Last updated: January 23, 2013 - 1:57am
[Commentary] The makers of popular culture may very well believe that their products are ultimately harmless. Studies exist saying as much. Studies exist saying the opposite. As a filmmaker, I'd like to see a study that reaches a third conclusion: The mushrooming of mayhem is a sign not only of where the culture may be headed, it's also a symptom of the weakening of creative imagination.
It used to take skill, even finesse, to create horror. It used to take serious consideration of how to present an act of terror, where it might lie structurally in the story, how much or how little to show, to what extent the event should be visited—or revisited. There were silences, pauses, teases and innuendos. Alfred Hitchcock was a master, but even less talented directors labored to get it right. Now there is not only little left to the imagination, there is nothing left to the imagination. Show the guts, the veins—show the bullet traveling through a victim's eyeball, show it all. Then, simply claim you're depicting life as it really is. I don't pretend to have any answers in the political debate about violence, but I hope the discussion will prod some consciences in Hollywood and elsewhere in the entertainment industry. As filmmakers, we should ask ourselves: Are we doing the best work we can, or are we simply using the increasingly permissive marketplace as a cover to do work that isn't even close to our best? These are questions that one can weigh without the risk of losing friends, being passed over for gigs or, worst of all, not being invited to the best dinner parties.
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