Diet violence

Zizek often writes about how in modern capitalist society we look for ways to enjoy something without realising its essential content. Zizek writes:

“On today’s market, we find a whole series of products deprived of their malignant property: coffee without caffeine, cream without fat, beer without alcohol…”

Similarly if you watch James Bond, you see the Villain’s absurdly dressed anonymous henchmen get shot, comically jump to the floor, no blood, no chance of decapitation, no emotion, no chance of finding out his name; the camera moves on. In Austin Powers there is a scene where you see the anonymous henchmen’s friends and family receiving the news that a friend who went to work for Dr Evil has been killed. This scene mocks the way these characters exist only to be shot and points to an immediate truth of censorship of violence which can make films“ fun for all the family” and something to watch together eating dinner.

Not only does it show the act without any real consequences or in a realistic fashion but what is more worrying is that you can’t help but get the impression that violence is cool. This has been the paradoxical result of film classification; that by showing violence without the “malign property,” we are encouraging especially young children to forget there was a negative property there.

To make an analogy, suppose we were to take the film Trainspotting (a film about Edinburgh heroin addicts) and we wanted to try and change the film from being an 18 to being a 12A. Suppose we presented the film to a classification board and they would let it be a 12A only on condition that we removed all the scenes of characters becoming ill, having to go cold Turkey, a baby dying through neglect and addicts turning to crime to fund the habit. Imagine that they only let us keep the scenes of characters having fun and allowed the only scene of drug taking to be the part where the protagonist injects himself with heroin, no pain or blood involved of course, who then lying on the carpet says:

“People think its all about misery and desperation and death and all that shite, which is not to be ignored, but what they forget is the pleasure of it, otherwise we wouldn’t do it, after all we are not fucking stupid”

Imagine if such a film was made, imagine you could buy toy syringes as merchandise like the plastic toy guns children buy today. Imagine the horror if such a film were made of drug takers getting a drug and having a great time with no negative consequences. There would be outrage; the Daily Mail would lead a call to arms.

There are of course films where violence is not robbed of its essential content. I can think of perhaps Full Metal Jacket or The Godfather. Sometimes in angrier moments I could think that these films should be 12As and James Bond an 18, but there is another side to films where violence is shown as not only realistic but perhaps hyper realistic.

You can’t help but get the impression from watching Kill Bill or Inglorious Bastards that Quentin Tarantino does think that gratuitous violence is really, really awesome. Watching Inglorious Bastards, it becomes like blood sport to watch this band of psycho “goodies” shoot, decapitate and torture their way through occupied France with the fact that the victims are Nazi’s (ultimate bad guys) condoning us to enjoy what would otherwise be grotesque. We move from violence in films as censorship to violence in films as pornography. In my more illiberal moments, I would like the police to round up anyone queuing up for Hostel III at the cinema and lock them up. The fact that they enjoy watching this film indicates that they are too much of a danger to society to be let out.

So what is the answer? Most Comment articles invite the reader to change something, to make something happen. But I suppose here I intend to provoke a shrug at best and assert that censorship has more faces than simply not showing action, but that it can also be about not showing what an act really means.


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