If you have a look at Kids in Mind, that movie review site I mentioned in yesterday’s post, you’ll be reminded of the importance of putting movie violence in context. Check it out here.
The site evaluates movies in three categories: Sex and Nudity, Violence and Gore, and Profanity, using a 1-10 scale for each category. A G-rated cartoon story would probably get 1’s in everything, unless there was a fight with a bully, in which case it might get a 2 or 3 in Violence. The site doesn’t recommend this or that movie as appropriate for this or that age group. It just says, “Here are the ingredients of the movie. Read and make your decision.”
A horrifically violent movie like Hostel, which is Exhibit A in a new, sick movie genre called “torture porn,” gets a 10 in violence. Read the review’s nightmarish list of violent incidents if you can stand it, but be warned: even reading the list, as I had to for this post, does violence to the mind and soul, even more so when you realize this is being offered as entertainment.
(PS: It would be revealing to have a free-speech absolutist run through that catalog of butchery and justify it, and to ask if he’d let his/her teenagers watch the movie.)
Hostel also draws a 9 for Sex and Nudity and another 10 for Profanity, probably because sadistic murderers and people being tortured for someone’s amusement tend to use a lot of bad language.
So the Hostel breakdown is: 9-10-10.
Then notice the review for Saving Private Ryan, the great WW II movie. Not surprisingly, Ryan draws a 9 for violence. If you remember that unbelievable D-Day scene, you know why. And men facing the terrors and constant stress of combat use a lot of bad language, so the film gets a 7 there. Needless to say, there’s no sex or nudity on the battlefield.
Ryan score: 1-9-7 for extreme violence and a fusillade of profanity.
I can’t imagine subjecting myself to the torture porn of Hostel, and I shudder to think that our 12-year old daughter might ever seen even five minutes of such a perverse spectacle. I worry about all the still-developing young people who will have their minds scarred by this stuff. The fact that this movie made a lot of money at the box office, as will its upcoming sequel, says something deeply disturbing about our culture.
But you know what? I’d let my daughter watch Ryan if she wanted to. I’d tell her about it in advance, maybe have her read the Kids in Mind review, but I’d have few misgivings about her watching this great film. The violence is awful because war is awful. The language is crude because frightened people pressed to their limits talk that way.
And we can’t ignore the context in which the violence is presented. Ryan is a chapter of our world’s actual history, with a moral dimension to the violence. Evil people began the war; brave people who did not want to fight left their homes and families to serve a cause greater than themselves. Millions gave their lives so that a maniacal dictator with a twisted ideology would not rule large parts of the world.
Hostel is a desecration of humanity and can be recognized as such by the religious and by the secular. It invites us to watch people dismembered, disemboweled and otherwise tortured–for our entertainment. Even if the movie tacks on some kind of ending in which the bad guys–I mean, the guys who are even worse than the people being entertained–get theirs, that will be just another excuse to kill in “cool” new ways.
Beside the characters and the creators of Hostel, the average Nazi soldier was a paragon of nobility.