A Horror nerd’s perspective on the debate of violent films and their influence on violent crime
Yesterday some teens murdered a jogger for fun.
This was (basically) the headline I caught yesterday while I was at the gym, trying not to throw up on my stationary bike. I quickly paused Meatloaf and plugged my headphones in the little thing on the bike’s control panel so I could tune into the news channel covering the breaking story. I plugged in just in time to get the basic gist, and I managed to say to myself “please don’t say it, please don’t say it, please don’t say it” three times before they said it.
“Experts suggest that these teens may have been influenced by the violence that seems to be unavoidable in today’s cinema and television….”
You see, I’ve been tossing around some ideas for this article for a month now, and—SPOILER ALERT—I happen to be a supporter of horror films, which by nature are violent. While my heart absolutely goes out to the family of the young man that was so selfishly killed, tragic occurrences like this do nothing to support my campaign for making horror entertainment mainstream and acceptable. With that being said, I’ll not try to change your opinion of “violent” films if you’ve already established one, but I will ask that you read this and try to keep an open mind, and at least try to look at the world through a horror nerd’s eyes.
First off, I think a lot of journalists and “experts” take the easy way out with the whole “the perpetrators MUST have been influenced by a violent movie or video game.” Some of the dots that these so called “experts” connect are downright ridiculous. Here’s a couple of examples:
- A BBC article in 1999 covered two teen boys who stabbed another friend to death, supposedly only hours after watching Scream. Hmmm….some crazy kids go crazy and kill someone after watching a movie about some crazy kids that watch too many movies and kill someone. That’s awfully convenient—and ironic. The article goes on to mention rather quickly that the two murderers saw the film only hours before, at the home of a convicted drug dealer, Satanist and practitioner of witchcraft! I’m sure that this last little tidbit had nothing to do with the boys’ disposition.
- Another U.K. news source sites that a recently convicted murderer was influenced by Saw VI after he stabbed another man 17 times in an attempt to “sever his spine.” Their rationale behind the connection? They found a copy of the DVD in the man’s room. Boy, that seems like a cut and dried case to me. (*sarcasm*)
What do these two examples imply, other than British folks are apparently fucking nuts? Isn’t it obvious? The suspects in both of these cases watched horror films, and subsequently lost the ability to define fiction from reality, and in an effort to duplicate what they saw on film they murdered somebody. Shame on the horror industry.
I’m calling bullshit on this one. I mean, let’s start with the obvious counter argument that for every convicted murderer that attributes their crime to something they saw in a horror film there’s what, 8 million horror fans who DIDN’T murder someone?!? Come on, these folks are nuts to begin with, and I’ll admit that maybe it was a horror film that pushed some folks over the edge, but even if we didn’t have horror films, they would STILL be pushed over the edge eventually. Still don’t believe me? Sill think that all psychos are die hard horror fans like yours truly? Allow me to put one more nail in that proverbial fucking coffin.
Trivia question (guaranteed to win you at least one drink in a bar): What was Adolf Hitler’s favorite movie?
Answer: No, it’s not Natural Born Killers, because this Oliver Stone masterpiece didn’t come out until 49 years after the merry little Fuhrer put a bullet through his head, even though this film is probably THE Number one most cited film when it comes to movie-induced violent crimes. Nope, Hitler’s favorite film was that anarchic, murderous, vile piece of garbage known as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Go ahead, Google it. My point is that sometimes you don’t need a horror film to go completely off the deep end.
Some people are just born crazy. It’s sad but true.
We’re an imperfect species, and long before Thomas Edison shot the first experimental motion picture the world had plenty of violent crimes and murderers. I hate to sound like a parent here, but what the world needs is better parenting. I mean, it’s no secret that my own folks pretty much let me watch anything I damn well pleased, but they also spent time explaining to me the difference between right and wrong, and all things in between, so that I understood, even at age 6, that what I was watching on screen WAS FICTION! IT WASN’T REAL! YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO CUT PEOPLE’S HEADS OFF!
Oscar Wilde stated that “life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” True or not, either argument is the catalyst for a lot of great films. The bottom line, in my opinion, is that crazy people are going to do crazy things. Whack jobs that commit murder as a direct imitation of a film they’ve seen would have committed murder no matter what. These examples just prove that not only are these individuals crazy, they’re also apparently uncreative as hell.
I remember reading an interview with Stephen King when I was young in which the interviewer mentions to the legendary author that a murderer was recently arrested for “tacking” his victim to the wall using kitchen utensils, much like the final scene of Carrie. When the author asked Mr. King how he felt about this his response was that when they finished trying the bastard for murder, they should charge him with plagiarism as well.
Crime is never going to go away. Even the horrible ones. Society will always influence criminals, and I’ll admit that horror and other violent films fall into this category as well. But assuming that we’re all going to turn out as psychos because we watch horror flicks, or assuming that the real psychos aren’t going to be influenced by some other genre, is not only ridiculous, it’s irresponsible.
What’s your stance on the connection between violent films and violent crimes?