All violence is equal, but some violence is more equal than others

Movie review one:

The movie is a viscerally exciting, adrenaline-soaked tour de force of suspense and surprise, full of explosions and hectic scenes of combat, but it blows a hole in the condescending assumption that such effects are just empty spectacle or mindless noise.


Ms. Bigelow, practicing a kind of hyperbolic realism, distills the psychological essence and moral complications of modern warfare into a series of brilliant, agonizing set pieces.


It has intense, horrific violence and appropriately profane reactions to the prospect of same.

Let me sum that up: This is an incredibly violent movie, with really gross stuff, but we love it.

Movie review two:

[This movie] thoroughly blurs the line between high-minded outrage and lurid torture-porn.


Not since “The Passion of the Christ” has a film depicted a public execution in such graphic detail. In the approximately 20 minutes during which the killing unfolds, the camera repeatedly returns to study the battered face and body of the title character (Mozhan Marno) as she is stoned to death.


In one of the film’s sickeningly exploitative touches, Ali, wearing a triumphal grin, examines his wife’s crumpled, blood-drenched body to make sure she is dead and discovers signs of life in a rolled-up eye. The stoning is promptly resumed.


Mr. Negahban’s Ali, who resembles a younger, bearded Philip Roth, suggests an Islamic fundamentalist equivalent of a Nazi anti-Semitic caricature. With his malevolent smirk and eyes aflame with arrogance and hatred, he is as satanic as any horror-movie apparition.


As “The Passion of the Christ” showed, the stimulation of blood lust in the guise of moral righteousness has its appeal.

Again, let me sum things up: This is an incredibly violent movie, with really gross stuff, and we were deeply offended.

As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, the second movie is The Stoning of Soraya M. It depicts true events in an Iranian village that is subject to the worst kind of sharia law, misogyny, and power run amok.  The movie does not shy away from showing what it looks like for someone to be stoned to death, nor the evil that motivates that kind of action.  And lest you think the violence is exaggerated, just think of the beheading tapes the jihadis like to release, in which they are in an ecstasy of bloodlust.  Bottom line:  showing the true horror of a religious, misogynistic act is really tacky, and it’s downright cruel to force New York Times reviewers to have to watch it.

The first movie may not be one you’ve heard of.  It’s called The Hurt Locker — and is a critic’s pick.  Set during 2004 in Iraq, it shows a squad dedicated to disarming (or blowing up) IEDs.  The only really problem, in the critic’s eyes, is that the film isn’t more antiwar.  Thus, he lauds the fact that “you will . . . be thinking” but complains that the film did not go further:

[You will . . . be thinking] Not necessarily about the causes and consequences of the Iraq war, mind you. The filmmakers’ insistence on zooming in on and staying close to the moment-to-moment experiences of soldiers in the field is admirable in its way but a little evasive as well.

It is in this context that the reviewer thinks all that bloody, graphic, horrifying violence is just about the most thrilling thing he’s seen in, God, who knows how long.  Bottom line:  showing American military people and Iraqi citizens being blown up in graphic detail is incredibly exciting, because it reminds us that Bush lied and people died.

As I said, all violence is equal, but some violence is definitely more exciting and rewarding than others.

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  • Ymarsakar

    They love seeing their enemies blown up. After all, their money went to pay for it so why shouldn’t they get the enjoyment of seeing it here as well.

    The Islamic extremists don’t have a conscience. The Left doesn’t have a conscience. They are the same, and it is only attempts to differentiate them that has muddied this war against America’s enemies.

  • kali

    Teenagers are always fond of pointing out how Americans like violence in their movies, but not sexuality. Well, mine were :) I always countered that the difference wasn’t based in how violence or sex were depicted, but the underlying morality they promoted. ie, if the violence was in redress of wrongs, or in self-defense, it was acceptable. If the sex celebrated adultery or promiscuity, it wasn’t. This is a huge generalization, but I still think that it has a core of truth, even in these “anything goes as long as it shocks” days.

    In these two movies, the underlying morality is war==bad, stoning==bad. Whether the level of violence is artistic or sadistic depends on which the reviewer agrees with.

    No, I don’t actually think the reviewer of The Stoning of Soraya M. thinks stoning is good, but I’m betting that he/she is caught up in the fear that such depictions will cause the average American to turn savage themselves and start slaughtering their Arab and/or Persian neighbors or worse, clamoring to go to war with Iran.

  • suek


    You raise a good point – violence _can_ have a good end as a result. And sexual depiction in movies is almost _always_ celebrating adultery, fornication or just simply promiscuity. One exception is the movie “True Lies” and even that isn’t exactly an exception. The plot is one in which Schwarzenegger’s “wife” (Jamie Lee Curtis)gets suckered into a spy plan, and Schwarzenegger – who actually _is_ a spy – finds out about it and sets out to teach her a lesson. Part of that is to seduce a complete stranger (although she is assured that he won’t touch her) by dancing for him. The “stranger” is actually her husband, but he’s in a darkened room and she can’t recognize him (this part’s a bit weak). So it’s sexual in a farcical way – pretty unusual in movies.

    Besides – the sexual drive is common to virtually all of us – killing and/or blowing people up…not so much. As a result, the violence in movies is easier to separate ourselves from than the sexual material.

  • Ymarsakar

    Violence is nice and cuddly, like a carebear.

  • kali

    “Violence is nice and cuddly, like a carebear”

    Ymar, it’s certainly something you can share with strangers . . .

  • March Hare

    What I find interesting in the few reviews of “Stoning” that I’ve read is the obsession the reviewers have with the director’s connection with “The Passion of the Christ” and “American Carol.” They seem to feel this shows that the director is hopelessly ideological–and Not One of Us. Therefore, the message is automatically discredited.

    So why aren’t the ideological creds of other directors mentioned in reviews of those movies, especially Left-wing ideological movies?

    Don’t worry–I’m not naive. The question is rhetorical…

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