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WaPo Critic Blames Movies for UCSB Shootings

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  • K-Hole
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    #154087

    As published in The Washington Post:

     In a final videotaped message, a sad reflection of the sexist stories we so often see on screen

     By , Published: May 25

    As deranged manifestos go, the final YouTube video made by suspected
    Isla Vista, Calif., mass murderer Elliot Rodger was remarkably
    well-made. Filmed by Rodger in his black BMW, with palm trees in the
    background and his face bathed in magic-hour key light, the six-minute
    diatribe — during which he vows revenge on all the women who rejected
    him and men who were enjoying fun and sex while he was “rotting in
    loneliness” — might easily have been mistaken for a scene from one of
    the movies Rodger’s father, Peter Rodger, worked on as a director and
    cinematographer.

    Indeed, as important as it is to understand Rodger’s actions within
    the context of the mental illness he clearly suffered, it’s just as
    clear that his delusions were inflated, if not created, by the
    entertainment industry he grew up in. With his florid rhetoric of
    self-pity, aggression and awkwardly forced “evil laugh,” Rodger
    resembled a noxious cross between Christian Bale’s slick sociopath in
    “American Psycho,” the thwarted womanizer in James Toback’s “The Pick-Up
    Artist” and every Bond villain in the canon.

    As Rodger bemoaned
    his life of “loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desire” and
    arrogantly announced that he would now prove his own status as “the true
    alpha male,” he unwittingly expressed the toxic double helix of
    insecurity and entitlement that comprises Hollywood’s DNA. For
    generations, mass entertainment has been overwhelmingly controlled by
    white men, whose escapist fantasies so often revolve around vigilantism
    and sexual wish-fulfillment (often, if not always, featuring a steady
    through-line of casual misogyny). Rodger’s rampage may be a function of
    his own profound distress, but it also shows how a sexist movie
    monoculture can be toxic for women and men alike.

    How many students watch outsized frat-boy fantasies like “Neighbors
    and feel, as Rodger did, unjustly shut out of college life that should
    be full of “sex and fun and pleasure”? How many men, raised on a steady
    diet of Judd Apatow comedies in which the shlubby arrested adolescent
    always gets the girl, find that those happy endings constantly elude
    them and conclude, “It’s not fair”?

    Movies may not reflect
    reality, but they powerfully condition what we desire, expect and feel
    we deserve from it. The myths that movies have been selling us become
    even more palpable at a time when spectators become their own auteurs
    and stars on YouTube, Instagram and Vine. If our cinematic grammar is
    one of violence, sexual conquest and macho swagger — thanks to male
    studio executives who green-light projects according to their own
    pathetic predilections — no one should be surprised when those impulses
    take luridly literal form in the culture at large.

    Part of what
    makes cinema so potent is the way even its most outlandish characters
    and narratives burrow into and fuse with our own stories and identities.
    When the dominant medium of our age — both as art form and industrial
    practice — is in the hands of one gender, what may start out as harmless
    escapist fantasies can, through repetition and amplification, become
    distortions and dangerous lies.

    Every year, San Diego State University researcher Martha Lauzen releases a “Celluloid Ceiling
    report in which she delivers distressing statistics regarding the state
    of women in Hollywood. This year, she found that women made up just 16
    percent of directors, writers, producers, cinematographers and editors
    working on the top 250 movies of 2013; similarly, women accounted for
    just 15 percent of protagonists in those films.

    Even if 51 percent
    of our movies were made by women, Elliot Rodger still would have been
    seriously ill. But it’s worth examining who gets to be represented on
    screen, and how. It makes sense to ask, as cartoonist Alison Bechdel
    does in her eponymous Bechdel Test,
    whether a movie features (1) at least two named female characters who
    (2) talk to each other about (3) something besides a man. And it bears
    taking a hard look at whether we’re doing more subtle damage to our
    psyches and society by so drastically limiting our collective
    imagination. As Rodger himself made so grievously clear, we’re only as
    strong as the stories we tell ourselves.

     

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/in-a-final-videotaped-message-a-sad-reflection-of-the-sexist-stories-we-so-often-see-on-screen/2014/05/25/dec7e7ea-e40d-11e3-afc6-a1dd9407abcf_story.html

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    K-Hole
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    #154089

    Tuesday, May 27, 2014 04:00 PM PST

    How Seth Rogen proved Ann Hornaday’s point about Elliot Rodger

     

    The WaPo critic’s argument was swallowed by
    kneejerk anti-feminism and Hollywood egotism. But it merits considering

     

    Did a prominent film critic blame Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow for the deranged fantasies of Elliot Rodger,
    the young man who apparently perpetrated a killing spree last Friday in
    Isla Vista, California? If you encountered Rogen and Apatow’s Twitter
    responses to a provocative essay published on Sunday by Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday, along with the forest of social-media commentary and meta-news coverage
    that followed, it might seem that way. The “Twitter war” itself – two
    famous and beloved entertainers vs. an intellectual critic with feminist
    inclinations who writes for a pillar of establishment journalism –
    became the story, and that’s a conflict that by definition has no
    winners.


