Volume 3, Number 10
by Wil Forbis
After watching Rocky the other night it became immediately clear to me just how much we love violence in our media. And when I say "we" I don't sanctimoniously disclude myself from that group. Nay, I admit that I love violence. As any real American should, I love seeing skulls bashed in or the spatter of blood as 45 slugs tear through a man's chest. I love the pained look of a man running down the street on fire or the exposed gruesomeness when a zombie bites into a human head. Or the shrill yells of a woman held down by a chainsaw wielding... uh, what was my point again?
Anyway, it's clear from the state of entertainment today that we love violence. I'm certainly not saying anything original there, but it seems rare you see anyone truly dissect our love affair with savagery. Oh, sure, there's plenty of rhetoric flying about on the subject - on television, out of senators mouths, from supposedly "unbiased" university studies. But what does mankind's lust for portrayals of killing mean to us, or to me, the individual?
In the past fifty years or so we've seen more and more killing and death in the media. I'm going to assume that the increase of violence on television, on film, in comics, in video games, etc, is only feeding a bloodlust that was already there. I'm not denying the more than likely truism, that being exposed to repetitive scenes of violence makes one want to behave in a violent manner. I can recall many an action flick I saw as a child that made me want to dive headlong into a pile of ninjas and kick ass! But I don't think the human animal would seek out violence the way it does without fundamental desire in our psyche that demanded bloodshed. A desire that can easily be explained by the fact that less than a fraction of time ago in the history of our species we were fighting sabertooth tigers and hunting down woolly mammoths for food. Man would not be here today if not for his easy access to savagery.
But it's now the twentieth century. We've got airplanes, automobiles, computers, existential philosophy, The Bill Of Rights, even a live action Scooby-Doo film in the works. Of course we also have the Neutron Bomb, automatic weapons, guided missiles and belief systems that demand the swift death of our enemy. Man has spent a sizable portion of his growing intellect designing technology that allows him to exercise his bloodlust more efficiently and with greatest damage potential. Why? What drives us?
Well, honestly, I don't really know. I think it's something that lives in our gut and can't really be explained with mere words. And I DO think it lives in everyone, from Charles Manson to Mother Theresa, and can pop up under the right circumstances. One of the most annoying personality types in my book is the type of person who acts as if he or she is above violence and has no understanding of other people's attraction to it. Usually when I see those people I just want to take them and smash their... well, you know. But it's truly foolhardy to disavow mankind's propensity towards hurting and killing. A few thousand years of intellectual development is simply no match for a hundred thousand years of genetic programming.
Boxing is an interesting sport. It's almost 2000 AD and we're still putting money into an event that involves two men, surrounded by spectators, beating the crap put of each other. It's similar to cockfighting, except that with boxing we playfully hinder the two contestants from doing too much damage to each other by giving them plush little gloves. And the thing is - I love boxing! And the matches I love best are the one where some guy gets the tar beaten out of him till he dies. And if he doesn't die I at least want him to suffer enough brain damage so that he becomes a drooling vegetable, incapable of thought. And what's funniest is that whenever some boxer does die or goes brainless, the boxing community stands around and says, "we lost a great athlete today, gentlemen!" Well, of course you did, you had the guy up there for the past twenty years taking uppercuts to his head, now you're upset that he finally lost his melon? Or, as an inverse example, when a boxer wigs out like Mike Tyson did last year and gets too aggressive, everyone distances themselves from the scene and says "What savagery!" But these are the same people that have been rewarding that savagery with million dollar purses. It's all right for Iron Mike to smash people's noses in but bite off a little piece of a guy's ear, hoo-boy, that's going to far. Let's be honest, no-one ever died from losing a part of their ear, but it's not uncommon to plop over dead from a well placed facial blow that can, to paraphrase Tyson, send fragments of someone's facial bone into their brain.
Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, was sentenced recently and a lot of people got up in court and called him the devil or an evil monster or a terrible chef, but in the back of my mind I'm thinking, "the guy only killed three people." More people fall down and die in their bathtub in a week. Sure, maybe Kaczynski had the intent to kill more people, but really that just goes to show what an inept serial bomber he was. But, despite his low body count and general incompetence, Ted Kaczynski will probably go down in this country as one it's evilest citizens. There are plenty of murderers that have killed more people, but for some reason the Unabomber struck a cord. The same goes for O.J. - homeslice only killed TWO people!! (Sorry, allegedly killed.) The drunken Viet Nam vet who always spare changes you downtown has a higher kill ratio than O.J. but for a number of reasons, some racial or gender-based, O.J. is considered the personification of the phrase "getting away with murder" by a lot of people.
Now, I'm not standing here claiming to have any solutions. In fact, during the course of this whole spiel I've asked a lot of questions and provided no answers. Maybe the answer to why we've got our bloodthirsty side is so ethereal will never figure it out or maybe it's such a basic part of our human psyche that we will never have the nerve to acknowledge it. But you can't get too down on the human race. Whenever I think of all the savagery humanity offers I think of the good things as well. I think of the innocence of youth, the unconditional love of a small child. I see a newborn baby, looking up at the world, eyes filled with hope, and dreams, and joy. And then I step on him.