Now, I'm playing catch-up with all the great writing on blogs that I've missed out on over the last few months. It's a quixotic undertaking, but I'll keep at it in the hopes that I'll find more stuff like this excellent Sean Collins post from last month. Sean is again dealing with one of his favorite topics - violence and torture as part of our arts and entertainments - and, as usual, he's sharper (not to mention less hypocritical) than most other pop culture pundits.
This time, Sean comments on Eli Roth's claims that the graphic torture scenes in Roth's movie Hostel are meant to make the audience feel guilty about the current state of world affairs (Roth specifically mentions Iraq and the response to Hurricane Katrina).
Sean's response is one that I wish I had come up with:
The notion that your society, your era, your government, your audience is uniquely prone to evil--a notion almost always accompanied by the sort of clean-hands finger-pointing exemplified by Roth [and others]--is to me the absolute laughable height of narcissism in pessimist's clothing; it's the art-critical equivalent of doomsday prophesying. The fact that filmmakers and critics now feel they have free rein on the subject of torture and brutality because they see our government involved in it yet apparently had little or nothing to say on the subject when it was status quo in countless other countries across the globe for years and years and years (which it still is) is exhibit A.
There is nothing special about your pet target. On the contrary. All humans, from every country and time period ever, are terrible. That's what great art is about. I can see an argument being made that embracing this belief is a way of letting oneself off the hook; I submit that one who makes that argument proves in so doing that he doesn't understand the belief at all.
Well, I probably wouldn't have gone so far as Sean does here (it is the potential for terribleness that isn't unique to any time or place or culture) but I like the way Sean takes this right over the edge.
He also talks a lot about The Sopranos in this post, and what he says has helped me to get a better handle on my increasingly ambivalent feelings about this show. But that probably deserves a post of its own.