Friday, February 16, 2007

Violence Becomes Her

A realization came to me, as it often does, in the midst of the movie theater darkness.

Angie and I spent yesterday evening watching the bloody cop thriller The Departed and then the romantic comedy Music and Lyrics on the big screen. The Departed cast read like a Who’s Who of Hollywood, including Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg, Jack Nicholson, Alec Baldwin, and Martin Sheen. Music and Lyrics had the capable cast of Drew Barrymore, Hugh Grant, and Brad Garrett.

We had a really good time. Angie had a VERY bad week, including car and money troubles. So, she needed to get out, and it had been a while since we’d seen a movie. We ate dinner at Culver’s, watched The Departed at North Towne, then drove to Showplace 14 to watch Music and Lyrics while eating copious amounts of buttery movie theater popcorn and drinking GIANT sodas.

I like hanging out with Angie because she likes movies as much as I do. It’s hard to find someone willing to trek out with you every other week or so and watch a bunch of clunkers before hitting on a golden movie. She’s always up for the challenge, and we both love dissecting the movies for hours afterwards.

We discuss the actors, their other projects, the movie plot, the music, the characters…everything. With her, I don’t feel like it’s a trivial thing, as I know others might try to make me feel. It’s a fun, enjoyable hobby, and (frankly) I feel fortunate to have found someone who likes it as much as I do.

Back to my realization, as I was watching The Departed with Angie, I began to comprehend that I have a weird sort of fascination with violence. Not committing violence, of course, but the portrayal of violence in books, movies, and television.

If you have been around me for very long, you’ve probably heard me say, “If it doesn’t blow up, get chased down, or have a murder mystery involved, I don’t want to watch/read/hear about it!”

That’s kind of a joke, since I read lots of books and watch movies and TV shows that don’t have any violence. BUT many of my favorites are centered around violence.

The Departed is a very violent movie. People get beaten up, shot point blank in the head, and have limbs decapitated all in the name of cinematic glory. The story in The Departed is amazing. I'm not at all surprised it was nominated for an Oscar. There are plot twists and surprises that keep you guessing until the very end. Still, the violence is excessive.

Just like Kill Bill, Vol. 1 & 2. I immensely enjoyed those movies, and they are quite possibly two of the most violent movies ever made.

I don’t know what it is that draws me to the portrayal of violence. Take my favorite book series:

In Death Series (J.D. Robb) – A female cop with a tragic past tracks down serial killers and brings them to justice.

Jack Reacher Series (Lee Child) – An ex-MP travels the world getting caught up on one nefarious scheme after another, always fighting his way out with his fists a variety of firearms.

Alex Delaware Series (Jonathan Kellerman) – A psychiatrist with a penchant for solving mysteries repeatedly finds himself in the midst of sick and twisted police cases.

In movies, I fear I don’t fare much better. Many of my favorites feature violent plots, twists, and turns.

I find myself drawn to portraying violence even in my own writing. My current works in project feature:

Brusied – Two abused foster children trying to escape the clutches of their police officer foster father.

Gangland – A group of white teenagers and children finds themselves in the minority during a gang war between two other ethnic groups.

Jaeger – Two children are raised to become assassins by the world class assassin who saved them from death at the hands of their abusive parents.

Sophia – A wealthy group of professionals hides the deadly secret that binds them and the identity of the man who controls them.

See what I mean!!!

I never could (still can’t) get interested in romantic books – such as Jeanette Okey Dokey, and I’m sorry, but I’ve never, ever found a good Christian fiction writer. Ever. I’ve looked and looked, but no.

Truly great fiction (books, movies, TV) is art. Christian fiction writers tend to sugarcoat everything and that, in my opinion, makes it fluff. I like hard-hitting, heart-pounding, nail-biting suspense in my entertainment. If it doesn’t make your heart race a little, I’m not so sure you’re being entertained!

So, back to my realization, I just wonder at myself sometimes. All my life, I’ve worked not to be cast into a stereotype (although I have put myself there by accident sometimes). I’ve delighted in surprising people with who I am.

People often thought of me (in college and at work, especially) as prim and proper. I dress up and don’t swear, so that automatically means I like light romantic comedies and classical music. I can’t tell you how many people are surprised to learn that I like action and science fiction movies and (of all things!) country music. I played the drums in high school (a lot less exciting than it sounds), but it still shocks people.

Back to violence – real violence is a horrible thing. I’m definitely not advocating for it. But fictional violence, as part of a well written story, even driving the story, seems essential - at some point - to most plots.

So, now you know my strange secret. I hope you won’t judge me. You can look at it as a quirky little personality trait of your otherwise normal friend.

It’s just the way I am. So shoot me.

1 comment:

Heidi said...

That's why we call them fluff books.
Have you tried Dee Henderson? She writes Christian suspense/mystery (there is some romance involved however).
I have to confess, I have seen some pretty violent movies, e.g. Gladiator and Patriot (I own both of them) but there are some that I cannot venture forth to watch and that one in particular sounds like one of them.
But, hey, no judging on this end and more power to you.