Friday, March 31, 2006

More Thoughts on Realism and "Ultraviolence" in Film

I've been thinking a little more about horror/thriller films and how we got to the sadistic ultra-realism I wrote about below. As usual, Satan introduced things little by little, so that people would be slowly deceived.

Think about it: wasn't Rock-N-Roll rebellion much the same? Bill Haley invited teens to "rock around the clock," Elvis shook his pelvis, millions of girls screamed, and a new culture was born, built around worshipping rock idols and subverting authority (okay, it's more complicated than that, but not much). The Beatles didn't venture into America with long hair, Yogis and drugs; they came in suits, pleading, "I Want to Hold Your Hand." The enemy knows better than to bust in yelling, "HEY, who wants to offend God and go to Hell?" Instead, he comes in as a handsome suitor: "You shall be as God!"

In that vein, I believe, the film industry in America has pushed boundaries sexually and psychologically. These posts haven't really addressed the sexual aspect of film history; at this point I'll stick to psychological, since we're talking about horror and thriller films (though, of course, these films often also manage to include disturbing sexual content).

I am not a film scholar; I'm just a former film buff who has worked more years in video stores than she cares to admit. I can't detail the history of filmmaking for you and definitively point to the One Movie that Started it All--but I do want to point out a couple of watershed moments that popped out for me.

1. A Clockwork Orange came out in 1971 (three years before I was born!). has this synopsis by Steven Pemberton:

Alex, a teenage hooligan in a near-future Britain, gets jailed by the police. There he volunteers as guinea pig for a new aversion therapy proposed by the government to make room in prisons for political prisoners. "Cured" of his hooliganism and released, he is rejected by his friends and relatives. Eventually nearly dying, he becomes a major embarrassment for the government, who arrange to cure him of his cure. A pivotal moment is when he and his gang break into an author's home: the book he is writing (called "A Clockwork Orange") is a plea against the use of aversion therapy, on the grounds that it turns people into Clockwork Oranges (Ourang is Malay for "Man"): they are not being good from choice (sentiments later echoed by the prison chaplain). The film reflects this: many bad scenes in a Clockwork Orange are accompanied by jolly music; if we are to experience them as we should, we have to do it consciously, by realising they are bad, and not because the director tells us so through the use of music and images.

A Clockwork Orange has many brutal scenes--horrible scenes I don't want to describe to you (I saw the movie as a teenager)--that are, as Steven describes, accompanied by light-hearted music and performed in a humorous way. (The word "ultraviolence" was coined in this film.) While I see the point that Steven says Kubrick is trying to make, I also think that movies like this cast the villains in a sympathetic light: audiences are inclined to laugh at the horrific rather than have the natural reaction (which would be, uh, horror). They are inclined to like the bad guy and root for him rather than reject or hate him.

This can be said for countless films where the villain is more interesting and sympathetic than the hero, or where the villain is the hero. At the extreme end--the Saws and Saw IIs of the world--the audience laughs when they see terrifying, realistic suffering.

All this makes me think of

2. Quentin Tarantino movies. I was still working at video stores when his movies first came out amidst much positive buzz and fanfare. I saw Reservoir Dogs and part of True Romance--and then swore him off forever. Tarantino has made his name writing and directing films that are ultra-hip, ultraviolent and ultra-realistic. He combined humor, slick editing, quick dialogue and gore to entice audiences and introduce a David Cronenberg-like, macabre filmmaking style.

As a moviegoer at the time, I felt deceived by him; I thought I was getting an action movie with Reservoir Dogs, and I got torture. I thought I was getting a love story with True Romance, and I got violent, sadistic beating scenes (and not much else, since I walked out). I've read enough about his other movies to know they didn't get any better. People praise his originality and flash--but I seldom read any protests or concerns.

Do people really, really think that watching movies like the above don't have any effect on them or on others?

Several of you commented on the last post, wondering aloud about desensitization and the effect of violent programming and film on audiences (particularly impressionable children). On one hand, I do think there are different "kinds" of violence, and I think some ways of presenting it are more damaging than others (e.g., Die Hard versus Saw--there's a difference). The lines being crossed, with even industry insiders labeling films "torture porn", should concern everyone. I don't know just how it might affect the children that watch this stuff for entertainment now, but I can't imagine the effect being neutral.

Psalm 18:48
He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.

Prov 16:29
A man of violence entices his neighbor
and leads him in a way that is not good.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Nation's Sick Obsession with Horror

Yesterday I read this article about the recent re-emergence of gory horror movies in America. Horror movies have been around since the invention of celluloid, but they are, if possible, getting worse.

One of my first blog posts in November 2004 was called "Current Films." I wrote:

The movie industry is one of the enemy's primary indoctrination tools for the US and for people around the world who embrace American pop culture. Movie theaters are like temples for postmodern worshipers. Inside these places of "idol" worship (isn't that what many stars are called?), audiences are exposed to everything from serial killings, rapes, incest, adultery, and much more...all in the name of entertainment, the pop culture's god.