    Before long we had all the highlights of social-media debate: Patton
    Oswalt cracking wise about how the media trolls for clicks, feminists
    calling out Rogen and Apatow for white male privilege, and random dudes
    poisoning the water, random-dude style, by blaming gays and liberals and
    hurling misogynistic insults at Hornaday. I’m often inclined to believe
    that we get the public discourse we deserve, and in this case it
    stemmed from a collective unwillingness to consider the complicated
    argument Hornaday was trying to launch about the power of cinema and the
    way it shapes our self-image, our emotional life and our understanding
    of human relationships. That argument completely disappeared beneath
    oversimplification, knee-jerk anti-feminism and Hollywood egotism, but
    it’s worth serious consideration.

    I
    should be clear that I know and like Ann Hornaday. But this isn’t about
    having a friend’s back; Ann can definitely take care of herself. This
    is about the idea that the images and stories we consume matter, that
    they affect us profoundly, although not always in ways we can see and
    rarely or never in some clear cause-and-effect fashion. That idea is
    what Hornaday is struggling with here, and it’s an idea we confront over
    and over again, in slightly different forms, after every one of these
    mass shootings that seems to have been deliberately designed by its
    perpetrator as a media spectacle. For Seth Rogen to boil all that down,
    for his 2 million-plus Twitter followers, to “@AnnHornaday how dare you
    imply that me getting girls in movies caused a lunatic to go on a
    rampage” is a black-comic example of movie-star narcissism. (I
    originally wrote that Rogen’s phrase about “getting girls” sent an
    unfortunate signal, and it rubbed a lot of other people the wrong way
    too. Various commenters have correctly observed that Hornaday put it
    exactly the same way, so let’s chalk that one up to the endless game of
    Telephone that is the Internet.)

    In fact, Rogen pretty much made
    Hornaday’s point for her, which is that men in the movie world (or the
    regular world, for that matter) don’t care to listen to feminist
    criticism, and treat the intensely gendered nature of mainstream
    entertainment as a neutral or natural fact with no significant
    consequences. Here’s a fact many people haven’t noticed: Hornaday never
    mentions Rogen by name, and never blames him or his movies for anything.
    She brings up his recent hit “Neighbors”
    as an example of the “outsized frat-boy fantasies” from which Rodger
    apparently felt excluded, and no doubt Rogen is Exhibit A when it comes
    to “Judd Apatow comedies in which the shlubby arrested adolescent always
    gets the girl.” But in any fair-minded reading of her piece, those are
    instances of a troubling cultural pattern that supplies a context for
    Rodger’s crimes, not any sort of explanation.

    Hornaday begins with
    the inescapable fact that the final YouTube video made by this troubled
    child of Hollywood, in which Rodger vowed to take his revenge on the
    women and men who had rejected or humiliated him, looks like a movie.
    It was “remarkably well-made,” she notes, “with palm trees in the
    background and [Rodger’s] face bathed in magic-hour key light.” Not only
    that, Rodger was clearly performing for the camera, in a way that
    simultaneously suggests a grave personality disorder and a consciousness
    shaped and defined by media consumption. “With his florid rhetoric of
    self-pity, aggression and awkwardly forced ‘evil laugh,’” Hornaday goes
    on, “Rodger resembled a noxious cross between Christian Bale’s slick
    sociopath in ‘American Psycho,’ the thwarted womanizer in James Toback’s
    ‘The Pick-Up Artist’ and every Bond villain in the canon.”

    There’s
    an unspoken question here: What is the relationship between the
    disordered or disturbing elements of media spectacle and the
    pathological, murderous play-acting of someone like Elliot Rodger, an
    evidently ill person who may have had difficulty distinguishing reality
    from fantasy? It’s an intriguing question in an era when murder rates
    overall have trended sharply downward to near-historic lows, but one in
    which spectacular mass shootings on the Aurora-Newtown-Isla Vista model
    occur with distressing frequency. If we buy Freud’s famous maxim that
    insanity is just an exaggerated version of normalcy, perhaps Elliot
    Rodger was acting out, on the real streets of a real town, the kinds of
    murderous fantasies many “normal” people are content to consume in
    private. But Hornaday never claims to know the answer to this question,
    and neither argues nor implies that the movies she mentions “caused”
    Elliot Rodger to act as he did.

    Hornaday’s real point – and the
    one that really got under people’s skin, I suspect – has to do with the
    peculiar and unhealthy gender dynamics of mainstream American cinema, a
    decade and a half into the 21st century. While the demographics of movie
    audiences have shifted along with the general population, San Diego
    State researcher Martha Lauzen reports that 84 percent of the directors,
    writers, producers, cinematographers and editors behind the 250
    top-grossing films of 2013 were men. (Although we don’t have numbers on
    this, we can safely assume that those guys were disproportionately white
    men over 50.) Lauzen’s numbers have budged only slightly over the last
    20 years, and the usual response from Hollywood defenders is to shrug
    them off: The business is a meritocracy, or at least a money-ocracy. If
    and when movies made by and about women start being massively
    profitable, we’ll see a lot more of them.

