Random thoughts on our impending doom and everyday life, courtesy of a Romance Writer who occasionally feels the need to talk like a Sailor.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Under the Gun... or, Violence.

You know the feeling. You’ve had a looong day. People were rude to you on the bus and the traffic was backed up to the state line. Some useless barista got your order for a Caramel Mocha Latte wrong and served up something best described as liquid death.  Then there was the office to deal with. Let me f*cking tell you about the office. Obnoxious, self-serving, malignant gossips with a Justin Beiber in rubber fetish, that’s the office. They couldn’t pay anyone enough to make it alright. What’s worse, they don’t even try, the cheapskates. So you’re finally home. An electricity bill for $923 was waiting in your mailbox and your Ex has left some random phone message, hinting of your imminent destruction or something. Or maybe they just want their blender back. (Which is complete bullsh*t, you totally got the blender in the separation agreement. Who cares whose mother brought it even?) Anyhoo, clearly it’s time to kick back and relax. Time to de-stress. And how are you going to do this? How indeed…


Now violence in the real world isn’t a whole lot of fun. Either it’s scary and painful or you go to Martial Arts classes in which case it’s just hard work. But violence in movies and books is another story entirely. Why? Why is it so fun? For rational minded folk, seeing a ripsnorter of a car chase or a wicked gun battle fought on alien territory is a fine sort of entertainment. We know it’s fantasy, right? Because the vicarious thrill is kind of the whole point. A good action scene can get the blood pumping and adrenaline flowing. It gives us the thrills without the spills. Ripley battling the Alien in a suit of robotic armour? Win. Uma Thurman carving a room of Japanese Gang members apart in a skin tight yellow suit? Excellent. Milla Jovovich in the little red dress with the big black gun? Awesome. Bring it on.

So why do normally day to day peaceful kind of people suddenly howl for fake blood when confronted with the latest cinematic smash-up masterpiece? When things become violent they automatically become dramatic. People usually only resort to violence when the stakes are high. And by resorting to violence, the stakes suddenly spike higher again. This is it. Do or die. In an action scene there are greater opportunities for showing character. People’s true colours fly when they’ve nothing left to lose. Are they cowards set to bolt at the first sign of trouble or will they stick to their course till the end? Dramatic violence often conjures up the image of ‘agon’, the contest. Lots of fight scenes and battles are portrayed as a test of will. The question is how much the lead character is willing to sacrifice to gain the prize. How much self belief do they have? How bad do they want it? The opportunity for catharsis is huge. C’mon Rocky, get up off the mat! We’re all willing you on. Of course, it’s also a question of skill. Did that last montage scene really stick or did it reek of Nickelback and fake sword play? Ask yourself.

He's a victim I tell you. What other possible reason could he have for being tied up?
There’s a visceral reaction to violence, even to violent words. The colour of blood and the crunching impact of a fist hitting a face. The speed and closeness of a car chase and the near miss of the bullet. The classic fears: drowning, heights, darkness, sharks. Violence can be useful for engaging an audience. Human beings are wired to react to this stimulus. A few thousand years of running away from saber tooth tigers and escaping the Mongol hordes tends to leave an imprint.

And what better way to play out a love story than against a backdrop of chaos and change? If a fight to the death doesn’t make you a worthy mate then what will? Isn’t love the ultimate prize? If our hero can walk away with the girl at the end then ain’t that just the cherry on top? Got an anti-hero in need of redemption? Say no more! But it’s far more realistic if a couple under a crazy amount of pressure start falling for each other within a day of meeting of each other, than if they’ve just met at the dog park.

So that’s this blog’s thinking on violence in book and movies. Got an opinion? A kick-butt book or movie I should have mentioned? See you in the comments…

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