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TinotopiaLog → Wham! Pow! Crash! Zot! (25 Jan 2002)
Friday 25 January 2002

Wham! Pow! Crash! Zot!

they fight, and bite, and fight and bite and fightThough the trend seems to have abated somewhat of late, we still hear on a regular basis about the dangers of cartoon violence, and how children cannot possibly understand that while Wile E. Coyote can fall off a cliff and not be seriously injured (aside from being temporarily turned into a concertina), they, being neither coyotes nor cartoon characters, cannot. (Watching those same cartoons when I was a wee tot never gave me the notion that I could jump off cliffs, but then I’m not the child of Boomers, either.)

Anyway, last week we were watching Die Hard for the umpteenth time, and it occurred to us that a far larger problem is violence on the screen enacted by humans: not that there’s too much of it, but that so much of it is so damned unrealistic.

These examples aren’t drawn from any film in particular, but most if not all of them do occur in Die Hard. Most of the following things happen in most action movies:

  1. Man with a short-barrelled pistol accurately shoots targets at long range
  2. Combatants with machine guns fire hundreds and hundreds of rounds at one another in an enclosed space; no-one is injured.
  3. In hand-to-hand combat, people are kicked repeatedly in the head; when this happens, they just “shake it off” and re-enter the fray.

All of these things are entirely unrealistic, and I’d suggest that they result in far more problems in real life than anything than happens to Homer Simpson.

People see actual human beings on the screen shooting at someone 200 feet away with a handgun held with one hand; this leads to random bystanders getting shot in real life.

People see these machine-gun battles on the screen, and fail to properly appreciate what will happen when you try this in real life. First of all, you’re not even going to be able to see your targets after the first dozen shots or so, because of all the smoke and dust. And at least one of your posse will be injured with that much lead flying around. Conversely, if you are approached by several men with machine guns, you have pretty much lost the fight already, unless you have a fragmentation grenade hidden in your pocket, or a sniper hidden in the rafters.

The biggest problems, though, come not from the guns but from the fighting. Most people don’t have guns, and people who do have guns usually have some experience with what the gun will and will not do. And when they don’t know, they usually assume that the gun is incredibly powerful, will shoot locks off, cause things to explode, etc., the strange thing with the machine-guns notwithstanding.

Everybody’s got fists and feet, though, and most people haven’t been in a fight since high school, if ever. What they know of fighting they’ve learned from watching highly-trained athletes duke it out in the boxing ring, and from movies.

In the boxing ring, even these highly-trained athletes are often staggering around after a few rounds of batting at each other with padded gloves. In movies, you see these ordinary guys getting repeatedly kicked in the head and/or hit with big sticks, only to bounce right back. (Though, strangely enough, in movies being hit on the head (or neck, or just about anywhere) with the butt of a pictol knocks you right out for the rest of the scene.)

The useful crusade against violence in media would be against unrealistic fighting. The trouble is that realistic fighting isn’t all that picturesque (or of long duration). If filmmakers were required to portray fights as something like physiologically accurate, they’d soon either write the fights out of the scripts because they’re boring, or they’d move toward a more Jackie-Chan-esque ballet with occasional groin kicks.

Or, more likely, they’d just hand everyone a machine gun.

Posted by tino at 12:36 25.01.02
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