Sunday, January 30, 2011
Some have accused violent video games of inspiring real life acts of violence. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the infamous perpetrators of the Columbine school shooting, were known to play video games such as Doom and Wolfenstein 3D. Some have argued that after getting in trouble and having their computer use restricted, the pair was forced to seek alternate means to vent their anger. In a move that can only be taken as either a brilliant act of artistic creation or a display of complete tastelessness, an independent party has created a role playing game depiction of the shootings.
Several governments have implemented measures to restrict graphic depictions of violence in video games. In Australia, after controversy over violent video games such as Mortal Kombat, a classification scheme for video games was introduced in 1994; games which did not meet the fairly strict requirements for a MA 15+ rating were effectively banned. This has lead to situations such as the release of Left 4 Dead 2 in 2009, where after having their game rejected by the Australian Classification Board, the developers were forced to create a version of the game with toned down gore in order to sell their game in the Australian market.
The game play of Left 4 Dead 2 involves the player and three other survivors cooperating to fight off a seemingly endless onslaught of infected, humans who have contracted a virus which transforms them into a violent zombie-like state, using a diverse array of close quarters and ranged weaponry. In the "uncensored" version of the game, the player's weapons can cause grotesque damage to the infected, severing limbs and causing body parts to explode. During intense battles, the player's screen can become so inundated with blood splatters that it can be difficult to play the game. The level of gore is strongly toned down in the Australian version. The player's weapons no longer causes the infected to graphically lose body parts, the amount of blood produced during combat is drastically reduced, and the screen no longer becomes clouded by blood splatters. However, even though the gore is reduced, the core gameplay of the game is still, at its essence, highly violent.
Examples such as the Australian release of Left 4 Dead 2 have been criticized as examples of government censorship. In the United States, fictional depictions of violence in video games are relatively unrestricted, although games with sexual content such as The Witcher have had "censored" versions released for the American market. Government restrictions on the content of video games are especially contentious as there does not appear to be a clear correlation between playing video games and aggressive behavior. If violent content in video games cannot be shown to have an effect on aggressive behavior, how can this censorship be justified and does a government have a right to restrict the content in video games in the first place? Furthermore, how can such a rule be fairly enforced? It would be difficult to quantify the level of violence in a video game - or sexuality or any other quality worthy of censorship, for that matter - and the classification schemes in place rely on an entirely subjective judgement call.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
In his latest album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye characteristics himself as one who wields tremendous power and influence, and who on occasion abuses them, thereby casting himself as an abomination, and thus a monster. Common threads that run through his work, namely disillusionment, fear, shock and anger continually led me again and again to the image of Francisco Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son.
While an image so often cited that it is now almost beyond cliché, I couldn’t help notice that the languages that Kanye’s lyrics and the Goya’s brushstrokes speak are strikingly similar. Kanye claims that as a monster, his “eyes [are] more red than the devil’s,” while Jay-Z notes that even today’s monsters continue to “Murder murder in black convertibles” and their psyches continue to be terrorized by “fiends scream[ing] in my dream.” Thus, both it is clear that as monsters, terror and grotesqueness are manifest both externally as well as internally.
Despite the gulf of time, it is clear that several commonalities are able to transcend temporal and physical separation. Goya’s monster is easily just as grotesque as evidenced by his matted hair and the blood flowing around his mouth. In my mind, this drew inevitable comparisons to Nicki Minaj’s verse, which promises that “first things first I’ll eat your brains,” once again justifying her actions because after all, “that’s what a muthaf-cking monster do.” A monstrous appetite for destruction is evidently a common thread. Disillusionment is no stranger as well. Saturn’s eyes are flush with terror and horror, as if finally recognizing that despite committing such an aberrant act, his monstrous qualities quell all efforts to control himself, clearly reflecting that he is a monster not only on the outside, but also on the inside.
Sure, these days being a monster has changed slightly. More specifically, it seems like we’ve continued on some sort evolutionary trajectory, or at least one that’s spawned more creative means such as Uzi’s, AK’s, plasma pistols, gravity guns and so on. By using more or less similar imagery and language to conjure terror, it seems what society associates with monsters has been consistent - Goya’s monster and Kanye’s may not be so far removed from each other after all.
Marvin's death is interestingly not shown on screen, with the camera cutting away to the outside of the car when he is shot. The majority of the violence in Pulp Fiction is implied in the same way, with Tarantino opting to use cutaways and long shots to underplay the actual violence occuring. Because of this, this allows us as an audience to take the violence even less seriously since we are not actually shown the actual bloody images of it. Instead, we follow the quirky characters into the absurd situations that follow.
This is a painting called The Triumph of Death. Pieter Bruegel the Elder painted it in 1562. It attempts to show the death and horror of the time of the Black Death, some 200 years earlier.
The Black Death was the worst pandemic in recorded history, taking place between 1348 and 1350. It originated in Asia and spread to Europe, killing between 30% and 60% of the population. The population of the world dropped from 450 million to 350 million. The "Little Ice Age" was happening at the same time. The combination of famine and disease made Europe a very unpleasant and desperate place to live.
