To be criminals

It was interesting that Thursday evening’s class drew a parallel between the Continental Op and Rorshach. That hadn’t occurred to me. I thought of a similarity to Batman in Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. Batman is quoted as having said, “We’ve always been criminals. We have to be criminals.” On one hand, Batman and the Op are supposed to forces for good, on the other, they can play as dirty as the bad guys.

Some stories just give up on good guys altogether. In gangster movies like Miller’s Crossing or The Godfather, the “heroes” are nothing but criminals. And that leads back to our culture’s fascination with violence, which was also discussed in class. I’m familiar with Pinker’s thesis that human civilization is less violent than ever through his TED talk. While I can see his point, I’m not sure that I’m ready to agree with it. In contrast, it seems that American media culture is more violent than ever. Maybe we’re trying to achieve some kind of equilibrium, or maybe we’re appeasing the darker side of our nature with fantasies.

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1 Response to To be criminals

  1. Jim Groom says:

    Paul,
    I agree with the idea that violence as a reality hasn’t gone away in the 20th century, but intrigued by the idea that the media hype around all things violent stands in for some of the larger trends historically in the society becoming more peacable and controlled—or violence as a state-mediated phenomenon. I won’t for a minute suggest I know that to be true, and while Pinker’s book has a lot of data and graphs that try and establish this, that isn’t necessarily enough evidence to stand in for thousands of years of historical violence.

    That said, the idea that the saturation of contemporary media with violence, and in particular the noir strand of narrative, might be a means of meeting some evolutionary human need is fascinating. We crave the figure of the cop as a trop because we want to see first hand the violence we have been sheltered from in the modern era. There are deep limits to the idea of psychological evolution over any short period of time, but nonetheless I wonder if this narrative is so compelling because we crave the violence so. We are all like the Continental Op, on some deep level we all fantasize about pouring nitroglycerin in our neighbor’s zippo lighter 🙂

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