbing, it was silent, but tears were there. In public. Which might be fitting as my sister, Julia, pointed out: "The concepts of secrecy and privacy versus known and public, that are present in the book, almost demand it." 
     She makes a good, literary point but I am still shocked at my reaction. I mean, animal violence always gets me (shoot, the dog being put to sleep in that horrible Aniston-Owens flick had me sobbing for an hour easily) but I wasn't able to control my emotion and that is what took me off guard. Usually, I can catalogue violence -- it's not real, it's fiction. Those are characters, actors, they aren't really dead. I still know all those things are true but something has changed. I'm not upset at the change, I was upset at my desensitization. It seems that I have become sensitized again and I hope it doesn't leave. 


  1. If I remember correctly, I came across your blog a while back through ModSquad... maybe... anyways; I am really glad I logged on today and saw this post of yours because I have been thinking on this topic a lot lately and have been feeling my own pendulum swinging back in favor of my more desensitized side, and I'm not so happy about that. It always amazes me what passes for entertainment in terms of depictions of other people in pain and being intentionally harmed. I am glad I am not the only one worried by this phenomenon. Thank you for sharing on this topic, it really resonated with me.

  2. Hey, thanks for sharing your thoughts as well! I think it can be especially hard to monitor what we allow ourselves to see and making the decision, "No, I am not going to allow that in my mind." It's a weird struggle, to protect your mind, and something I'm not always great at doing. (Obviously, I saw Drive. haha)