The population took 150 years to recover and the event had a profound effect on the course of human history.
The Triumph of Death is oil on canvas. An army of skeletons is rampaging throughout a black and broken landscape. Smoke from burning bodies is rising in the distance. People from every social class are fleeing, fighting, and being slaughtered indiscriminately. There is a solitary cross near the middle which is having no positive effect on the mayhem.
Read more about this painting in the NYU database:
Thursday, January 27, 2011
CNN is my homepage and I love being informed on a lot of issues, not surprisingly enough however, violence is a staple of the website. I mean we all know the saying ‘If it bleeds, it leads” but I think it might be a little bit overkill (hate to say exactly what the other Charlie said but ‘no pun intended’). I mean even in the last 24 hours headlines about rat poisonings, The Grim Sleeper serial murderer, a five year old with a loaded gun in school, birds dying from blunt trauma, changes in the security ratings, and the video I posted today Utah dances with the idea of a pistol as their state symbol, violence is media gold and we see that with this video:
The video itself sucks but the main point is that Utah may have a John Browning Pistol as the state symbol.I mean let’s be serious here, I love the Second Amendment (I’m from rural small town, Illinois and actually knew a girl who had named her hunting dog… ‘Browning’). And I fully plan on buying a firearm if the situation becomes necessary. But Utah, C’mon! We have the right to conceal a weapon but making it your state symbol is crossing the line. Making it the staple of your state is almost terroristic, in the sense that they flaunt AK-47s and blast bazookas to show their military prowess. What message does this send to anyone not from Utah?--"Uhh... badmouth Mormonism or the BYU mascot, Cosmo the Cougar, and I'll blow your f-cking head off!" It's just too aggressive in my mind. I mean if the people want to pay homage to a state hero I understand that but I live in the Land of Lincoln and I don't think North Carolina should change their state nickname to the Land of Gatling. I mean I love America and Utah is probably a fine place but this is just a little too much for me. The transcontinental railroad was completed in Utah, why not make a RR spike your state symbol like your quarters (I love coins)? But then again I’m sure some other person might b-tch and moan and retell the story of Phineas Gage (he gets a RR spike through his head…and lives). All I’m saying is that there is some other alternative to having a deadly, killing machine as your state symbol, but then again its not my call, only my opinion.
The first time I saw this, I couldn't help but laugh at the absurdity and shear awesomeness of the concept. Thanks to a video game, you no longer needed to endure grueling training to become an elite soldier. You could be a concierge or a pizza chef, and still dual wield Glocks. Even national basketball icons like Kobe Bryant could make a guest appearance to an important tactical fight in a derelict building. Everyone could having a blast (no pun intended).
Notice that this trailer praises the "coolness" of war and completely bypasses all of the horrors, similarly to a US Army recruitment video. You get to shoot guns at faceless targets, blow stuff up, meet new people, and blow more stuff up together. Despite all the rounds fired at these pedestrian "soldiers" who don't find much necessity in using cover, no one is hurt. This is especially obvious in the last few seconds of the trailer when everyone is running about in the open: they might as well be playing laser-tag. One man in the football jersey looks like he may have been hit when a car explodes, but the audience must assume that he will get up unharmed, laugh it off, and start shooting away--because you cannot show death in a commercial.
It's interesting how violence can be embraced when there is no concept of loss. It loses a great deal of its significance when the person the violence is directed towards can just brush it off, in which case one might ask if it can still be called "violence". Such violence sells, and thus the marketers behind Black Ops gave the intended audience exactly what they wanted.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Saturday, January 22, 2011
This course is not for the weak of heart. You will encounter maiming in florid, archaic diction. You will see stylized and gory combat. You listen to jeremiad and battle cry alike. You will witness dissolution and rape. You will be suplexed, ddt’d, and piledriven. But through it all, you will partake in one of the 20th and 21st centuries most contested debates: the role of violence in popular culture. Pundits rave about the effects of violent video games, violent music, and violent television on the mental and social health of children. Year after year, directors and producers pump millions of dollars into increasingly violent movies, movies that make those millions back while collecting trophies. This April nearly a hundred thousand people will flock to an arena to see men beat each other up, as tens of thousands see this spectacle at arenas across the country night after night. It goes without question that our society is one obsessed with violence. Besides the routine news reports of wars, inner-city violence, and bizarre tabloid articles, we willingly pay for the chance to be entertained by violent art, a form of art as old as the Bible and the Iliad. You’d think that our survival instincts—the ones that protect us against bodily harm—would have steered us clear of depictions of our fellow humans in all sorts of agony, but that’s obviously not the case.
In this course, we will try to figure out how and why violence simultaneously appeals to us and revolts us. We’ll write essays that analyze violent works from a variety of critical perspectives. And in the end, we’ll hopefully learn more about who we are, what our relationship to violence is, and how to articulate our insights to others.
If you are not in this course, please feel free to read and comment as much as you'd like. This blog is not only for the students to display their writings, but also to interact with the larger community of Internet-users.