I then quoted a review of Saw from Plugged In Online, a Christian review site affiliated with Focus on the Family:

'Touting torture as a treat becomes the heart of Saw--something that should automatically send most morally minded moviegoers running for the exits. And yet, sadly, it won’t.

In all honesty, Saw's perverse pictures weren't the most disturbing things I saw while reviewing it. It was disconcerting enough to sit in a theater full of mothers with their 8-year-old boys in tow and groups of 12-year-old girls chaperoned by solitary adults. It was nearly intolerable to witness them--kids and adults--applauding when a man onscreen got his brains bashed in. And laughing when Lawrence sobbed helplessly on the cell phone while his wife and daughter struggled at gunpoint with their kidnapper.

So in the end, Saw may say even more about the people who see it than it does about the people who created it.'

Saw II came out not long ago, distributed by Lion's Gate, the same studio that gave us the Oscar-winning Crash.

I found the new MSNBC article fascinating for a couple of reasons. As I wrote above, horror films are nothing new, but:

1. More horror films are being made (perhaps as many as in the 80s).

Lions Gate's "Saw" franchise, the genre's current kingpin, has rung up $250 million worldwide; a third film is planned for Halloween. Three more creepfests are scheduled for the next month, starting with Universal's "Slither" this Friday. Even Disney has gotten into the act with the PG-13 flick "Stay Alive," which, alas, is not about the systematic slaughter of disco fans. "In 1990, I had to pull my hair out just to find a movie to put on the cover," says Fangoria magazine editor Tony Timpone. "There were only three or four major horror releases a year. Now there's three or four a month. We're like pigs in slop."

2. The way the audience experiences the movie is different than ever before. Filmmakers are taking pains to make everything more realistic, and I don't just mean the dismembering.

It's not jokey violence, either. 'Filmmakers now have the ability to put viewers directly into the shoes of the victims going through these horrible things, in an almost documentary way,' says Bob Weinstein, whose Scream franchise for Dimension Films launched the last horror fad in 1996. Some critics--smart ones like New York Magazine's David Edelstein, not just nervous Nellies--argue that the trend verges on 'torture porn.' Even people within the industry are torn. 'It's not the violence that bothers me so much as the tone. A George Romero movie was so political and funny and subversive,' says Picturehouse Films president Bob Berney, who marketed The Passion of the Christ. 'To me, these newer movies are purely sadistic.'

Even the industry insiders can see clearly that these movies are sick.

Did anyone hear James Dobson's interview with Ted Bundy? Bundy was forthright about the link between porn, his fantasies, and ultimately, his actions. Studies have shown that, no matter what Hollywood wants the populace to believe, what people imbibe through their eyes and ears has an effect on their thoughts and behavior. It's pathetic that such things need studies, actually; they should be self-evident. You are what you ingest, in more ways than one.

Oh, by the way, check out the audience for these films:

Sixty-five percent of the audience for "Hostel" was younger than 25, which is par for the genre.

I watched a lot of Friday the 13th-type movies when I was a kid, and I didn't emerge unscathed. Once you put images in your mind, did you know you can never erase them?

...People passed out during previews of Hostel. 'I feel bad that some people had such an extreme reaction,' says Palen, 'but as a marketer, it was an opportunity to alert people who relish that kind of movie that we've got one for them.'

Well, that's dandy. Let's make sure we give people who relish realistic gore just what they're looking for. And never mind the consequences.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Some Announcements

We've had a lot going on lately. Why do the wonderful and exciting things seem to happen at the same time as the horrible? Yet by God's mercy we will make it through all of them without giving in to either pride or despair.

Please pray for my dear mother-in-law, Helen. She was diagnosed with Stage II cancer in/near her kidney a few days ago; she gets the CATscan results today. She undergoes surgery March 21. Helen knows the Lord, but this is certainly an opportunity for her to know Him more deeply. Please pray that she will hold on to Him, and that the unsaved members of Ryan's family will be drawn to Jesus.

Helen is a career nurse and lives up to the stereotype: you'd be hard-pressed to find a day where she's not tending to or comforting someone, or holding a baby close in her arms. And I'm talking outside of her work hours!

In the midst of this family crisis, we are also experiencing the joy (and STRESS!) of purchasing a new home. We found one in Athens that we absolutely love and that is near everywhere we want to be (close to work, downtown and our gym).

(Guys, you can tune out for a moment here... Ladies, here are some details!)

It's a four bedroom, three bath, three-sides brick with a full basement! Okay, I'll try not to end every sentence with an exclamation point. The kitchen, arguably the most important room in the house, has hardwood flooring, granite countertops, deep sinks, and stainless steel appliances. There's a tiled sunroom that opens to the deck. Upstairs, there's a generous loft area, a bedroom and a full bath. Ryan plans to finish the basement at some point into a recording studio. One of the guest rooms--a nice-sized room with a vaulted ceiling--is going to be my study.


