How Violent Is too Violent?

         You can see it all around you. Every time you turn around you are hit in the face with it. The youth of America cannot seem to get enough of it, and Hollywood pumps it out by the buck full. So what is this thing that seems inescapable? Violence, it is on the big screen and our television sets in our homes. Even as I sit here writing this paper, I see a pregnant woman being wheeled into an emergency room, where she and her baby die on the stretcher. On Sunday afternoon, as I watched television, I saw Wesley Snipes slicing up vampires in the movie Blade Two. One has to wonder then if all of this violence is a bad thing? I suppose this is all a matter of opinion. Some might say, “So much violence is teaching the youth of America to be more violent,” while others might say, “Showing the actual violence makes for a more realistic movie, and it is up to the parents to rear their children to know how to act.” Personally, I believe there is a happy medium between these two ways of thinking. Within this paper I will highlight some of the reasons I believe this to be true all the while using the movie A Streetcar Named Desire and the movie Sin City as examples to prove my point.

         To begin, after taking a film and literature class, I was exposed to several classical films. On such film was A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Elia Kazan in 1951. In this particular film there is one very memorable scene in which a rape takes place. However, the times being what they were and the censors being the way they were, the most the audience sees is the victim Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh), while in the arms of her attacker Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando), throwing her head back, while the audience sees her reflection in a mirror that shatters. From here the film moves on to the next scene; and, at best, the audience might be able to infer what had actually happened. If I had not been in this class and read the original work written by Tennessee Williams in 1947, I would not have known that was actually what happened in the story. I am not saying that I needed to see the characters naked and a woman being violated; but, in this case, the rape was a very important part of the story. So while the women and children were spared seeing such a horrific scene, they may have missed out on the whole theme of the story, which is the danger of desire. Perhaps the censors could have allowed for the two characters to end up on the bed fighting, while an article of clothing, without revealing breasts or genitalia, could have been ripped further, showing the man’s intentions.

         On the other end of the spectrum there is a movie like Sin City, directed by Robert Rodriguez in 2005. Within this movie, there are scenes in which characters are shot, mutilated, fornicating, and raped. These scenes are vividly shown and, at times, a person might even argue hard to watch due to the graphic nature. There seems to be no reserve when depicting the violent scenes within this movie. One may wonder then, is all of this necessary or why should the audience be exposed to this? Well, similarly to the rape in A Streetcar Named Desire, these violent acts are vital to the overall story of the film. The whole point of the movie Sin City is to show the unpleasant, disgusting, real parts of our society. How can this be done without actually showing these grotesque scenes?

         Here is my stance then. I am a fan of both of these film and both for different reasons. However, I have to say that I might not care as much for A Streetcar Named Desire had I not actually known the storyline from reading the book. With that in mind, I say censorship that takes away vital parts of the story is wrong. To be honest, I think any kind of censorship is wrong; but it, unfortunately, is going to happen regardless. So if it is going to happen, I would prefer it is targeted towards pointless violence in the films. What I mean is, if a violent scene has no purpose other than flare and spectacle then maybe it is unnecessary; but, if it is vital to the story, as in the case of Streetcar and Sin City, then leave it in.

John Luttrell

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