Earlier this week I went to see the Coen Brothers’ film, Burn After Reading, starring George Clooney, Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt. As is typical before the film, the theater played about 15 minutes of previews. I usually love the previews if I am going to a romantic comedy or drama, but this time I should have been smarter. I should have skipped the previews.
There was everything from Kid Rock promoting the National Guard through a hard rock music video ad called “Warrior” to Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris as a pair of hired gunmen trying to “clean up” a dangerous town in a film called Appaloosa. The previews’ focus on military, weapons and violence was tremendous. I felt like I had to protect myself from what was being shown on the screen, and by the end of it — I had felt violated. I came to see what I thought was a satirical comedy, but here I was feeling like I was going through a bloody battlefield. Yes, I could have gotten up and left the theater – but I kept on waiting for a non-violent and hopeful preview to come up.
The movie itself, Burn After Reading, had what I considered, a distasteful amount of violence. I understood that in some way, like Pulp Fiction, the over the top nature and absolute idiocy of the violence was potentially a way to make the point that we have become a culture so outlandishly obsessed with violence that we are in fact desensitized to it. On the other hand, I wonder if the Coen brothers actually meant for the violence to BE the entertainment.
Seeing this film and hearing so much military talk in the media lately has led me to think more about the nature of violence and why I feel so disheartened and sad when exposed to it.
The day after the barrage of unsettling movie previews, I had lunch with a very good friend. I spoke to her about my experience and how I was grappling with trying to understand the polarization between peace and violence, light and dark. She suggested that aiming toward the light so much and cutting off from the dark in fact cuts us off from our own power. She said, “In my experience, the light and the dark are the same…they are two sides of the same coin…If you believe the darkness will hurt you, it will. If you witness it, accept it, and release it you won’t be held prisoner by it.”
I am still contemplating all of this.
Should we face the violence and try to understand it? or should we stand up and try to eliminate it from our every day lives?
What’s your take?