Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Horror sublimation

Jesse Berrett, who taught me US history through film back in high school (some of whose films I did not appreciate at the time, but later noticed on imdb's top 250 and realized were brilliant), had a crazy idea back in high school. Essentially he thought that the "torture-porn" genre of films, the Hostel's and Saw's of the world, were successful because the US public needs some way to sublimate our horror over the Iraq war. There's some other mumbo jumbo too, it all sounds oddly Freudian to me. You can read his full argument here.

Quite frankly, I originally chalked up the argument to random neuronal noise, since he is generally such a critical thinker (the man did read 233 books last year). But his bringing it up again has me worried. Maybe he's right.

So I started thinking of other movies that glorify and perhaps are precursors of this "torture-porn". Reservoir Dogs, Fargo, and Pulp Fiction all came to mind. Each of these movies were critically acclaimed and achieved some commercial success, and each contains some pretty gruesome scenes that could be equated to Saw or Hostel. I seem to remember one character losing an ear, and another having an unfortunate accident with a wood chipper. Is he on to something?

There's only one problem, that observant readers may have already caught on to. Those movies came out in the 90s, blissfully well before the War on Terrorism. So it seems that if these scenes were already popular before the Iraq war, then their popularity now cannot be due to the Iraq war. In our psychology class this semester, we learned something about correlation not being equal to causation. I don't really understand the concept, but I think it might be relevant.

ANYWAYS, I give Jesse a B+ for effort. There's a lot of good stuff here, I just don't think you tie it together well enough.

(PS: that is what Jesse wrote on seemingly every one of my essays that semester. I would show you, but they've all been burned, along with everything else I've ever gotten a B on.)

(PPS: which happens to be a lot of things.)

(PPPS: that is the last time I will grade one of your blog posts Jesse, they are generally rather astute, but I couldn't resist. I'm sure you'll understand.)