(Gentlemen, it's safe to start listening again.)

I have spoken with Joe Schimmel, the pastor of my church in California, Blessed Hope Chapel, about working with him as an editor of his articles and books. In our first upcoming project I'm supporting his work with The DaVinci Con. Joe will be exposing the lies in Dan Brown's DaVinci Code, as well as showing how neo-gnosticism pervades modern religious thought. I'll let you know when the articles are up on the site.

In case you live in the Ventura or LA area:

"THE DA VINCI CON-ference"
MAY 6, 2006
in Simi Valley, California
Join us as Pastor Joe Schimmel and Kirk Cameron host a live conference
exposing the The Da Vinci Code. This free conference will provide you with
a thorough understanding of the "Con" behind the "Code".

Thursday, March 09, 2006

If You Weren't Looking for Me, You Might Find Me Anyway

This is all explained here.

Got some doozies for you guys this time. In mock honor of the Oscars, let's have the Weird Ways to Get to Kristen's Blog Awards! Winners are indicated in bold and have been determined most injudiciously by a panel of one.

*trumpets and fanfare*

First, in the "What Does That Have to Do with Anything?" category:

1. girl hug boy
2. song napoleon dynamite walking
3. flava flav's daughter
4. michael and debi pearl grinding grains (at last, someone not seeking controversy!)
5. Psalms to get a job (Hint: chanting Psalms will not land you a gig.)
6. Obey hats

In the "Offensive to Kristen Personally" (AKA, the "You'll Be Hearing from My Lawyer") category:

2. appear to be serving (Excuse me?!)
3. walkingcircumspectly cult (Now THAT's going too far. What? That red Kool-Aid? That's simply for the refreshment of guests! Have some!)
4. Kristen was arrested for (People, that's called SLANDER. Or LIBEL. Hmpf. Well, I get them confused, but my LAWYER WON'T!)
5. Kristin mock Georgia (If you're going to accuse me of rebellion against the Motherland, at least spell my name correctly.)

In the "This Just Might Have Something to Do with Something I've Written" category:

1. it's time to talk the walk of shame
2. women walking in the newness of life (Eh, Rach?)
3. help me to love my husband (YAY! Someone sane!)

And in the "Heck Yeah!" category:

1. Kristen first
2. Kristen's Cookie Company
3. Kristen pinnacle reality (Confusing, but sounds complimentary. I'll take what I can get.)
4. relief of Kristen (We've discussed this before, but to reiterate, my relief can be achieved through the necessary quantities of dark chocolate, new books, deluxe Yahtzee games, and new shoes. Thankyou.)

Congratulations to the winners. It was a tough decision for the judge, but in every contest there must be winners and losers. Good luck to next month's competitors, and I hope you can all join me again for another glamorous evening of weird links and inane references!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Dealing with Deferred Dreams without Losing Hope

Or maybe it's Dealing with Deferred Hopes without Losing Your Dream. Something like that.

I've been thinking lately about how different my life is from what I expected it to be even five years ago. Ryan and I married and within just a few months were convicted about using the Pill. That's another post, but although we would have told you at the time that we didn't know what God was going to do, we did expect that we'd have children fairly soon after that. Every month my heart became more sad and broken when it became evident that this month, too, my womb was empty. I think it was then that my heart began to harden a little bit. Didn't God know His own Word?

Proverbs 13:12
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.


Psalm 37:4-5
Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him, and he will act.

Of course, that's not all there is to it. So many people (including myself, I think, at times) emphasize the "desires of your heart" part without qualifying it with the first part of the sentence in the latter scripture. Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

When you truly delight yourself in God--meditating on His Word, coming to know what He's like--what were the desires of your heart change from what they were before you knew Him. You become more like Him, loving what He loves and desiring what He desires.

But I was different. My desire (to have children and be home with them) was (is) a godly one. Wasn't it put there by God? Won't He grant it?

It's still the desire of my heart, and yes, I believe it's a godly one. And honestly, I do think He will grant it. But it may not be--it has not been--in my timing. My life has not turned out as I thought and hoped it would so far...but I must remember that GOD is the lifter of my head; He orders my steps; He's the one with a plan. Not me. I don't know anything; I can't even make a hair on my head white or black. I am not in charge. I don't weave the tapestry.

The solution to a dream deferred--the way out of a disappointed heart--is to look to God and not to myself. My own godly dreams can either be simple hopes, or they can become idols. Sometimes we don't get what we want, even if what we want is okay, even glorious and God-designed.

It's not either/or; it's not crushed dreams or fulfilled ones. It's finding my dreams in what God reveals for me day by day.

As I said, I do think God will make me a mother, somehow, someday. But if He doesn't, my trust and hope is in Him, and I know He knows what He's doing with my life. I am not falling through the cracks, and I have a responsibility to live every day to the fullest in Him, looking for what He's doing TODAY, and not living and feeling as though my life "won't really start" until there's a new life growing in me.

Romans 6:17-18
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.