    Many people in Hollywood accept that logic, men and women alike, which leads to female-centric hits like “Bridesmaids” and “The Heat”
    being embraced as signs of progress. But that framing overlooks the
    extent to which American movies have become a self-reinforcing system
    driven by white male executives and producers convinced that they know
    what the audience wants, and also the extent to which they are, in a
    sense, correct: The audience has been conditioned, over the decades, to
    expect a certain kind of male-oriented stimulus and spectacle, a
    cinematic grammar of “violence, sexual conquest and macho swagger,” in
    Hornaday’s phrase. One could go so far as to say that mainstream cinema
    is a gendered cultural form, something that Oscar-winning pioneer Kathryn Bigelow, director of the controversial action films “Zero Dark Thirty” and “The Hurt Locker,” understands and has turned to her advantage.

    One or two or five movies in which a Seth Rogen or Jon Favreau type
    wins the devotion of a young woman who resembles a Victoria’s Secret
    model might be winsome romances, but any regular moviegoer recognizes
    the pattern, which we see repeated by the dozen. Rodger’s disturbing
    final video expressed what Hornaday calls “the toxic double helix of
    insecurity and entitlement that comprises Hollywood’s DNA,” a symbolic
    universe “whose escapist fantasies so often revolve around vigilantism
    and sexual wish-fulfillment.” Rodger felt himself barred from the latter
    fantasy, so he indulged in the former.

    Did Seth Rogen make him do
    it? Of course not! Hornaday could perhaps have chosen better examples,
    but by getting all butt-hurt by an article that did not blame him for
    anything and in which he was never mentioned, Rogen became an
    inadvertent illustration of Hornaday’s argument about clueless masculine
    self-involvement. As for Elliot Rodger, he was no doubt battling demons
    the movies did not cause and could not heal, but I feel the same way
    about him as I did about Aurora shooter James Holmes, whose choice of a “Dark Knight Rises”
    screening was no more accidental than was Rodger’s slick,
    Hollywood-flavored video. Their spectacular crimes were not caused by
    movies, but both men imagined their spectacular crimes as movies, and we haven’t figured out what that means.

     

    http://www.salon.com/2014/05/27/how_seth_rogen_proved_ann_hornadays_point_about_elliot_rodger/

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    babypook
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    #154090

    I’ve been monitoring comments like these and my tongue and brain bleeds. Always with the mainstream, they overlook the one common thread running through all of this.

    RIP,  to all of the victims

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    K-Hole
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    #154091

    Here is another defense of Ann Hornaday worth reading, as published in The Washington Post:

    Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen get the vapors

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/achenblog/wp/2014/05/28/judd-apatow-and-seth-rogen-get-the-vapors/

     

    Some highlights from the essay:

    “Rogen tweets that Hornaday’s essay was “horribly insulting and
    misinformed,” but declines to specify the misinformation he alleges.
    Maybe he thinks Hornaday hasn’t watched enough movies? Dude, this is
    what she does for a living. She is, in this context, extremely informed.”

    “Rogen also tweets: “how dare you imply that me getting girls in movies
    caused a lunatic to go on a rampage.” Question to Rogen: Is the “how
    dare you” construction (vintage: 1927) one that you use a lot when
    addressing people with whom you disagree?  Hornaday has followed up her column
    by saying she did not mean to imply that the movies caused this insane
    act of violence. Rogen can disagree with her column, but the “how dare
    you” construction implies that Hornaday does not have the right to speak
    her mind on this.”

    “I’m struggling with the idea that Judd Apatow is now the oracle who warns against the perils of commercialism.”

    “Apatow and Rogen are free to tweet whatever they want, but I’d recommend
    that they stand up straight and engage Hornaday with adult reasoning
    that doesn’t question her right to speak up on this issue.  I bet the
    powers that be at The Post would be happy to run a comparable essay
    about pop culture and violence from either Apatow and Rogen.”

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    Eddy Q
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    #154092

    Existential – would you consider changing the title of this thread? Hornaday did not exclusively “blame movies” for Elliot Rodger’s rampage, her piece is very clear about that. I’m sure you understand this, but I’m concerned that this heading will mislead casual browsers to jump to conclusions.

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    K-Hole
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    #154093

    Existential – would you consider changing the title of this thread? Hornaday did not exclusively “blame movies” for Elliot Rodger’s rampage, her piece is very clear about that. I’m sure you understand this, but I’m concerned that this heading will mislead casual browsers to jump to conclusions.

    Unfortunately I don’t know how to change the title after it has been posted. If anyone knows how to do this, please post instructions.

    Please note, however, although Hornaday does indeed NOT blame the movies–and I apologize for the misleading title–she does blame the movies for inflating the shooter’s delusions:

    “…it’s just as
    clear that his delusions were inflated, if not created, by the
    entertainment industry he grew up in.”

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